Social and Behavioral Sciences


This research seeks to explore how participant video gamers’ cultural capital impacts their interpretations of the racial content in video games. Having cultural capital on the video game world mediates interpretation of video game racial semiotics showing complexity in the reproduction and contestation of race in media. The project seeks to supplement grounds that show complexity in how people interpret racial content from a growing video game industry. Data were collected through personal interviews where participants played the racialized game Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony for 30-50 minutes. A sample of 23 participants covering gender, gaming experience, and race answered questions assessing racial lens, then played the game introduction, and finally answered questions assessing interpretations of game content. Results indicate two major frameworks in game interpretation. One mode consisted of dismissing racial content as mere jokes or aesthetic game elements which borders colorblind racial notions. The second mode consisted of rejection and criticism of game content. Gamer respondents interpreted through media reference modes while non-gamers, by and large, were critical of game content. Respondents draw from their experiences and knowledge to interpret racial semiotics and do not passively accept content, as content analysis and psychology literature assumes.

Abstract Format




Faculty Mentor

Dr. Arthur Scarritt