Hispanics underrepresented in the video game industry

Video game industry and Hispanics

The roles of Hispanic characters in video games have been traditionally subjugated to being extremely stereotypical, not significant to story lines and awfully unrealistic.

On average only about 3% of video game characters are recognized as Hispanics of which less than 5% of those characters are actually playable. Yet Hispanics account for quarter of new growth in the video game industry.

Video game sales have surpassed box office sales for more than half a decade already. Yet unlike film and television, Hispanics are grossly underrepresented.  Which is saying a lot because movies and television shows in general are a far cry from being an honest depiction of Hispanics in American society.

Video game industry and Hispanics

In one of the first type of studies of its kind that exams 150 video games of all ratings from nine different platforms, Dmitri Williams, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, states that “Latino children play more video games than white children.”

The video game industry

“And they’re really not able to play themselves. For children, the stakes may be slightly higher than for television. Many have suggested that games function as crucial gatekeepers to interest in technology, which translates into education and careers in mathematics and science-related fields,” he added.

This could have a huge detrimental effect on the future success of the Hispanic community globally.

Even though the industry as a whole still over represents adult white males, in recent years there have been some Hispanic success stories of game developers and in game characters.

One of the best non-traditional, only available through download games from last year is called Journey. The game’s designer is Kellee Santiago, who was born in Caracas, Venezuela.

A popular game with no guns or violence

The game has been received with stellar reviews and critical acclaim, winning major awards in the video game industry from best game design to best game of year. It was also nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

The game was so popular because of its ground breaking approach to the over saturated action game genre. The game contains no guns or violence yet it is tremendously engaging and beautiful. The game consists of the player controlling a mysterious robed figure traversing an expansive desert. On this “journey” you can meet other players but can only communicate with them with a musical chime.

The developers wanted “to evoke in the player a sense of smallness and wonder, and to forge an emotional connection between them and the anonymous players they meet along the way.”

This new type of thinking when creating games has been well received by the gaming community. Instead of the action driven by the goal of killing the other player it creates a sense of comradely turning the whole experience into an unforgettable emotional adventure. On the other side of the gaming spectrum are the highly popular multiplayer war games.

A Latino character in Call of Duty

Call of Duty is one of the most popular and important video game franchises with a loyal fan base of millions of players playing their online multiplayer twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week all around the entire globe.

The last installment in the franchise was Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Delightfully surprising was that Activision made the game’s lead character a Latino political activist from Nicaragua named Raul Menendez.

With this bold step, the publisher Activision, has began to help create more positive traits from Hispanics by seeing themselves portrayed in a realistic fashion instead of the stereotypical fill in characters or cliché over the top villain in the fastest growing entertainment medium.

As Williams put it, “That kind of visibility is really the first step towards leading to public consciousness and equal treatment. These cultural markers matter.”

The bottom line is that game designers have the opportunity and responsibility to create non-stereotypical, realistic Hispanic characters not only because it is the right thing to do as Williams stated: “That kind of visibility is really the first step toward leading to public consciousness and equal treatment”.

“If Latinos or any other groups become disenchanted with games… they may have less interest in technology and its opportunities. Ironically, they would be less likely to become game makers themselves, helping to perpetuate the cycle,” Williams concluded.

Read Dmitri Williams entire study titled “The virtual census: representations of gender, race and age in video games,” And check out 50 of the coolest Hispanic Video game characters here.

Billionaire Nintendo Changemaker Hiroshi Yamauchi Dies

The long-time leader of Nintendo and an icon of Japan’s videogame industry, Hiroshi Yamauchi, passed away today in Japan at the age of 85.


Nintendo released a statement saying the company “is in mourning today from the sad loss of the former Nintendo president Mr Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning.”

Yamauchi took over the family company, founded by his grandfather in 1889 as a maker of playing cards, after his grandfather suffered a stroke. Over his 53 year reign,  the college dropout transformed Nintendo into a global video game industry powerhouse. His vision launched the Game Boy console and the classic Donkey Kong and Super Marios video games.

In 2002, Yamauchi stepped down as Nintendo president because of bad health, but kept on as an adviser. He left the company in good shape: sales reached $4.5 billion and profits almost tripled to $1.3 billion, thanks in part to the success of a new portable video game player. At his request he gave up his retirement $11 million allowance and asked that it be included in company profit instead.

Yamauchi bought the Seattle Mariners baseball team in 1992, later transferring it to the company’s U.S. unit.In 2005, Yamauchi left Nintendo’s board of directors, but remained the largest individual shareholder with a 10% stake. As of April 2013, Forbes estimated Yamauchi’s net worth at $2.1 billion; he was #13 on this year’s Japan rich list.Yamauchi will be buried on Saturday. He is survived by his wife and three children.

‘Watch this:’ How ultraviolent video games and ultraviolent films differ

Fast and the Furious 6

A scene from the 2013 film “Fast and Furious 6,” Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout. (Universal Pictures)

BulletstormA screenshot of the video game Bulletstorm, showing just one of the many violent ways of killing for which the game rewards players. (EA)

Defenders of the video game industry say they’re unfairly blamed for the actions of criminals, arguing that movies, books, and TV shows promote just as much violence and aberrant behavior. So what’s different about video games?

Some experts on digital addiction and psychology say games are a training ground for killing people: Their interactive nature pulls you into the gore, they argue, and reward you for being a killing machine.

Special Series

This is Part Three in a series exploring the connection between video games and violence.

Watch for Part Four Monday, which will examine the latest installment in the popular video game series “Grand Theft Auto.”

Part One: ‘Training simulation: Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games.

Part Two: ‘Frag him: With today’s ultraviolent video games, how real is too real?

Part Three: ‘Watch this:’ How ultraviolent games and films differ.

“We can’t say video games caused the Newtown shootings,” said Dr. David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “But we can say [Adam Lanza’s] actions in killing those kids as well as he did was enhanced.”

Greenfield argues that games train your nervous system to be more efficient at killing. In the human brain, dopamine fires as a physical reward for accomplishing goals such as clearing a room quickly or sniping an enemy from a great distance. Movies, shows and books don’t have the same level of reward, he told FoxNews.com.

“How could you make the statement that this has no effect?” he said.

David Ryan Polgar, a noted tech ethicist, says video games rarely have a strong storyline equal to that in a book or movie. This creates a lack of empathy in the gamer for that character. He says the added realism of next-gen consoles makes this more problematic.

“The prospect of being Travis Bickle from the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ or Holden Caulfield from ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as opposed to viewing them would offer the highest level of altered perception and potential increased levels of aggression. That wouldn’t causally lead gamers to violence, but it may blur the lines between reality and the virtual world for an unstable user.”

Chris Ferguson from Stetson University, who has studied the effects of games on psychology, disagrees that playing games can cause violent behavior at all — or that movies, TV shows, or books can cause violence.

“We find no evidence for either violent video games or television having an impact on youth violence,” Ferguson told FoxNews.com, referencing a study published in April in the “Journal of Youth Adolescence.” He said the idea of a first-person shooter being a trainer for killers is absurd and moralistic.

“Your brain also releases dopamine when you read a good book, have sex, enjoy a sunset or a nice meal,” he said. “Playing a videogame is no different in this respect from eating a cupcake. It’s psychobabble to make a perfectly natural process sound much scarier than it actually is.”

‘The prospect of being Travis Bickle from ‘Taxi Driver’ as opposed to viewing him would offer the highest potential increased levels of aggression.’

– Tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar

Ferguson says connecting game use to the Newtown shooting is absurd as well. “How efficient do you need to be when using an AR-15?” he asked.

Microsoft, Ubisoft and several other gamemakers declined to comment but referred to existing research related to game violence and to the game associations.

“Scientists have found there is no connection between playing games and acting violently,” said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association.

Hewitt points to reports by the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Justice, findings at the Supreme Court, and other research that has determined games do not cause violence. “If you talk to folks in the military, they say games don’t teach you how to shoot a real gun,” he said. “You can play a flight simulator all you want but it doesn’t teach you how to fly a 747.”

Another expert says we need a more balanced understanding. Kevin Roberts, the author of “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap” and a video game addiction counselor, says he works with kids who have violent tendencies, but there is no research to suggest a videogame can cause those reactions more than any other entertainment media.

“Watching violent videos over time desensitizes people to the violence they see in videos, a fact that can literally be measured by brain scans,” he told FoxNews.com. “Playing violent video games arouses certain areas of the brain, leading to a feeling of intensity. But most people who watch violent movies or play violent video games will never turn to violence. However, people at risk for violence might be further induced down this path by both forms of media.”

For gamers thinking of storming the castle in October, there is no clear answer. No current research compares the effects of playing games to the effects of watching other media. What’s clear is that more violence is coming.

Phil Fish Calls “Fez II”, Game Industry Quits

Fez II canceled Following a heated Twitter exchange with GameTrailers’ Marcus Beer, Fez developer Phil Fish has cancelled Fez II and seemingly left the video game industry for good. The exchange took place after Beer repeatedly denigrated indie developers like Fish and Jonathan Blow on GameTrailers podcast “Invisible Walls”.

Beer called the developers “self-styled kings of the indie genre,” for their “bitching and moaning” over members of the press trying to get them to comment on Microsoft’s policies regarding indie game development on the Xbox One; Beer eventually called Fish a “fucking asshole,” among other things.

Fish then told Beer to look at his life’s accomplishments compared to Fish’s own and “kill yourself.” It escalated from there, culminating in Fish publicly announcing he was cancelling Fez II and leaving the game industry. “I’m done, Fez II is cancelled. Goodbye,” he tweeted earlier today, later confirming with several outlets his intentions.

While Fish could still be develop Fez II in secret without any media scrutiny, only time will tell how serious his threat is, especially considering the developer’s public reputation for the melodramatic. No word on what this might mean for Fez’ chance of coming to PSN or whether the Xbox release will still be patched. More as the story develops.



Mobile gaming still eludes a troubled industry

(Reuters) – To get a sense of how investors view the promise of mobile gaming, one need look no further than Japan’s GungHo Online Entertainment (3765.OS). With just one game under its belt, its stock has risen tenfold since October and its market cap almost equals that of decades-old Nintendo (7974.OS).

An iPad showing GungHo Online Entertainment Inc's mobile online game Puzzle and Dragons is displayed with the game's merchandise at the company's offices in Tokyo April 10, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

From veterans like Electronic Arts (EA.O) to rising stars such as “Clash of Clans” maker Supercell, the $66 billion video game industry is scrambling to devise games and experimenting with ways to appeal to a generation of players that spends more time on mobile devices than on computers or consoles.

Most are having scant success in an industry peppered with one-hit wonders like OMGPOP and where even established players like Zynga (ZNGA.O) are faltering, industry sources say.

“It’s sort of like all the chess pieces have been thrown in the air, and the industry has not yet landed on what the chess board looks like,” said Owen Mahoney, CFO of Japanese online gaming giant Nexon Co Ltd (3659.T), which has in the past year bought two companies to accelerate its mobile foray.

In recent years, the model has been to offer games for free, then encourage players to spend real money on in-game purchases – a system perfected by Zynga in its online games. But its rapid decline in just the past year illustrates the challenge of hooking new players, and loosening gamers’ purse strings.

The company that shot to fame on the back of Facebook (FB.O) games like “Farmville” bought OMGPOP, developers of the mobile sensation “Draw Something” – for $180 million. After months of losing users that once peaked to 14.5 million players over a year ago, Zynga last week shut its New York-based studio, effectively laying off the OMGPOP team.

Industry executives say mobile gamers today are spoiled for choice as the industry has exploded. In 2007, when Apple Inc (AAPL.O) launched the iPhone, there were but a handful of developers. Today, there are hundreds, whose apps sell across the globe on Apple and Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) Android devices.

“You see these rocket ships in the industry that explode on the scene with a casual game that’s easy to develop with not much money and they gain users quickly. But users get bored or angry because they can’t progress without paying more money,” Nexon’s Mahoney told Reuters in an interview.

Nexon has had some success boosting its mobile portfolio, a likely factor behind revenue growth of 24 percent in 2012 to 108 million yen.


To stand out from the crowd, developers big and small are seeking ways to build a sustainable business.

EA, as one of the best-funded competitors, is turning to data analytics to keep track of its players’ gaming patterns and behavior.

Japanese gaming giant DeNA (2432.T) is experimenting with on-the-spot tweaks to its games by employees, who adjust conditions depending on what players do, CEO of DeNA West Clive Downie said.

Canadian indie studio Noodlecake, known for games like “Zombie Road Trip”, is employing loyalty programs similar to airlines with daily virtual currency rewards for first-time and frequent players.

Others resort to tricks like seasonal deals and holiday-themed content to boost their rankings on app-download charts during the crucial holiday period.

Up-and-coming GungHo, which has seen its shares rise tenfold since October as investors bet on its ability to rise above the fray with its sole title “Puzzle & Dragons,” is turning to costly TV advertising to place its brand front-and-center.

Japanese telecoms giant Softbank Corp (9984.T) owns a majority stake in GungHo.

Even Rovio – backers of pop-culture phenomenon “Angry Birds” – has reported that it now leans on stuffed toys, mugs and other merchandise for 45 percent of its revenue.

“Everybody wants a manual” with the best user acquisition techniques, said Doug Smith, an independent developer who launched his kids game “Chugga Bugga” on the Apple App Store in early April but has had only about 3,500 downloads. He is disappointed that it’s becoming “harder and harder for new entrants to come in without a big budget.”


As E3, the industry’s largest annual convention, kicks off in Los Angeles next week, console games going up against mobile games will be an underlying theme.

Revenue from games on mobile and portable devices is expected to grow about 38 percent to $8 billion in 2013 and touch $20 billion in 2018, according to David Cole, an analyst at research group DFC Intelligence. That’s why mobile developers won’t give up.

Game publishers are now rushing to hire people with data science and analytics skills dedicated to acquiring users and analyzing their behavior, said Ville Heijari, European general manager for PlayHaven, which helps developers monetize and market games.

EA has made investments in data analytics to build a suite of back-end proprietary software to break down its players by region and preferences, to help development of future games, said EA’s President of Labels Frank Gibeau.

For now, consumer spending remains concentrated on the decades-old console gaming industry. But the situation is fast changing: in just a few years, mobile gaming has grown to account for about 9 percent of overall revenue.

Mobile is “an absolutely critical, if not ‘the’ growth driver for the industry for the next several years,” Gibeau said.

Despite the success of a number of companies, “a lot of the industry is still in a learning phase,” PlayHaven’s Heijari said.