Category Archives: video games

“Expert” Consulted on RE5 Racism Issue: Not an Expert on Race After All

by Guest Contributor Regina (Brinstar), originally published at Acid for Blood

Recently, interviewed an “expert” to ask him whether the imagery in Resident Evil 5 was racist. The academic expert they consulted was Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. Bowman said that Resident Evil 5 is not racist in that interview. Bowman even went so far as to dismiss views that Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery as “silly”. Major blogs like Joystiq are running wild with the interview.

There’s a serious problem here, though. None of these major gaming media outlets have done their homework. Joystiq and the other big games blogs like Kotaku and Destructoid are merely reporting verbatim what published, without engaging in actual, investigative journalism. Doesn’t journalism include fact-checking sources?

Let’s take a closer look at Bowman’s academic credentials, experience, and research:

His doctoral field research was carried out on the topic of Christian pilgrimage in Jerusalem between 1983 and 1985 and gave rise to further regionally based interests in shrines, monumentalisation, tourism and – with reference to the Palestinian people – nationalism and conflict, diasporic and local identities, and secularist versus sectarian strategies of mobilisation. He has subsequently carried out a longitudinal study of the mixed Christian-Muslim town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, which had played a substantial role in the Palestinian intifada (uprising). At present he is continuing his work in Beit Sahour as well as continuing work on art and identity in contemporary Serbia. He is developing comparative work between the Middle East and the Balkans, manifest in ‘Constitutive Violence and the Nationalist Imaginary’ (below), and is currently working on a project investigating historical and contemporary uses of shared shrines in Western Macedonia, Kosova and Albania and in Israel/Palestine.

No mention of Africa, race, or racism. Continue reading

Quoted: Dan Whitehead for Eurogamer on Resident Evil 5

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

One of the first things you see in the game, seconds after taking control of Chris Redfield, is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it’s never revealed, but these are not infected Majini. There are no red bloodshot eyes. These are ordinary Africans, who stop and stare at you menacingly as you approach. Since the Majini are not undead corpses, and are capable of driving vehicles, handling weapons and even using guns, it makes the line between the infected monsters and African civilians uncomfortably vague. Where Africans are concerned, the game seems to be suggesting, bloodthirsty savagery just comes with the territory.

Later on, there’s a cut-scene of a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men. When you attempt to rescue her, she’s been turned and must be killed. If this has any relevance to the story it’s not apparent in the first three chapters, and it plays so blatantly into the old clichés of the dangerous “dark continent” and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you’d swear the game was written in the 1920s. Continue reading

Race & Video Games Update – Animal Crossing and Black College Football

by Latoya Peterson

As I have mentioned before, I am behind on my game related reading. So luckily, reader Tony sent in this item from Game Politics, as it would have slipped under my radar:

Louisiana game publisher Nerjyzed Game Studios is readying the launch of an Xbox 360 version of its Black College Football Experience game, reports The Advocate. The release of BCFx will mark the first-ever publication of a console game by an African-American owned studio.

A national ad campaign for Black College Football Experience will kick off today during the Bayou Classic as Southern University and Grambling square off in their 35th gridiron tilt.

I had read about Nerjyzed a while back in Black Enterprise so I was pleased to see that their game has finally made it out of development and into rotation.

However, I should have known that racism patrol was going to come out in full force. Continue reading

Mirror’s Edge: Pixilated Beauty, Race, and Stereotypes

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been checking for the game Mirror’s Edge for a while, since the first stills dropped a few months ago. There are a lot of things that excite me about the game: tapping into the parkour experience, rolling through a first person landscape without it being a shooter, a provocative plot.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was geeked about a woman of color protagonist – and one who has a character design which reflects the environment she works within.

However, I haven’t yet played Mirror’s Edge because of what I am calling the If You Give a Gamer a Cookie New Console conundrum.* So, I’ve been keeping my gaming excitement on a low simmer. Well, I was, until I clicked over to Feministe.

And as always, Hollyhas got the gaming goods.

Mirror’s Edge is at its heart a game about parkour, the athletic art of moving between two points as rapidly as possible, using nothing but your body and features of the environment. The game’s protagonist is Faith, an Asian-American courier with a knack for hurling herself into harm’s way. Like a lot of parkour enthusiasts, she spends a lot of time on rooftops, and Mirror’s Edge is largely about jumping, vaulting, climbing, pushing off of walls, rolling as Faith falls from great heights, and other almost-impossible seeming feats of gravity defiance.

I swear, I have to bite my finger from screaming at this gameplay. But Holly’s post also sheds some interesting light on a racial nuance in the conversation surrounding Mirror’s Edge:

Even when you do see her in ads, mirrors, and cutscenes, Faith has a wiry, androgynous form suited to someone who runs and climbs for a living. Her clothing is utilitarian, not decorative, and her style of movement is closer to the efficiency of parkour than the aesthetics of free running. Tom Farrer, the producer of the game, was recently quoted about her character design:

    We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.

    We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.

    We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel. We wanted her to be approachable and far more real. It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job. That was kind of what that image looked to me. […] To be honest, I found it kind of sad.

Continue reading

Music, Perceptions of Muslims and the Little Big Planet Delay

by Guest Contributor Shawna, originally published at Islam On My Side

Recently, the Little Big Planet PS3 release was delayed. This peeved many, including my husband, who had pre-ordered it and eagerly anticipated its arrival. The next day, it came out that the delay was due to the presence of Qur’an verses within one of the songs in the game. The song was written by an Emmy winning Muslim musician who explains that it’s normal in his home country (Mali) to include Qur’an or words of the Prophet (pbuh) in music in order to show the inspiration of Islam. Sony decided to strip the song from the game instead of risking offense. They’ve been through this before with the Catholic church. No need to reenter the arena.

What surprised many was the response by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. On their behalf, M. Zuhdi Jaffer, M.D. released the following in a statement:

“Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted. The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive. But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.

“…We [the AIFD] do not endorse any restriction whatsoever on the release of this videogame but would only ask those with concerns to simply choose not to buy it. We would hope that the producer?s decision not be made in any way out of fear but rather simply based upon freedom of expression and the free market.”

Continue reading

Diversity in Mass Effect

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

I’ve recently been replaying Mass Effect, Bioware’s 2007 action RPG, and I’m totally in love. Though there’s plenty of things I could babble on about, I want to discuss the first thing I noticed when I brought the game home back during the holidays.

Women and people of color. They aren’t invisible . . . in fact, in this game, they’re all over the place! Just like, you know, real life! Way too often, sci fi falls into the trap of showing us a universe where PoC and women have been sucked into a black hole or something and no longer exist. Mass Effect introduces a galaxy that’s truly diverse, an experience we don’t often get in video games.

An interesting facet of Mass Effect’s immense cultural salad is the absence of racial tension among humans. Humanity’s discovery of advanced Prothean artifacts is only quite recent; their technology jumps two hundred years, and thus all contact and interaction with alien races is relatively sudden. These aliens all look down on the human race and treat them as lesser beings. As the first human member of an elite agency called Spectre, the protagonist Shepard must combat prejudice and bigotry as well as your typical monsters and other foes.

Mass Effect pitches humanity into a situation where all racial tensions seem to vanish in order to unite against the prejudice of the alien races. Now, I realize that Bioware did not craft this game for the purpose of social commentary, so I don’t blame it for not directly addressing human racial interaction along with the new problems presented by alien prejudice. It’s a fascinating thought, though: could humanity put internal racism aside when all of us, collectively, face the same from an outside source? Continue reading

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! Continue reading

I’m Sure You’ve Got Plenty to Say

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

Natan: …

Remember the good ol’ days after the first world war when European vampires still embarked on sabbaticals to the American south-west, cat-people ran Hollywood from behind the scenes, and cheeky teenage detectives could break into high-security compounds like Alcatraz without consequences?

Oh wait—that’s not real life. It’s Shadow Hearts: From the New World (thank goodness).

There’s something about this irreverent video game series that I find incredibly appealing, but sometimes it leaves me scratching my head. The way the developers choose to represent characters can be a little disingenuous. In particular, minority characters have their differences from the mainstream magnified one hundredfold. Whether it’s the swishy Magimel tailors or the so-Mexican-it-hurts mariachi singer Ricardo, everything is so overblown that it’s difficult to take it seriously.

While discussing the game with BomberGirl and PlasmaRit, we became interested in the “strong and silent” Native American character Natan. We wondered how much he actually had to say throughout the course of the game, and I honestly couldn’t recall. It’s been a while since I’ve played it.

To investigate our suspicions, I combed through one hundred and ten pages of the Shadow Hearts: From the New World script. From beginning to end, the script is 30,324 words long.

Natan says 768 words. Continue reading