New forms of online racism are emerging as video games add audio-chat features, and as popular online games draw a more global audience.
That was the message of a panel of academics and journalists at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference, an annual event that brings together video-game designers, social-media leaders, and cultural critics looking for the latest technology trends.
A famous New Yorker cartoon has long summed up the anonymizing power of cyberspace: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But in some popular video games and in social virtual worlds like Second Life, chat features have been added in the past few years, essentially proving the cartoon outdated. The addition of human voices has led people to make assumptions about the players based on their speech, often on the basis of race. That’s according to research cited at the conference by Lisa Nakamura, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.