by Madison Rehbeh
Yale University’s Computer Science Department recently announced a $1 million donation given to them from the Bungie Foundation for a research project that fights against racist hair graphics in video games.
“It is widely assumed that the algorithms used to generate virtual humans are based in biological underpinnings that accurately reflect all races and ethnicities,” the announcement reads. “In reality, however, these algorithms are deeply biased and based on predominantly European features.”
The project will be led by Theodore Kim, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Yale.
According to Kim, the project will “serve as an example of how to identify the products of systemic racism in computer graphics and demonstrate how to take concrete steps to ameliorate their harm.”
Kim believes that this racial bias in video game hair stems from Computer Graphics Researchers that have “historically favored the simulation and rendering of straight hair, which is racially coded as European or Caucasian hair.”
As stated on Kim’s admin page, “[h]e researches topics in physics-based animation, which include the simulation of fire, water, muscles, skin, and virtual humans.”
In 2015, Pew Research Center conducted a study on how various racial and ethnic groups feel about video games. Their article showed that “[r]oughly half (47%) of American adults say they are unsure of whether video games portray minority groups poorly. Interestingly, this is the most common response regardless of race or ethnicity.”
The Pew Research Center’s study continued by adding, “Blacks (13%) are more likely than whites (7%) to say most video games portray minority groups poorly.” However, “close to half of all blacks (47%) say they are uncertain if video games depict minorities in a bad light.”
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Madison Rehbehn is a junior at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. She is majoring in political science. Madison is the Vice President for DBU’s Turning Point USA Chapter that she will be starting with a fellow DBU Patriot. Aside from her school involvement, Madison is mainly involved in serving her church and the community around her.
Photo “Yale University” by Yale University.