College Essay Examples

Ethical Concerns on Racial Stereotypes Video Games Characters



As the video games industry continues to gain more popularity with individuals from all walks of life, one thing that clearly emerges is the issue of morality that emanates from its adoption. Video games present racially discriminating and morally unacceptable concepts (Passmore et al., 2018). The characters thereof, who are majorly people of colour, are not only misrepresented but are also exposed to different forms of racial norms (Passmore et al., 2018).  Some of which range from differences in the effects of behaviour, emotions, engagements as well as player contentment compared to their white counterparts (Passmore et al., 2018). Though most of the player base in these digital games comprises Blacks and Latinos, they are immensely underrepresented in the creation of main characters. 

Similarly, the game characters from the minority groups who are mostly developed in these video games are based on certain ethnic constructs. For instance, according to a study done by McCullough et al., women of colour experience different forms of oppression when they act as player characters (McCullough et al., 2020). While females of  Africa-American descent face racism and gender sexism, those of Latino descent encounter bigotry and misogyny (McCullough et al., 2020). The Latina feminine gender is specially classified as sexually inferior under the Xbox Live culture (McCullough et al., 2020). This form of gender stereotyping affects the general perceptions of such individuals in real life.

Even as players look to break away from the white rules that negate diversity in areas of inclusivity, innovativeness, identity choice, as well as fairness in gambling knowledge, the issue of ethical behaviour in this gaming industry is prevalent (Cicchirillo, 2015). As game players look for more diversity, their virtues get compromised in the process (McCullough et al., 2020). In creating environments of integration, inspiration, and immersion, which they believe reflect their racial identities, they are gradually neglecting other important life’s responsibilities and role in their comfortable gaming zones (Passmore et al., 2018). In this study, I will argue that digital gaming, where player characters are involved in moral decisions, only ends up corrupting their moral virtues in real life resulting in more social harms than good. 

Ethical Perceptions About Video Gaming

Various ethical perspectives that present divergent moral dilemmas emerge when the issue of video gaming comes into play. This is because, apart from the fears, failures, and racial profiling issues, hate, and bigotry presented by the video game characters, the opposite morally acceptable forms of behaviour are portrayed in equal measure. Factually, all these elements are realities of human nature (Hursthouse et al., 2018). A utilitarian argument will point to the social as well as financial benefits derived from video games rather than their alternative harms (Steinberg, 2020). This industry not only supports numerous households through employment opportunities generated, but also there are pleasurable and insightful games that act as perfect alternatives to boredom. In contrast, the utilitarianism argument seems not to weigh much on the potential social harms of violence, addiction, and racial stereotyping brought about by video games. Looking at digital gaming’s moral dilemma from the common good perspective, it can be argued that not only does it obscure players from focusing on their personal and family responsibilities, it also interferes with their community’s obligations (Steinberg, 2020). In promoting video gaming diversity, the question of whether it supports the existence of true communities online or the elements of antisocialism emanates. Similarly, the common good theory will argue on the mandate of the developers and designers in ensuring that the gaming experience advances the community’s virtues, norms, and values or it encourages addiction as well as promoting violence.

Another moral dilemma presented by the video game characters dwells on the issue of fairness and rights. Video games are overwhelmingly dominated by males. This dominance raises the question of whether women have been excluded in this field or their lack of involvement is by choice. Where gender stereotyping takes center stage in a game and violence is directed towards the female character, the argument of how such a plot shapes the players’ view on women also arises. From a rights perspective, the moral dilemma imposed would be, if video games were a form of speech, which kind of morals would, they project (Steinberg, 2020). One would ask whether this new form of speech embedded in gaming would degrade women, promote violence, and also whether it should be regulated. Video games are more vibrant and popular with kids. Therefore, the good, as well as the bad principles, are easily transferable to kids. Consequently, it begs to ascertain the regulation process of content such that children can be restricted from engaging in games with adult content while adults simultaneously continue to enjoy their preferred “forms of speech.” 

Amidst all forms of ethical dilemmas, the perception derived by virtue ethics forms the backbone of our moral argument in this study. According to Aristotle, virtue and practical wisdom are central in all human behaviour (Hursthouse et al., 2018). From the fact that all human beings have a 24 hour time period in which they can comfortably spend the way they please, the addictive state that video games drive in an individual portrays an unproductive game player. This is because it harbours them from living a balanced and more productive life. In comparison to spending more on books, playing video games is inherently less virtuous. It is easily arguable that engaging too much with violent video game characters more often than not breeds violence within the player (Cicchirillo, 2015). It is even worse when such a vice gradually takes roots in the life of a kid exposed to video games and only gets to uncover itself when they are in their young adult stage. Research has shown that certain features of the game characters in aggressive video games have a ripple effect on the players (Gao et al., 2017). The race, physical appearance, moral attributes as well as the costumes worn dictate the social aspect of the player in the “offline society” (Gao et al., 2017). While an attractive game character makes a player more confident and boosts their self-esteem in life, the opposite is true for an aggressive and undesired game character (Gao et al., 2017). These video game character-player interactions ultimately shape the player’s social relationships. Hence, the reasons why virtue ethics underlines the overall moral actions and consequences derived from digital gaming. 

Supporting Arguments

The virtue theory perspective clearly outlines the morally negative effect of video gaming on individuals. This is because they encourage more social harm than good as the gamers diversify their innovativeness and other skills set (Cicchirillo, 2015). The game’s ultimate consequence is social disorders that give rise to racialist and uncivilized behaviour (Hursthouse et al., 2018). Illustrations of stereotypes of race and hatred as experienced in the real world are easily visible in societies where video gaming is prioritized (Cicchirillo, 2015). Media has greatly contributed to racial differentiations and gender inequality, especially with Latinos, blacks, and other inferior races. In a study done by Passmore et al. on several video games, African Americans assumed characters that projected violence and aggression (Passmore et al., 2018). Consequently, the gamer’s mindset in real life is distorted along the lines of racial stereotypes. Over time, players in their social interactions easily categorize people characteristics putting them in social classes (Passmore et al., 2018). Overly, players tend to be biased towards egocentric decision-making, which renders it impossible for good ethical decisions and analyses to be applied when playing video games. 


Another supporting argument is based on the fact that some video games are an inspiration for a continued violation of moral behaviours, which are firmly upheld by a majority of people in everyday life (Passmore et al., 2018). The increased video game popularity has become a great concern due to the overexposure of individuals to negatively influential and violent content (Cicchirillo, 2015). The broadcasted content ranges from sexual immorality, drug abuse, crime, murder, among others. Either of these contents, when consumed via gaming, corrupt the moral reasoning of the players. For example, in the video game, BioShock where players have to choose whether to rescue or murder the character of the little sister (Hodge, 2020). One’s choice has underlying disruptions on their morality. A study was done by Hodge to ascertain the gaming habits of 166 high school students between the ages of 11-18, as well as 135 university students aged 17-27, relative to their moral reasoning development, which supports my argument further (Hodge, 2020).  According to the results thereof, adolescent moral development has a strong correlation with engaging in video games (Hodge, 2020). Therefore, in connection to violence emanating from addiction to gaming, it is evident that violent video games do not instill good virtues in us (Hodge, 2020). Players become unvirtuous, invulnerable, and without moral development and character.

Thirdly, based on the findings by Gao et al., the game characters can easily affect a player’s implicit attributes (Gao et al., 2017). Subsequently, their dedication, involvement, and identity are defined within the game. Moreover, with the rapid innovation in the gaming industry, the game characters have become more realistic, making it much easier for players to acquaint their lifestyle to suit those of their game characters (Gao et al., 2017). The result of social vice is addiction and neglect on their part as far as their other economic and social responsibilities are concerned (Gao et al., 2017). As players, especially underage, spend more and more time on their screens living in virtual reality, they fail to develop holistically, as their productivity is centred on one aspect of life  (Hodge, 2020). The limiting aspect of excessive gaming for players to take note of their other life spheres only breeds irresponsible and lazy individuals. 

Objection Views

From a utilitarian perspective, the benefits derived from adopting digital gaming in our lifestyles far outweigh the harms it brings (Steinberg, 2020). Most players, designers, and developers who argue using this logic, strongly point out the excellence in tutoring on rationality as well as problem-solving skills realized by playing video games. Such skills are not easily realized in most school curriculums and might take a thorough application of active learning strategies for such goals to be met.

Gaming enhances the online socializing experience (Hatmaker, 2020). Social interactions should be all about fun, merry and insight exchanges. Not all games portray violence and racial stereotypes. Some games provide an outstanding gaming experience where you can keep in touch with your loved ones, especially in these isolating times due to the Corona pandemic effects, while keeping at your video game (Hatmaker, 2020). The insightful games, when applied in real life, consequently amount to a brilliant and knowledgeable mind. These aspects ultimately inspire players to boosts their confidence and courage while tackling daily life challenges (Hatmaker, 2020). They can then easily transfer the acquired virtues to their peers. Hence, when players assume lead roles in video games, it doesn’t always amount to social harm. 


Conclusively, while digital gaming contributes to some significant social gains, the social harms derived from entrusting this industry to our society far outweigh the benefits thereof. Contrary to the fact that this industry has overwhelmingly attracted billions of dollars to the developers, designers as well as players, the ethical concerns of this industry can not go unquestioned. The consumed content portrays violence and material that is racially stereotypical. These aspects hinder rather than promote character. Their emphasis is to promote behavioural insensitivity other than empathy, and thus, players do not achieve any moral development but rather more harm to it. The root problem advanced by the video game characters is the resultant habit in players that nurtures moral insensitivity and the inability to evaluate oneself.  Though more importantly, the social harm or good as far as video gaming is concerned can be greatly attributed to the virtues of the characters involved in contrast to the emphasis made on the rules or the consequences of their actions.   


Works cited

Cicchirillo, V. (2015). Priming stereotypical associations: Violent video games and African American depictions. Communication Research Reports32(2), 122-131.

Gao, Xuemei, et al. “The Influence of Empathy and Morality of Violent Video Game Characters on Gamers’ Aggression.” Frontiers, 14 Nov. 2017,

Hatmaker, Taylor. “We Need More Video Games That Are Social Platforms First, Games Second – TechCrunch.” TechCrunch, 2 May 2020,

Hursthouse, et al. “Author and Citation Information for “Virtue Ethics.”” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018,

McCullough, K. M., Wong, Y. J., & Stevenson, N. J. (2020). Female video game players and the protective effect of feminist identity against internalized misogyny. Sex Roles82(5), 266-276.

Passmore, C. J., Yates, R., Birk, M. V., & Mandryk, R. L. (2017, October). Racial diversity in indie games: Patterns, challenges, and opportunities. In Extended abstracts publication of the annual symposium on computer-human interaction in play (pp. 137-151).

Steinberg, David. “Moral Theories and Moral Obligations.” The Multidisciplinary Nature of Morality and Applied Ethics, 2020, pp. 127-138. 

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