Saturday, June 07, 2008

RE5 Racist? Capcom Don't Think So...


The good folks over at Game Cabaret, a sterling site collectively created by our dear friends Gnome and Guttertalk, tend to look at the topical and more adult themed sideof gaming. I received this article by email this morning. It reminds us of the old quandry that the much anticipated (by me especially) RE5 carries with it... You may remember this article that myself, Gnome, Elderly and J all posted about back in the day.


The setting of RE5 in Africa and the idea of a white 'hero' gunning down scores of black 'bad people' (in this case Zombies) was seen as a rather unsavoury image, particularly when recalling the colonial actions of European countries and the subjugation of native peoples by Europeans in the not too distant past.


This led to several people postulating that it might be a good idea for Capcom to rethink it's setting or change the game's content. The article concedes that Capcom developers were not being intentionally racist, but that they had not perhaps sensitively thought of the way in which black gamers or consumers might receive the games imagery. Thus the game might still be responsible for an unintentional form of racism - racist none-the-less. I'll leave it with you...

Here's the rather excellent article, by Guttertalk, reproduced in full. Oh and don't forget to explore the wonderful Game Cabaret further, there's a lot of great posts which deserve a read!

Resident Evil 5 - No Changes After Racism Charges

Posted: 04 Jun 2008 12:33 PM CDT

"After charges of racism, the Resident Evil 5 team made no changes to the game. Anyone who works in the U.S. for a company of almost any size has probably had training on sexism in the workplace. The point that is made time and time again [as I have had about 4 of these sessions at different places] is that sexism is not a matter of intent but of perception. Argue with that if you want, but that is the definition.The point is that it is not up to the speaker to decide what is sexism but the victim. So does this logic apply to other forms of prejudice. And there is a simple explanation for this perspective: it is possible for us to speak or act in a way that is offensive even though we might not mean it as such. But ignorance does not cut the prejudice to a less harmful dosage. It is simply then unintentional racism.


For example, years ago, I was at a small party of about 25 people in Indiana. There's one who has smoked and drinked a bit, so he's talking loudly and says something about a "porch monkey." The party was almost entirely white. Almost. Two black men were there and became irate. The woman hosting the party talked to them, aware of their anger and then went to the guy and explained that he had been offensive. I believed the guy when he said he had no idea that "porch monkey" was a prejudiced term . . . he thought it just referred to yard statues. He wasn't even aware of the black men or talking about them. He apologized profusely. The black men accepted it, although they were amazed that someone would claim to be so ignorant. It was a clear tale of different experiences for it is possible for some to speak and behave in a biased way without knowing the meaning behind it. I doubt that the Capcom team intended racism. But it's the context and perspective of the victim that matters. Sure, white guys get killed in games all the time. It doesn't matter if no one said anything about Latinos getting shot in other games.


There were ways to address the issue without throwing the game to wayside and starting over. For them to disregard the complaints is a worse action, one done not ignorance but in purposeful defiance. The original charge of racism against Resident Evil 5 seems no different than Sony's "white is coming" ad.But their response would be, thus, be the same if Sony hadn't pulled the ad but stayed with that campaign. I honestly don't believe that Jun Takeuchi is racist, but I think the game's racist perceptions are valid.


I also think it's mistake to judge racism by claiming that it wasn't intended. We know that racism is often expressed in coded but ambiguous terms. I've seen it in play, learning that "welfare" and other terms are loaded, with a wry smile or subtle expression to convey the real meaning. We've seen the "dog whistle" messages at work in the U.S. this campaign season. Whether we like it or not, the victims get the first right of refusal, however inconvenient that may be to some. This is the price of history, which can't be conveniently wiped away within a generation and after happy-happy-joy-joy political speeches."

18 comments:

NebachadnezzaR said...

I didn't comment the previous article you talked about, but now I think it's a good time to share my opinion on the matter. As controversial as it might seem, I totally support Capcom for not going down with the pressure and change the game they wanted to make in the first place just because some people don't like it.

Like I said countless times before (in other places, so you're probably hearing this for the first time) racism is where you want it to be. I don't deny that there are still acts of racism today, but black people, specially in the US where slavery was still being practised not too long ago (in Portugal it feels like it was centuries ago, so black people here hold no "grudge" against white people) have the nasty habit of invoking racism for everything and anything, and that pisses me off, plain and simple.

Also, in the specific case of gaming, people of every ethnicity have served as enemies in games from the past. Wouldn't denying black people to be the player's enemies also be considering racism? I mean, I've virtually killed white, yellow and red people in the most various games. Isn't it racist to exclude the black from the list?

And then there's always examples of other games that only contribute for my argument of "black people like to play the victim". GTA: San Andreas, we control a black guy who kills other blacks and a lot of white people two. Was I offended? Hell no, it's just a fucking game! I don't care what the colour of the characters are, I just want to have some fun. RE4, we kill a lot of spanish people. Did the spanish community get offended? I don't think so...

There's a South Park episode that perfectly explains my point of view. It was something like this, the SP flag contained 5 people, 1 black guy being hanged and 4 white guys applauding. Chef, who is black, was offended by it and got pissed off at the kids because they didn't see what was wrong with the flag. Know why? They didn't look for colours, all they saw was 5 people, with 1 being hanged. But not Chef, he was looking for racism and he found it, like other people find racism everyday even when it's not there.

Sorry for the long post Father and excuse any errors it might contain :)

gnome said...

Thanks for keeping your anti-racist internet guns ready Father and I really wish I had the time to pick them up too. Unfortunately, not all battles (of sorts) can be fought on the net and I've got far too few seconds to spare.

Oh, and for the record dear nebacha, I thoroughly disagree, especially on the "it's just a game front". After all Mein Kampf was just a book...

FUNNYMAN said...

Isn't every game racist?

gnome said...

Not really, no.

DEITRIX said...

I think its all stupid... The game looks amazing..!!

fatherkrishna said...

@ nebacha - Firstly let me thank you for your long and thoughtful reply. I'm not sure it's just black people crying 'racism'. Neither myself, Gnome, Guttertalk or Elderly are black - but all of us have had reservations about the game.

I agree with what you say next... If games didn't have any black characters killed in them, that would be equally stupid... And I believe that in Resident Evil 5 you'll be wasting blacks, whites and Arabs (although the original screenshots and trailers did not show that. But that's why there was no outcry about Umbrella Chronicles... You were splatting zombies of every hue and colour, not just one specific race.

But hold on FK, what about wasting Spaniards all the way through RE4?
Well,as far as that goes, Spain was never subjugated during colonial times, nor has it's poulation been enslaved by another race within the last 500 years or even further, so I'mnot sure the two scenarios can be held up for a direct comparison...

I would imagine that the concious black activists in the US were far more concerned about GTA: San Andreas, with it's perpetuation of ghetto mentality and depictions of black on black crime - that's far dodgier ground than an extension of the Umbrella story on african soil...

I think South Park is stunning as social commentary, as much as it is for pant wetting humour. But I don't know if a black character getting ofended by a flag depicting a lynching could be described as "looking for racism that isn't there". (paraphrase)

In short, I just feel that we should always be on the look out for subtle forms of racism. I'm not in the PC brigade by a long chalk! I'll be buying and playing the game.

I just think that if Capcom could have stated their case a little more clearly or contextualised the next installment in the history of it's predecessors or maybe even compromised a little in terms of the criticisms it had received, this post might not evn be happening now.

@Gnome... you know I'm just an old anarcho-syndicalist at heart!

@Funnyman - not all games are racist, though many are stereotypical and we haven't even started on the portrayal of female characters within gaming.

@deitrix - I think it's right to give games the same scrutiny we would in art, films or music - I agree it's going to be great, but is there anything wrong with pointing out concerns about the content as food for thought?

FUNNYMAN said...

I know that. But if those people think that RE 5 is racist, then they are saying that every single game is racist.

Junlee said...

I can say with all honesty that racism was not even a thought when I saw the first trailer for this game. Sure it occurred to me afterwards, but that's only because somebody else had mentioned it.

If you've seen certain posts on my blog, then you know that I don't tolerate any kind of racism and I don't like to associate myself with people who do, but my argument is...if there can be zombies in America, Spain, or wherever...why we can't we have some zombies in Africa?

I think Africa deserves to have it's share of zombies! :D

gnome said...

Aha! A POUM sympathizer then dear Father... :)

Oh and Funnyman there is no logic behind what you are saying. The fact that a game can be racists -and is- has nothing to do with what the other games are.

blondejon said...

on a happy note amazon have just posted my joystick.

on a not so happy note my 1 months gold membership has run out :P

FUNNYMAN said...

There is no logic to RE 5 being racist, so it all comes full circle.

gnome said...

Actually there is a logic. Reread what FK has posted.

FUNNYMAN said...

I reread it, but I still don't see any logic to people accusing RE 5 of being racist.

fatherkrishna said...

Funnyman - I still don't know where you're coming from! You're an intelligent guy... please elaborate on your position...

FUNNYMAN said...

Simply put, I can't comprehend why people are accusing RE 5 of being racist. I don't see any racism.

gnome said...

I give up...

Caleb said...

Well I dunno man.

Neba I don't know if you have ever spent any time in the US but racism is far from gone over here.

As a white dude who grew up in rural settings I personally don't see the outright racism but I can easily see how others might.

I mean I don't think the game is racist and I think the final product will not.

But if I was in charge of the project I would have NEVER released that original trailer.

Unlike other trailers that showed that the people had become infected monsters the first trailer mostly showed what looked like lower class Africans getting shot by a white soldier.

I know that the game was probably not meant to be blatantly racist but others might not. And you have to respect their confusion over the first trailer.

I dunno what could have been done but later trailers have done a much better job showing what the game is.

Junlee said...

I give up...

LOL!