One of my favorite video games to play right now is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It is a great example of a modern adventure game because the world in which it is set so vast and the paths of exploration are so open-ended. However, while on one hand it is a great example of a modern video game, on the other it still seems to fall prey to the same gender and race stereotypes as many of the video games that came before it.
To be honest, at first I did not realize how much of a role gender played in the game. In fact, I was quite pleased to see that sexuality seems to play almost no role in the game at all. While the female characters do wear different clothing (skirts and dresses instead of pants) the clothing is far from sexually charged. In addition, the facial structures and hair styles are different depending on gender, but also tastefully so. (You can see an example of the typical female character below.) However, I found out only later in the game that the differences between males and females are even greater than I realized. It turns out (and this is not made obvious in the game) that gender effects the basic skills of your character. Males often have higher strength, agility and endurance while females excel in intelligence willpower and speed. Unfortunately, these differences seems to be quite stereotypical and somewhat biased towards male characters.
Nevertheless, the gender differences pale in comparison to the use of race in the game. Oblivion has ten 'races' total. Among these are the three more 'animal' races: Khajiit (jaguar men), Orc, and Argonians (reptilian); the seemingly white races: Wood Elves, High Elves, Nords, Bretons, and Imperials; the black race: Redguard; and the Dark Elves (which are "dark-skinned," but in a more purplish way ). Not only are the Redguard clearly outnumbered, but they seem to be stereotypically black. The Redguard are "the most naturally talented warriors" benefitting from increased speed and strength . What is most interesting about this set up is that it is totally unnecessary. The character creation screen already has a skin tone adjustment. Why not just let any of the characters be adjustable to any skin tone? Why limit the "the most naturally talented warriors" to black and all others (excluding the animals) to white?
In these ways Oblivion fails to break free of the common biases that seem to plague the video game industry. It is somewhat disheartening that such cultural set-backs can persist in an industry that is advancing so rapidly.