As GamePolitics has reported, the U.S. Army has taken a fair amount of heat in recent times over its use of video games and game-related events for recruitment.
Over at ripten, Chad Lakkis notes with a disapproving eye the Army’s presence at a Best Buy midnight launch event for the recently-released Resident Evil 5:
I couldn’t help but notice the “GO ARMY” recruitment tent mixed into the Best Buy Resident Evil 5 launch party video… I don’t mind the idea of recruiters but what I do mind is the methods by which they often recruit.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. Army has been accused of blurring the lines between gaming and recruiting. Promoting an official U.S. Army videogame and lacing their official army game website to contain soldier bios designed to look like videogame stat cards is youth marketing at its finest. Look at all the stats you can wrack up kids – assuming you don’t die first.
Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?
The controversy over whether there is racism in Resident Evil 5 continues to bounce around the media.
Variety’s Ben Fritz pens a review of the game (he didn’t like it so well) and, near the end, touches on the race issue:
The racial imagery is disturbing at times. No, that doesn’t mean the game is "racist." Racism is the belief that race is a determining factor in human capacity and that some are superior to others. That’s a tall order for a game and certainly not one "RE 5" fulfills.
But the game does contain some disturbing imagery reminiscent of the violent colonial past… you’re the white solder, walking through their villages, murdering every single one of them…
Does that mean you can’t make an action game set in Africa, even with a White protagonist and Black enemies? Of course not. It just means you have to address the issue in some way because it’s real and unavoidable…
Is it unfair that you have to address the race issue differently for a game set in Africa than for what was essentially the same game set in Spain? Sure. But, you know, colonialism was unfair too. Such is the reality of the world in which we live.
Meanwhile, in a lengthy post, Stephen Totilo of MTV Multiplayer writes that his concerns about the RE5 race issue have faded:
Watching the [E3 2007] trailer again, it still made me feel uneasy. I still didn’t like the fantasy it portrayed…
In the game, however, I saw something different. The white vs. black racial dichotomy was gone. The infected people looked infected. The characters who once looked like poor Africans whom I didn’t want to shoot now looked like undead menaces I needed to stop to stay alive.
I don’t know if I have changed. I don’t think I have. But what I’ve seen of the game has changed. The game gives a different feeling than the trailer. It uses race and color differently. That’s worth more discussion, and I hope people will engage with it.
While gamers continue to debate whether or not the upcoming Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery, the Penny Arcade crew has weighed in on the issue with a new comic (left).
Incidentally, in a recent GamePolitics poll on the topic, 83% of GP readers disagreed with the idea that there was racism in the game.
For the full PA comic, click here.
With the release of Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 drawing closer, the debate over whether the game contains racist imagery has been rekindled.
What do you think?
Register your opinion in the GamePolitics poll at left…
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:
Seriously, I have no idea what the frack Capcom was thinking, when they went ahead with Resident Evil 5…
the whole "it’s only a game" defense–which people always raise–is so lame… if we’re going to allow video games to enter into the world of adults, if we don’t want to looked upon as boys in the bodies of men, then we have to be serious… You can’t ask people to at once respect the creativity of gaming, and then tell them they can’t critique it.
Is Capcom worried about media and/or political backlash from its upcoming Resident Evil 5?
Buried on page 46 is this nugget:
Some of our popular software titles have provocative graphics and text, such as violent and grotesque scenes. Accordingly, in the event of violent incidents and other criminal cases involving juveniles, we may be subject to a smear campaign by some sections of the mass media which often point out the correlation between crime and games.
Therefore, there is a risk that it may result in having an adverse effect on our business performance, corporate value and narrowed distribution channel under instructions by the relevant authorities.
GP: This is not likely related to RE5 specifically. We’ve seen similar disclaimers in other corporate reports. It’s just good business practice (not to mention a legal requirement) to level with investors about potential risks.
Earlier this week GamePolitics covered the opening installments of MTV Multiplayer’s multipart feature on Black Professionals in Games.
And while Newsweek’s popular video game writer N’Gai Croal was the focus of the series’ opening article, MTV Multiplayer decided to devote a second installment to his perspective on whether or not there is racist imagery in the controversial trailer for Capcom’s upcoming Resident Evil 5.
GamePolitics readers will likely recall last year’s flap over the trailer which shows RE5‘s white protagonist mowing down scores of zombies, all black. The game is set in Haiti.
Croal was very clear in his view that the RE5 trailer contains racist imagery:
I was like, “Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game.” …The point isn’t that you can’t have black zombies. There was a lot of imagery in that trailer that dovetailed with classic racist imagery. What was not funny, but sort of interesting [about the controversy], was that there were so many gamers who could not at all see it. Like literally couldn’t see it…
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…
It’s very difficult in this country… to have a conversation about race. Everyone brings to it their own history, their own perspective… The music that they’re using in the trailer is very reminiscent of the music used in Black Hawk Down which was set in Africa — Somalia. That actually was one of the things that was most disturbing because it sort of had a feeling as like, “Wow, what research did this team do? Did they only watch Black Hawk Down and give it this kind of vibe?”
Victor Godinez, who covers video games for the Dallas Morning News offers his reaction to Croal’s comments.
I am more than a little sympathetic to [some specific] objections [to Croal’s view]. On the other hand, anyone who watches that [RE5] preview and doesn’t feel at least a little uncomfortable probably isn’t paying attention.
As Mr. Croal acknowledges, all we’ve seen of this game so far is the preview… And it could well be that Americans are so unconsciously drilled on what is and is not acceptable in discussions of race that discomfort over the trailer is simply subconscious political correctness kicking in.
In the Arizona Daily Star, Phil Villarreal writes:
Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal – by far the deepest thinker and best writer in the field of video game journalism – sure seems to think [that RE5 is racist]. Judging from the trailer, he points out callous racial insensitivity that has apparently gone into, if not the game itself, at least its previews.
I think Croal has some valid points, but I’d say he’s being a little hypersensitive here. This is an industry that evolves around Mario, one of the most blatant ethnic caricatures imaginable. For whatever confluence of reasons, political correctness hasn’t been able to penetrate the video game realm as much as it has other media, and whatever racism you find is largely due to innocent ignorance rather than any calculated agenda.
UPDATE: An e-mail from a reader pointed out that while N’Gai Croal was speaking of racism in the RE5 trailer, this article might be read as Croal’s condemnation of racism in the finished game itself. That would be difficult, since RE5 isn’t scheduled for release until May of of 2009, according to GameStop.
Thus, I’ve edited this article to make it clear that N’Gai’s comments were about the trailer specifically. Personally, I believe that the trailer represents the game, or, more specifically, a segment of the game that the publisher, Capcom, felt good enough about to release at E3 2007 as the official representation of RE5.
Moreover, if the trailer imagery contains elements of racism, it would have to be chopped from the final game entirely to avoid placing those elements into RE5. This could happen if Capcom is thinking about potential negative reactions to the game in the U.S. market. N’Gai comments on this aspect:
I don’t know how Capcom feels about it. I think releasing that game is going to be very difficult. I think there are people and organizations who aren’t very understanding of games that if that imagery is brought to them they’re going to be like, “Wait, hold up. I don’t know how you could put that out.” Then you have to say, “Does Wal-Mart want to deal with that? Does Target want to deal with that?”
I’m not saying that censorship is the answer. I’m saying that the same rights that allow Capcom to put the game out are the same rights that allow people to bring pressure on people who might release that game. This is why it is important to whoever works in the American office of a company like Capcom to be able to show this is the history, this is where this comes from, this is where we need to be more sensitive. I’m not sure they’ve done that yet.
A new Gamasutra article called "Games With The Power To Offend: Surviving And Stoking Controversy" reveals that Capcom has learned a hard lesson from the public relations nightmare related to claims of racism in Resident Evil 5. That controversy reared its ugly head shortly after Capcom released the first trailer for the game, which depicted black zombies versus a white American protagonist. After that blew up in their face, the company decided that it could never let something like that happen ever again.
After that nightmare Capcom decided that it had to put a process in place to deal with future international cultural issues – to be implemented on both sides of the world. Here’s more on that from the article:
Growing Internet penetration in China will continue to fuel online gaming revenues as well as swell the number of online gamers in the years to come according to a new report.
Analysys International data, as reported by Reuters, claims that online gaming revenues in China should reach approximately 73.1 billion yuan (approximately $10.7 billion U.S.) within three years, while the online gaming population is expected to grow from the current 69.0 million to 230.0 million over the same period.
Internet availability has only reached about 27.0 percent of the Chinese population currently, versus more than 70.0 percent in South Korea and Japan. Current U.S. penetration is estimated at 74.1%.
Online game revenues are expected to tally about 26.0 billion yuan (approximately $3.8 billion U.S.) this year.