The new Xbox Live avatars have been available for a while now, but the avatars themselves aren’t very diverse. Microsoft has promised some diversity and customization, which is great news. After all, who wants to play a game with an avatar that doesn’t look anything like them? Especially in today’s society where young kids need to see their likeness in parts of society – including video games. A new video has leaked that reveals what they’ll look like. The video also looks at the editor interface that will let you design your character.
Before I talk about the changes, I would like to discuss the idea of diversity in video games in general. A study done by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan indicate that the lack of diversity in video game characters has different effects on players, based on their own real-world experience. In some cases, this lack of diversity is viewed as racist.
According to the findings, video game players want to play as characters they can identify with. However, most protagonists in major games are white. If there is a minority, they’re often a stereotype – or worse, when presented with a create a character option, people of color were often just pallet swaps, creating what is called the video game equivalent of “blackface.” The fact that this happens is deplorable. But can, or will anything be done about it? I say will because there has to be some kind of backing by developers, for this to ever change.
The study, also reached out to people to find out if they felt that developers would respond to more diversity in games – and the findings aren’t that positive. Ultimately, people were divided. Some predicted a negative reaction from outside groups, but those same people said that they believe that their own communities would support an increase in diversity.
But this isn’t just an issue in video games. We are finally starting to see more movies and TV shows staring people of color. Unfortunately, those shows and movies are still sometimes viewed as geared towards specific racial groups. That said, I am confident that we are moving away from the trend of certain shows for specific people. I am also confident that we will continue to see shows staring more people of color. This isn’t to say that all movies and all TV shows have to be homogenous – in whatever way you see that. Diversity is about differences. We need to stop thinking in stereotypes because that’s a lot of what this is, isn’t it?
Getting back to the Xbox avatars now. The new Xbox Avatar Editor will allow you to customize body, face, hair, makeup, and limbs with color pickers. It is pretty comprehensive as you can even change the color of your characters’ fingernails. This is still only in Beta, I’m confident that this will help – at least for the games that are supported, and then hopefully this will become more commonplace throughout video games.