Friday, September 28, 2007
If the trailer for Resident Evil 5 released at E3 this year caused consternation among gamers, it was largely due to the frustrating absence of any footage from the game itself. Indeed, for the vast majority its new, apparently African setting seemed to be a refreshing and evocative change in location for the franchise, and easily the most interesting thing about an uninteresting promo. A few days after the shows conclusion however, the game’s developers were greeted with accusations of casual racism.
In an article for the blog Black Looks, Kym Platt claimed that, intentionally or otherwise, the imagery in the game’s trailer was highly contentious. “The new Resident Evil videogame depicts a white man, in what appears to be Africa, killing black people. The black people are zombies and the white mans job is to destroy them and save humanity,” Platt observed. “This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of black people as inhuman savages, the killing of black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this videogame is marketed to young adults. Start them young…fearing, hating and destroying black people.”
GamePolitics reported on the complaint and was immediately inundated with angry complaints, many of which were laced with the sort of racism their authors insisted was not present in the Resident Evil trailer. “Never have I been so harassed and insulted, and all because I questioned the imagery in this game,” Platt replied. “The response has been horrifying… They called me names like ‘nigger’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’.”
While this kind of ignorance doesn’t categorise gamers in general, any regular visitor to the medium’s more popular forums will no doubt have witnessed it before. Another blog, the Young Black Professional’s Guide saw the reaction as no great surprise. “Trying to talk about the sensitivities of race to a gaming demographic is extremely difficult,” it explained. “The majority of readers are young white males who are either too immature to have a clean conversation about it, or too illogical to draw comparisons. I understand the angle some of the mature gamers are taking .Resident Evil has always been about a white guy killing zombies, why should killing zombies in Africa be any different?” it continues. “On the other hand, the images used in the game- already disturbing because its Resident Evil- also reflect hateful images that were real and meant to evoke hate towards black people in the not too distant history of America .”
This seems to be the relevant point, and one that angry gamers are apparently missing. The imagery may not be not be intentionally offensive towards black people, but it is inherently offensive and that should be avoided with just as much diligence . Perhaps if it were a game asking you to guide a plane into a pair of large symmetrical buildings in New York City there would be a greater attempt at understanding. Perhaps if it were a man in military dress gunning down while , shaven-headed emaciated zombies in a Poish field those offended would be shown more compassion.
If Kym Platt’s cautionary words appeared to be reactionary at first, the the response they received was far more so. As the blog Microscopiq commented: “If LocoRoco’s Mojas were a kind of high-tech blackface, Resident Evil 5 takes blackface into the high definition era. Its horror alright, just not the kind of horror Capcom intended.”