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Video game research: The first line of misrepresentation and the last line of truth

on 28 March 2013

Welcome to PSU.com's hit series on the world of gaming. Join our hosts Skip Williams and Max Platinum as they give you the inside scoop on a myriad of topics in gaming. From how to catapult up the Trophy rankings to debating about the current console war, don't change that channel as there might even be some broken tables, because the debates get so hardcore!

Disclaimer: All likenesses used are for parody and/or satirical purposes.

Skip: Yeah, I know, look I’m about to go on the air…Okay, okay, I won’t forget the Chinese…You know I’m Japanese right? Yeah, Peking duck, extra egg rolls, okay, I need to…

Max: -Poke Poke-

Skip: -Click- Welcome everyone to another episode of Skip and Max’s Prime Time Gaming. As always I’m your host with the most, Skip Williams with the doctor of trophinomics, Max Platinum. We have another exciting episode this week but before we begin, Max, why do white people love Chinese food so much? It’s not even real Chinese food.

Max: It’s delicious.

Skip: That’s it?

Max: Yeah, pretty much. It’s not some mystical taboo food like chicken or anything.

Skip: This week we delve into another controversial subject in the gaming industry and that is racism. Violence, sexism, and racism are three hot button topics that get a lot of research funding from universities and recently a new study came out explaining how African-American gamers are labeled as deviants, as in different from the norm, and experience daily racism on Xbox Live as a result of it. Now Max, after last week when we established you could read, you had a chance to read the article. What are your initial thoughts?

Max: Skip, racism in the video game industry is a touchy subject. We all went through the Resident Evil 5 fiasco, the Deus Ex fiasco, and who knows what the next video game that causes another racial stir will be. But after reading this piece of research I was intrigued and dismayed at the same time how little research actually went on. Maybe I missed something, and with my limited reading ability I freely admit it could have happened, but I call into question the methodology used during the undertaking.

Skip: What was wrong with the research, Max? She observed a group of people for eight months and cataloged their experiences to show how they were racially abused solely based on how they spoke. What was wrong with the methodology?

Max: The problem is the sample group was too small. She is using a sample size of four people to explain the experiences of an entire group without additional samples or counter-samples. If there were more samples she never showed them in the paper which is the same as them not existing to the reader.

Skip: Counter-samples?

: What did you ask me earlier about Chinese food?

Skip: I asked why white people love Chinese food.

Max: See, you took a sample of one person to explain the eating pattern of an entire group. It’s like if I say black people like chicken from seeing a single black man eating chicken. Sure, some black people like chicken but obviously others do not.

Skip: How does that have anything to do about online racism?

Max: The research doesn’t use counter-samples of other races to detail their experiences. The entire premise is American black people are targeted online because they speak English differently from the norm. The norm is not explained however. So why were groups of Asians, non-American blacks like Jamaicans, or even southern-accented whites not used as samples to catalog their experiences?

Skip: What would focusing the light on other people accomplish when the premise of the research is focusing on the experience of blacks?

Max: The problem isn’t focusing the research on blacks. The problem is the focus is so narrow that the results are skewed. Is it a problem only American blacks who speak with a stereotypical ghetto accent experience, or is it also a problem Chinese-accented gamers experience, or Jamaican or Afghani-accented people experience? If every group experiences Xbox Live racism, as I like to term it, then it is a bigger issue, a systemic issue. If only certain groups are targeted then it is a focused issue. Even if the research solely wants to examine blacks, there are a myriad of other accents and speaking styles blacks have. We can only presume the vocal norm she is contrasting the ghetto accents with is an American white voice, as she never mentions it specifically. This leads to another host of problems as it doesn’t take into account that numerous countries like Canada, England, and South Africa all have fluent white English speakers, or how even in America someone from West Virginia speaks entirely different from someone living in Texas. Which white voice is the norm?

Skip: Ring Ring. Wait a second, Max. Hello? Yeah, I know, don’t get the plum sauce…I’m in the middle of a tapping…I can’t just stop the cameras…Because it is a live international feed…No, I won’t say hi to your mother in Saskatoon for you…

Max: Ironic, the one time we need a co-host we don’t have one. I guess I don’t need to worry about being fired after all.

Skip: Why are white girls crazy, Max?

Max: Don’t ask me, I don’t date white girls.

Skip: Wait, why? You’re white.

Max: And?

Skip: You’re white.

Max: So?

Skip: Shouldn’t you have dated someone who is white?

Max: Shouldn’t you be dating someone who is yellow?

Skip: That’s offensive. I’m actually as white as you are.

Max: And how is what you said not offensive as well? Wait, what? You’re Asian, how are you white?

Skip: Does my skin look yellow?

Max: No, you’re skin looks as white as mine. If it was yellow I’d be concerned you caught something from the pizza girl when you cooked your sausage in her oven. Hepatitis is not a good topic of conversation on a date.

Skip: Okay, okay, enough of my messed up dating life. What does this particular piece of research have to do with gaming aside from everyone on Xbox Live are a bunch of jerks?

Max: This is another instance of an issue that is systemic in the industry, which is video game research has some of the worst standards in the academic field. There is not enough qualified oversight of professionals who actually know enough about the industry to stop pseudo-research from clouding real issues. Using one of your hot button issues as an example, the early days of research into video game violence in the early 80s and 90s was rife with researchers who at best were incompetent or at worse rigged their findings through how the experiments were set up.

Skip: Can’t you just fact check the research? Even if the committees that are set up to do that fail, any motivated individual with an internet connection can do it themselves?

Max: You’d be right, Skip, if the halls of academia were not situated in an ivory tower, forcing the masses to pay for entry into their hallowed halls. Trying to gain access to the information is complicated and expensive, as they are all situated in different journals and different schools, all requiring different logins. The information is not as simple as clicking a link. Granted, back in my university days we had access to these databases as students but the moment you leave so does your access. Some of the newer journals are free but when a research article links from so many varied sources trying to check them all becomes an adventure. The common man is forced to be reactive instead of proactive in his pursuit for knowledge and credibility.

Skip: You went to a university?

Max: Why do people think I cannot read or write? Don’t let my rippling muscles fool you.

Skip: It wasn’t the University of Phoenix Online was it?

Max: It was a real school, with real books, real chairs, and yes, even real professors. Well, the last part can be debatable but it is a real degree.

Skip: Ring Ring. Yes…we’re still taping…It has been five minutes…I’ll call you when we are finished…No, I’m not cheating on you, my co-host is a man…I have to go...How do you do it, Max? This is driving me nuts.

Max: Didn’t I just say I don’t date white women. That is a Pandora’s Box you’ll have to figure out yourself.

Skip: How do you think the research in the video game field needs to be changed? What would help up it’s credibility level?

Max: The choice of games being used is one of the most glaring issues that needs to be fixed. Violent games chosen are usually the controversial game of the era like Mortal Kombat in the 90s and GTA in the 2000s, which is fine since they are popular and fun. But for non-violent games they don’t pick anything popular or remotely fun. They don’t account for the boredom factor. If I had to play 3D Munch Man I’m pretty sure whatever lobe part of my brain they were checking would be asleep, just like me.

Skip: Why do you think they would choose boring and unpopular games for their counter-sample?

Max: Honestly, as mentioned before they either know what they are doing and want to rig the results or they don’t know what they’re doing and raid the bargain bins. It is the one question that has always kept me up at night. After having to play 3D Munch Man I know I would aggressively want to play Mortal Kombat…Skip, why did the lights suddenly go out in the studio? Are we being invaded?

: This is Japan, not America, Max. We don’t have imaginary boogie men making us hole up in houses with automatic rifles like it is Soviet Russia.

Rebekka: You’re getting canceled, that’s why? Haven’t you seen your ratings?

Max: We rank first every week for our timeslot on the network.

Rebekka: Yeah, but first isn’t good enough. You have to be double first, didn’t you get the memo?

Skip: Who is going to replace us?

Rebekka: The network wants to try out a couple new hosts, you know, liven things up, see if we might reach that double first ranking.

Max: See, I’m not paranoid. I’m being replaced.

Skip: We’re being replaced.

Max: That’s what I meant. Who is replacing us? No, no, please don’t say its Saikou.

Rebekka: Its Saikou.

Max: But I’m the token white guy. You can’t replace the token white guy.

Skip: It was a good run while it lasted, Max. Maybe there is a Trophy tournament we can go commentate. Join us…whoever…next week when we…er…they discuss game sales and how much the bottom line affects the gaming industry. For Max Platinum, I’m Skip Williams saying good night and good gaming, live from the Tokyo Dome.

Max: Wait, who replaces Skip?

Rebekka: K-JI is back.

Max: You’re replacing the token white guy with the token Asian guy? I know Koreans are all the vogue these days but what about Skip’s feelings?

Rebekka: Skip has other problems to handle.

Skip: No, I did not pick up the Chinese food yet! I just got fired, can you give me some space!

Rebekka: I see it all the time, post-traumatic white girl syndrome. They never come out the same after it’s over.

Interested in reading the article discussed in this episode? Check it out at this link.

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