Expectations: Sheva Alomar

by Guest Contributor Bomber Girl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

There’s been a veritable dry spell in survival horror games as of late, and I’ve definitely been suffering. Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS was a huge disappointment, and Silent Hill: Origins left me with only a cynical apprehension for September’s Homecoming. This year’s E3 provided a smattering of goodies for gamers to ooh and aah over, and we were fortunate enough to get a preview of some sorely-needed survival horror titles. Probably the most notorious is Capcom’s Resident Evil 5.

I enjoyed RE4, although I’m more of a Creep Around And Get Scared Oh Shit What Was That? kind of gal, as opposed to Mow Down Hundreds Of Zombies And Jump Through Windows action-star wannabe, so it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. It was a wonderful game regardless of my personal preferences, so Capcom is clearly sticking close to that formula for its sequel. Also part of the formula is the good old survival horror hallmark, the secondary character, this time in the form of a woman named Sheva Alomar.

I’m as shocked as anybody that not only is one of the main characters a person of color, but a woman of color, to boot. Sheva comes to protagonist Chris Redfield’s aid as a member of the West African BSAA, or Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. In another shocking twist, she’s not a squealing, floundering idiot a la RE4′s Ashley, but a competent, well-trained agent who does her share of the combat. Be still, my heart!

I have talked before about the differences between your average male and female survival horror protagonists, and while Leon and Ashley fit my observations quite snugly, Sheva appears to defy most of them. All I can do is speculate, of course, but look how badass she is with that gun! A woman? In a survival horror game? Who’s got everything under control? Is well-equipped for the job and knows what she’s doing? Now that’s some shock and awe, and I’m very pleased.

I’m hoping Sheva is a step up from the ridiculous Ada Wong, whose exoticized Femme Fatale nature stands in entirely for personality. Every one of her scenes in RE4 had me rolling my eyes. Trussed up in an unwieldly Chinese dress, four-inch heels, and a fucking garter for a gun holster, she’s just as easy to take seriously as squealy Ashley. Ada is simple pinup material, a Hot Asian Chick flourishing a gun, and with any luck Sheva will make me forget all about her.

Now, this game won’t even be out until March 2009, so perhaps it’s a bit early to celebrate too much. However, in the world of female video game characters, it’s quite nice to have something positive on the horizon. Sheva’s existence does not cancel out the ugly racism depicted in the RE5 trailer, and I am quite interested in seeing what the overall story and gameplay offer when I actually get the chance to play it.

The Resident Evil series has been around for a good twelve years now, and it’s an obvious fact that its cast of playable characters is totally whitewashed. As diverse as the US’s population is, every Umbrella-opposing RE protagonist has been sparkling white. It’s unfortunate that it took a change of scenery to an African country for any people of color to share the spotlight — and even then, it’s Chris who’s prominently featured in the trailers, screenshots, and previews, while Sheva takes up the support role. However, it looks like a step in the right direction, no matter how small, and I’ll be sure to report back to you as soon as I get my hands on this game in early 2009.

(Go check out some more kickass pictures of Sheva at Gaygamer.net’s E3 ’08: Hands On With Resident Evil 5.)

Moderator’s Update: This conversation has been going on since August of 2007 and will continue until the damn game releases and we actually play it. However, that does*not* mean I want to read the same boring ass comments on every single post. (I’m looking at you, gamers.)

Please review the following posts before adding a comment:

Of Race and Resident Evil 5 (Latoya)
Moving Gaming Forward: Having Meaningful Conversations about Social Issues (Latoya)
Video Games and the Usual Amount of Racism (Tekanji, Official Shurb/Cerise)
Blackface Goes HD: The Case of Resident Evil 5 (Jason/Microscopiq)