College Essay Examples

Race and Ethnicity Research Paper

Our societies have undergone various technological advancements since the pre-colonial period and one of the areas that have tremendously grown in the gaming industry. With the changes taking place, video games are widely used in various settings as a source of entertainment to different groups (Deskins, 2013). With many people turning to video games as a source of entertainment, the industry has ground and makes billions in revenue collected per year. Despite video games being associated with numerous advantages, some of the video games are flawed because they reflect racism, hatred, and stereotypes (Deskins, 2013). Additionally, due to other media such as television, video games have misrepresented blacks, Latinos, and other minority groups such as women.

Race and Ethnicity Research Paper

Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is one of the video games that is associated with many controversies regarding race and ethnicity in different societies. As a result, the GTA has spurred the emergence of a body of research and debates on various platforms. Most of these studies also focus on understanding the effect that video games have on different audiences, including children and adults (Pérez Latorre, 2015).

According to a study conducted by Deskins (2013), most human beings who watch violent video games experience fancy and aggression when watching video games. The aggression effects were also larger when compared to individuals who watched sports video games. Based on such aspects, it is evident that video games can produce different effects among individuals, including racist and stereotypical remarks among different groups of people. Using this information as a guide, further studies need to be conducted to examine the additional attributes related to violent video games, especially in connection to aggression and racist remarks.

Study Hypothesis

  • Watching violent video games can prime stereotypes of ethnic and racial minorities through character representations that are based on race or gender.

Research Questions

  • How do stereotypical images in violent video games influence our real-life experiences and vice versa?
  • What are the theoretical underpinnings of violent video game play outcomes?

Purpose of the Study

Video games are currently being used in different settings as a source of entertainment. However, violent video games tend to perpetuate racial stereotypes in our societies. Although various studies have been conducted regarding how video games contribute to racial stereotypes in our societies, different gaps under this subject matter need to be addressed. Using Grand Theft Auto as my case study, this research seeks to expound on how violent games influence our real-life experiences, the theoretical underpinnings of violent video game outcomes, and the strategies that can be adopted to prevent individuals from developing stereotypical and racist remarks after watching violent video games.

Literature Review

How stereotypical images in violent video games influence how we construct meaning through text

The racial content presented in the video games reflects the current racial order in modern societies. When analyzing Grand Theft Auto, it serves as a curious artifact that reflects the global digital media in modern societies. Since the game itself is neither real nor fiction, individuals watching it should be keen on interpreting the meanings that are presented (DeCamp & Ferguson, 2017). From the time when GTA was released, it has been associated with different controversies. However, one aspect that should be noted is that although the video games were not exclusively directed with violent content, how the game depicts race is one of the factors that prompted it to receive scrutiny and criticism from different sectors (DeCamp & Ferguson, 2017). The criticism came in place because GTA represented various ethnic groups in fictional settings resembling Miami.

When an individual constantly watches video games containing prime stereotypes of different minority groups such as African Americans, the gained knowledge structures become easily accessible (DeCamp & Ferguson, 2017). An individual who repeats watching video games may develop the urge to practice the knowledge gained in these video games. DeCamp & Ferguson (2017) note that people who watch violent video games can self-regulate their beliefs and behaviors that are founded upon existing societal standards. Most societies view blacks and other minority groups as inferior beings who do not deserve equal opportunities in life. As a result, when a person watches a video game that bears a similar message, they tend to practice the gained knowledge, leading to increased racial and stereotypical remarks about African Americans.

GTA is one of the video games that provide different ways of interacting with the world. However, it is deeply situated in racialized and gendered ideologies, raising questions regarding its impact on its audiences. A study conducted by Mastro (2017) indicates that the violent content presented in video games can increase violent and aggression-related thoughts among its audiences. One of the main factors that result in such behaviors is that violent video games tend to influence the audience to think about the rewards associated with violence (Mastro, 2017).

Theoretical underpinnings of violent video gameplay outcomes

Understanding how race operates in the different settings in the United States and how dominant racial ideologies can be reinforced in media and entertainment is an important aspect. Society is one of the platforms through which individuals socialize and learn about different ideologies (Allen et al., (2018). One of the models that can be used to expound on the effects linked to violent video games is the General Aggression Model (GAM). Previously, GAM was initially developed to help in explaining the different factors that can influence human aggression. However, various scholars have adopted it to analyze how video games influence the audience’s characters. GAM is an effective model since it incorporates the cognitive-neo association theory, social cognitive theory, script theory, and excitation transfer theory (Pérez Latorre, (2015).

Pérez Latorre (2015) notes that although GAM is mainly used to understand the short-term effects of violent video games on an individual, it can also predict long-term effects.  A person who repeatedly watches violent video games tends to create knowledge structures linked to aggression or may distort the existing structures in one’s brain. Allen et al. (2018) state that constant exposure to violent video games such as GTA can result in racial stereotypes, leading to the emergence of aggressive beliefs and attitudes among a given audience group.

Allen et al. (2018) conducted a study to examine the effect of violent video games in inducing hostile expectation bias. Hostile expectation bias denotes the expectations that a given individual serves as a hypothetical social institution who may respond with aggression when faced with different conflicts. The GAM model notes that short-term increases in aggression can lead to prime aggressive cognitions. As a result, short-term exposure to video games may prompt an individual to develop prime aggressive cognitions.

Behm-Morawitz, (2017) note that different audiences constantly different types of framework in interpreting and understanding the knowledge obtained in video games although this is often unconscious. However, the gained knowledge can influence a given audience to make sense of the different things around them, which in return, influences their actions. Therefore, using insights from Behm-Morawitz, (2017) helps explain how race aids in framing discourses and representations of different racial groups through media and entertainment platforms such as video games.

A study conducted by Durugu (2018) also gives a broad body of knowledge regarding how racist ideologies can be spread through violent video games. Although most violent video games are created to entertain a given target audience, most video games assume the racial inequalities in our societies. Based on such aspects, reviewing this body of knowledge relating to racism in video games is crucial since it will help understand how different player discourses and experiences gained from video games help outline the various ways through which racial and ethnic contents are experienced (Durugu, 2018).


Research Design

Secondary sources containing information regarding how race or ethnicity was portrayed in video games were included in this study. Subsequently, studies using a descriptive design were considered to be included in this study because most qualitative studies often lay a foundation for effectively interpreting relationships and comparing variables between different subjects.

Video Game selection

Only articles containing information regarding racial content were considered for this study. I specifically selected the compilation of games from grand theft auto because they have a history of controversies regarding race, gender, crime, and sexual grounds. I choose to use this game because it has adequately operationalized the racial and sexual dynamics. Reading through the different articles helped me in familiarizing myself with the various aspects of Game theft auto. Additionally, I also watched GTA and took note of the relevant content and themes presented in the video game.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Only secondary sources about race and ethnicity were considered for inclusion in this study. Additionally, the articles that had to be published not more than ten years ago were included in the study. Articles that were more than ten years old were not included in this study.

Data Analysis

The collected data were analyzed using qualitative software. Findings from the study were presented in tables in the form of percentages.

Ethical Consideration

Before conducting the study, I first sought permission from the institution’s ethical board. Additionally, the collected information will not be shared with third parties but will be used solely for academic purposes.

 Data Analysis & Empirical Results

With violent video games gaining recognition in different settings, different individuals have developed various ideas regarding how they contribute to the emergence of racist and stereotypical remarks about different groups. One evident aspect of the different articles is that video games, especially violent ones, play significant roles in spreading aggression and violence among different individuals. Hispanics, blacks, and whites were among the main participants who gave their opinions regarding video games. 19 percent of Hispanics view themselves as gamers, while 11 percent of blacks regard themselves as gamers. Only a small percentage of whites (7 percent) state that they play violent video games.

The racial and ethnic ideologies also differ across the three groups. For instance, Hispanics are one of the racial and ethnic groups that sees a connection between violent video games such as Game Theft Auto with actual violence. Approximately 52 percent of Hispanics agree that most individuals who play violent video games are likely to be violent. On the other hand, 39 percent and 37 percent of blacks and whites believed violent video games contributed to individuals developing racist ideologies and violence in real life.

A large percentage of blacks also hold positive views about video games. Approximately 19 percent of blacks believe that video games contribute teamwork and communication, 10 percent of Hispanics believe the same, while 8 percent of white link teamwork and communication to video games.

Race and Ethnicity Research Paper

Table 1.


 Impact of video games/Participants Hispanic Blacks Whites
Gamers 19 11 7
Video games promote teamwork and communication. 10 19 8
Video games contribute to violence 52 39 37


Another aspect that relates to video games relates to how minority groups are presented in video games. An analysis of the different sources indicates that 47 percent of adults in America are unsure if video games such as GTA portray minority groups poorly. However, 53 percent of blacks note that video games portray minority groups poorly. In comparison, 7 percent of whites affirmed that video games portrayed racial minorities poorly, contributing to racist ideologies being leveled against this group. Using the presented findings, it is evident that video games play major roles in influencing stereotypical and racist representation of different groups, especially minority groups.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This preliminary study has provided an avenue of making comparisons of the perceptions that different groups hold, especially in regards to racial stereotypes. An analysis of the findings from the various articles indicates that most individuals who watch video games may develop knowledge structures that will make the practice aspects such as violence. One aspect that was not considered in this study relates to individuals’ beliefs and perceptions about minority groups before watching these video games.

Although this study mainly used secondary sources, future studies should adopt the interview strategy where different participants are invited to give their opinions regarding video games. Future research should also expound on my current findings where it analyzes whether violence and racist remarks are made after watching video games, or it is a matter of inclusion of racial representations. Lastly, this study should be used to explore further studies that may be related to racial representations in video games.



Behm-Morawitz, E. (2017). Examining the intersection of race and gender in video game advertising. Journal of Marketing Communications23(3), 220-239.

DeCamp, W., & Ferguson, C. J. (2017). The impact of the degree of exposure to violent video games, family background, and other factors on youth violence. Journal of youth and adolescence46(2), 388-400.

Deskins, T. G. (2013). Stereotypes in video games and how they perpetuate prejudice. McNair Scholars Research Journal6(1), 5.

Durugu, P. (2018). A study on the evolution of violence in video games, individual perceptions, and its impact on society. Mass Communicator: International Journal of Communication Studies12(4), 33-39.

Mastro, D. (2017). Race and ethnicity in US media content and effects. In Oxford research encyclopedia of communication.

Pérez Latorre, Ó. (2015). The social discourse of video games analysis model and case study: GTA IV. Games and Culture10(5), 415-437.

Allen, J. J., Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2018). The general aggression model. Current opinion in psychology19, 75-80.

Avatar photo

By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts