I am consistently bothered by this throw-away phrase "media affects people" as if its some kind of argument winner, an inarguable statement of fact. In reality it's lazy, it's too vague, it's pseudo-intellectual at its worst. It makes a gigantic broadstroke which is so heinous in its inaccuracy as to render it an utterly meaningless buzz-phrase. Media affects people. Yes but what kind of people, what kind of media and in what kind of ways? We know of course that news media can affect peoples political views or the amount of fear they have in their day to day lives of the possibility of say a terrorist attack. This in turn has knock-on effects. News media can incite panic buying, protests, you name it. But news media is (supposedly) a completely factual representation of what is actually going on in the real world. There's a reason why a video of a real death has more impact than a death in a movie, a videogame, a book or a television series.
So I ask you this. In what way, specifically, do videogames affect people? What kind of people do they affect? Is it universal or are some people more susceptible than others? To what degree does it affect people? What attitudes can it inspire? We already know, based on uncountable studies that videogames do not cause violent behavior, so that indeed is one way in which videogames DO NOT affect people. What about the current hot-topic, sexism? We know for instance that gender portrayal in advertising can influence buying behaviors and even the perception of gender roles, but can videogames do the same thing or more to the point, do they have to TRY to do that? Advertising is the finely honed apex of the manipulation of consumer thought. It's sole goal is to change your mind, make you want to buy something, or act a certain way. It's entire purpose is laser-focused on just that. But again, advertising at least to some degree is factual, it's based in the real world on real products. Can you really apply the same standard to videogames and if so, where is your proof?
See I've been asking for proof for a while. Does a game like Dead or Alive foster sexist attitudes within its players? Where is the proof of that and more to the point why are we listening to people that say that it does who don't have a hint of a background that would make us believe them? Where are the scientists? Where are the psychologists who can tell us "yes, X media can cause Y behavior". We've heard this argument before, it came from Jack Thompson. Jack didn't have any evidence either and study after study has rebuked his assertion that videogames cause violence. As a result I remain skeptical, as is healthy, about games causing anything else and continue to believe in the consumers ability to separate fantasy from reality.
"Media affects people". 3 little words with no meaning. Ask for the rest of the sentence, then the rest of the paragraph and then the list of studios pertaining to videogames.
I'll continue to push for more diverse characters in videogames because I think that makes videogames more interesting and has the potential to make them appeal to a wider demographic. These are all good reasons to do it. I'd rather we reach a goal where videogame writing is better and we have better characters because we used positive reasoning to get there, rather than scaremongering tactics and pseudoscience.