Virtual Race and Teaching Racism

One of my hopes for virtual worlds has been that the ability to arbitrarily change skin color and appearance would reduce the pernicious evil of racism in the offline world.

Unfortunately, for most of its history, the MMOG industry has followed the tradition (established by lazy fantasy writers) of light-skinned=good, dark-skinned=evil. (Actually, perhaps it would be even more accurate to say that light-skinned + big-breaster = good, based on the cover art for most of the games….)

I’m not a scientist, but my guess is that if you spend 40 hours per week slaughtering dark-skinned foes, it probably has some negative impact, however unconscious.

That’s why I was glad to see that the latest edition of Guild Wars would use a North African setting with African and Arabic heroes (the first two editions have European and Asian settings).

It will be interesting to see if this third installment, Nightfall, achieves the same commercial success as its predecessors (over 2 million players). Otherwise, the forces of big-breasted racism may once again prevail.

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