College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs Poster Presentations


Racial Lens and Interpretations in Video Games

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Arthur Scarritt


This research seeks to explore how participants from different gender, race, video game experience, and racial lenses interpret the racial content of the video game Grand Theft Auto: the Ballad of Gay Tony (GTA: tBoGT). The project seeks to supplement grounds that show complexity in how people interpret racial content from a growing video game industry. The significance speaks to Omi and Winant’s notion of lowest common denominator in racialized content and also speaks to content analysis literature. The latter asserts that video games are a form of modern minstrelsy similar to the “blackface” archetype used in past media. Data was collected through personal interviews where participants played GTA: tBoGT for 30-50 minutes. A sample of 30 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. Participants were provided game synopsis from instruction booklet for further supplementation of story and characters. Results indicate two major themes in game interpretation. One theme consisted of dismissing racial content through crime media references which borders colorblind racial notions. The second theme consisted of critical reflection of the game content. Implications and future directions are also discussed.

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