In today's Circuits section of the NY Times, there is an article about race and video games that tells us virtually nothing new. Just like television and movies, video games are introducing people of color in racially insensitive ways.
For instance, the new version of Grand Theft Auto is set in the early 90s, when gang wars were prevalent. Obviously, many of the gang members are not white. The other example is Def Jam Fight for NY, which depicts black and hispanic men fighting -- a lot.
Similar to past articles of this nature, the author questions whether games that promote racial stereotypes should be encouraged or even allowed. He quotes a parent-like figure, who says, "They are nothing more than pixilated minstrel shows." I think that's taking it a bit far, but you get the meaning.
Yes, these games promote stereotypes, but show me a single game that doesn't. This man is concerned about a 7 year-old kid, whom he helps to raise, and his exposure to these games. His, and many others, chief complaint is that despite the game-makers claim that this is meant to be a fantasy world, the kids can't make that distinction. I agree, but I think it the onus is on the parents to keep their kids away from these games. I am able to play GTA and understand that not every fat hispanic man in the ghetto sells guns and hand gernades.
The critics want to see a game that promotes positive depections of non-white people. Unfortunately, these games would likely be boring to their intended audience (people seventeen and up). Comedy and entertainment is based around stereotypes for a reason -- seeing something you can relate to is engaging. These games, shows, and movies are not going away, which is why it has to be up to the parents to teach their children and provide a positive role model. Kids will only relate to these negative stereotypes if they are surrounded by them.
I don't claim to be an expert on this issue, but parents should not expect media to conform to their expectations. We live in a free-market economy and the most popular item will sell, with few limitations based on morality. If you don't want your kids to play Def Jam Vendetta, that's fine by me, but don't tell me it can't exist.