by Carmen Van Kerckhove There’s an interesting article in The Boston Globe about race in…
Category: video games
by Pat M., originally published at Token Minorities
I spent the last few days away from this blog, commenting occasionally and picking a few fights on Internet forums. What makes me far, far more upset than the actual RE5 trailer is the systematic dismissal of this kind of conversation across the ‘net. The best conversation I’ve managed to find on this topic was actually in the Select Button forums, though even they’re prone to a decent amount of idiocy. Even after all this time, reading pages and pages of ignorant garbage makes me feel angry. I suppose that’s a good thing, after all – that I’m not jaded, and that this stuff still motivates me – but it always feels kind of pointless to be angry on a forum. So I thought I’d spend a few days duking it out and see what I came away with, in the hopes that I could come up with a set of general guidelines for race-and-video-game discussions. A long overdue FAQ, if you will, for people to refer to when race issues crop up in generally unprepared communities.
Step 1: Be Open To Discussion
The vast majority of the material people have written in regards to the Resident Evil 5 debacle have been repressive in nature:
“This is stupid.” “You’re seeing things that don’t exist.” “Talking about things like this only makes race issues more prevalent.”
These types of responses are, frankly, immature and counterproductive. Where else in life do we routinely say, “if you ignore it, it’ll go away”? Certainly I can say that, as a person of color, if it were so easy to simply ignore race, I would have done so a long time ago if I had thought that it would make the racial problems go away. But we cannot ignore it. “Ignoring race” is really something only white people get to do – an element of “white privilege”.
CubaLibre at the SB forums posted (in the context of the RE5 discussion) a very succinct and readable explanation of the flaws in the “colorblind” way of thinking, which tends to be at the heart of any attempts to quell discussion:
The problem with this blithe wishful-thinking approach of fighting racism is that no actual fighting is happening. In fact, theoretically it is no different from saying that if we ignore it, it will go away. I’ll admit as much as the next guy that specific, person-to-person racism is, in the modern world, properly stigmatized and marginalized. No pudge-bearing, bull-chested Birmingham city officials are rising out of their swivel chairs and boldly announcing “We ain’t gon let no niggers go to our schools.” People who do say such things are reviled approximately as much as pedophile cannibal rapists. Which, perhaps, is actually overdoing it, but compared to say Jim Crow, I say bravo.
But then, no one is accusing Capcom of subscribing to the Klan newsletter. Read the Post Suggestions for Talking About Race and Video Games
by Latoya Peterson
Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa. This was done intentionally, according to producer Jun Takeuchi, as Africa is considered the birthplace of civilization.* Since that is where humanity began, the development team thought it would be interesting to explore the origins of the T-Virus basing the plot in Africa.
And just like that, another twist is added to the increasingly infuriating puzzle that is Resident Evil 5.
The game is not even scheduled to be released until 2009 and already the controversy has raged on for close to a year.
In a fifteen minute video, (h/t Ikue) the Capcom blog features game producer Jun Takeuchi explaining some of the ideas surrounding the plot and updates to the gameplay. (Note: Resident Evil is the US title; the game is called Biohazard in Japan.) Unfortunately, there still is not much insight to be had. Chris Redfield is still the main character and this is definitely his story playing out against an exotic backdrop.
Nothing close to the kind of insight I was looking for from Capcom. As such, I am still withholding a judgment call on the game until I actually play. (Which, dear readers, will actually be a huge struggle for me – I am not great at first person shooters and I have never been a fan of survival horror. While I enjoyed watching the past few games, playing them will be an exercise in frustration.)
Here’s an excerpt:
There was stuff like even before the point in the trailer where the crowd turned into zombies. There sort of being, in sort of post-modern parlance, they’re sort of “othered.” They’re hidden in shadows, you can barely see their eyes, and the perspective of the trailer is not even someone who’s coming to help the people. It’s like they’re all dangerous; they all need to be killed. It’s not even like one cute African — or Haitian or Caribbean — child could be saved. They’re all dangerous men, women and children. They all have to be killed. And given the history, given the not so distant post-colonial history, you would say to yourself, why would you uncritically put up those images? It’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, they shot Spanish zombies in ‘Resident Evil 4,’ and now ‘black zombies and that’s why people are getting upset.” The imagery is not the same. It doesn’t carry the same history, it doesn’t carry the same weight. I don’t know how to explain it more clearly than that. Read the Post Of Race and Resident Evil 5
Watching some of the carnage unfold in the blogosphere conflicts surrounding the released trailer of Resident Evil 5, one thought kept echoing in my mind:
This conversation is going nowhere.
A few members of the gaming community, while pondering a very valid point about the issue of racism in gaming, inadvertently raised the hackles of developers and designers alike when taking on one of gaming’s best loved franchises.
Jason over at Microscopiq ended up with 365 comments on his dissection of the released RE5 trailer, where he asserts:
After all, in RE4, you spend the game shooting equally out-of-their-mind Spaniards. But, then, the Spanish haven’t been so egregiously misrepresented as blacks through the ages, have they? Not even close.
From Birth of a Nation to Black Hawk Down, black folk are apparently responsible for some of the most mindless and evil activities you got. Rape, murder, satanic voodoo. With bulging eyes, simian super strength, and a room temperature IQ, we’ve been portrayed as savages beyond redemption. So, when we see images like these, it doesn’t just resonate with the long lived zombie genre, it also triggers memories of so many awful stereotypes — and what those stereotypes have been used to justify past and present. Put down the crazed negroes before they take the white women! And so on…
But perhaps the most troubling part is that these scenes seem to be set in Africa; the “dark continent.” With all the positive steps being taken of late to raise awareness of the good things happening in Africa as well as the urgent need in some parts of the continent, we really can’t afford this kind of step back. We need to find ways to humanize Africans, not dehumanize them.
Valid points, but they still raised the ire of some gamers, who wrote things like:
Resident Evil 1 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 2 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Code: Veronica – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Survivor – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Gaiden – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: Survivor 2 Code: Veronica – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Zero – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: Dead Aim – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Outbreak – white people are zombies
Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil 4 – white people are zombies
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles – white people are zombies Read the Post Moving Gaming Forward: Having Meaningful Conversations About Social Issues
by guest contributor Andrea Rubenstein, originally published on OfficialShrub.com For day three of International Blog…
by guest contributor Jason, originally published at microscopiq OK, we all know zombies gotta die.…
by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson
I am done, done, done.
I intended to work on my follow up to Internalizing Stereotypes.
Key word: intended.
However, the sequel is not happening this week.
The sequel is not happening because my mind is cluttered with two articles that came to my attention in the last half of the week.
The first was a blog post on GameDaily Biz, a site and blog dedicated to the video game industry housed on Game Daily. I peruse GameDaily Biz every few days to find news and trends to discuss in the online gaming magazine Cerise. In addition to writing first person and opinion pieces about gaming, I also write their Gaming in the Media column. So, when I came across a “Your Turn” first person post on GameDaily Biz by Chris Mottes, CEO of Deadline Games, I was intrigued to see what he had to say.
Particularly because the post was titled, “That’s Racist! The Unjust Crusade Against Video Games.”
The article begins:
Members of the media often attack video games for being racist, sexist, mean-spirited, callous, unpleasant, insensitive, or just generally nasty. As a developer, I find most of these claims not only a touch insulting but also extremely tenuous, and in the majority of cases unfounded.
Fascinating. The majority of these cases are unfounded? As a black, female console gamer, I can definitively say that many of the video games I play (and enjoy) can be considered both sexist and racist. Sexism is rampant, particularly when you consider character design, costuming, and forced gender roles in play. Most female characters are designed for maximum sex appeal, relegated to damsel in distress roles, or physically limited and/or forced to contribute to the game in a limited capacity. Major female characters in RPGs tend to be healers or magic-users, normally devastated in battle by a few hits from a stronger male character. While there are a few standout exceptions – Samus from Metroid, Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark, and the oft-debated Lara Croft – most women in video games are side characters.
To illustrate the issue of racism, let’s play a little game. Off the top of your head, name 5 black video game characters. Now, exclude any characters that were not main characters. Now exclude any that appear in a sports game or hip-hop based game. Finally, exclude any characters that embody stereotypical representations of African Americans. (Yes, that means excluding CJ from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.) How many are left in your list?
Or, let’s look at Asian Americans in video games. Again, off the top of your head, name five Asian video game characters – you can use both side characters and main characters. (For this one, we will exclude RPGs from the discussion since character ethnicity a murky subject). Now exclude fighting games. How many are left on your list?
Name five Latino game characters. Can you? I cannot – I have a vague memory of heavy accents in certain video games, but I am not able to bring up one latino character that wasn’t in a historical game like Age of Empires (which technically means I remember playing the game as an Incan and as a Spaniard). For those who can, what stands out about these characters? Read the Post Denial and Delusion – Why Public Conversations About Race Fail Before They Begin