Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

July 15, 2009 -

Yesterday's edition of the Houston Chronicle's Game Hack blog ponders whether racism is becoming a norm in video game design.

Blogger Willie Jefferson expresses concern over 2009 releases Resident Evil 5 and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (pic at left) as well as the in-development Left 4 Dead 2. RE5, of course, has already been the subject of much debate over its depiction of African villagers as zombies. Jefferson writes:

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft's "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood." The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer... the Confederacy, as far as I am concerned, wanted to keep their cheap slave labor and the like. I can not stand the Confederate flag... To me, the flag represents hate -- and offends me and many others to no end. [It] made me wonder how much research Ubisoft did for this game...

As a minority, had the South won, I wouldn't be in this position I am today...

136 comments

Swine Flu May Impact Capcom's E3

May 19, 2009 -

Just when you thought the swine flu panic was winding down, Develop reports that the virus may impact Capcom's scheduled E3 appearance.

Japan, which has seen a recent jump in swine flu cases, has been closing schools in Hyogo and Osaka prefectures at the request of the government. The outbreak could keep Japanese employees of the Resident Evil publisher away from E3:

Capcom has told Develop that its Japanese arm remains undecided on whether it will be attending the upcoming E3 event in Los Angeles. The publisher has stated however that it will still have a presence at the event with US and UK teams attending...

A spokesperson for Capcom... stated that Japan’s tough travel regulations has impacted on Capcom Japan’s options for E3...

Capcom did however clarify that it will still have a big presence at E3... “The show is in Los Angeles and we have offices in America, so E3 is still on” the spokesperson added.

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Game Journo Objects to Army's Presence at Best Buy RE5 Launch Event

March 21, 2009 -

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.

56 comments

Today's Roundup of Media Commentary on RE5 Race Issue

March 17, 2009 -

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?

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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.

27 comments

NY Times: Resident Evil 5 Not Racist

March 16, 2009 -

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported that the mainstream (i.e., non-gaming) press was beginning to weigh in on the race issue in regard to Capcom's just-released Resident Evil 5.

As we noted, the AP's Lou Kesten was concerned. The Huffington Post's Earl Ofari Hutchinson was angry.

Seth Schiesel is the video game reporter for the New York Times. Like Kesten, he has a foot in both worlds. You can't any get more maintream than the Times, yet gaming is his daily beat. Schiesel, who reviews RE5 this morning. believes that the race issue is overblown:

Let’s get this out of the way: Resident Evil 5 is not a racist game.

For at least a year some black journalists have been wringing their hands about whether the game... inflames racist stereotypes because it is set in Africa. The answer is no... Resident Evil 5 exposes the perhaps uncomfortable truth that blacks and Arabs can become zombies too, just like anyone else... The point of the story is that the indigenous people have become the innocent victims of evil white people.

All that said, Resident Evil 5 could not possibly have been made in the United States. Racial sensitivities and prevailing political correctness would have had American game executives squirming in their Aeron chairs the minute they read a budget proposal for a game featuring African zombies.

Not so in Japan, apparently...

40 comments

Mainstream Media Considers the Resident Evil 5 Racism Question

March 15, 2009 -

While the video game press appears to have reached a consensus that Resident Evil 5 is not racist in its portrayal of blacks, non-gaming media outlets do not seem quite so sure.

Lou Kesten, for example, who covers games for the Associated Press, straddles the line between games and the mainstream. In a syndicated column which will be reprinted across North America, Kesten clearly is uncomfortable with RE5's racial vibe:

Even longtime fans of the horror franchise may find themselves wondering: Is this game racist?...

 

Yes, the vast majority of monsters in "RE5" are infected black men. Does that make it racist? I believe producer Jun Takeuchi's claim that the story led naturally to Africa, and it's obvious that a zombie-creating virus unleashed there would lead to hordes of African zombies.

Still, there were plenty of moments where I felt uneasy after shotgunning a path through a crowd of feral Africans. Even though "RE5" makes some points about colonialism and capitalism... the racial imagery is more loaded than its creators probably realized.

Judged purely as a game, "RE5" is undeniably entertaining. But many players are going to find it disturbing for the wrong reasons.

At left-leaning political blog Huffington Post, commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson pulls no punches. For Hutchinson, RE5 is clearly an exercise in racism:

The well-worn script reads like this. A protest group blasts a video game manufacturer... for dumping a game on the market loaded with racially insulting and demeaning stereotypes. The video game team yelps that the game is pure entertainment, has some blacks or Latinos in on the design and production, and gets high marks from the industry...

So it was no surprise that Jun Takeuchi yanked out that script to defend his video game brainchild Resident Evil 5 from the charge that it's racist. But what else could one call it? It features a white male (modern day Bawana) mowing down a pack of poor, primitive disease challenged Africans... . The racist game reinforces the worst of the worst ancient stereotypes against and about Africans...

GP: When video game controversies flare, there is typically lag time between the gaming press's more immediate coverage and the issue's crossover to the mainstream media. Now that RE5 has been released, it's likely that the racism issue will be receiving a new round of attention from mainstream outlets in coming weeks.

73 comments

BBFC Sees No Racism in Resident Evil 5

March 2, 2009 -

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has weighed in on Resident Evil 5 and finds no evidence of racism, reports Eurogamer.

Complaints of racial insensitivity in RE5 have cropped up periodically ever since a trailer for the game was released at E3 2007. Most recently, Eurogamer's report on a pre-release look at RE5 code renewed concerns about possible racism in the game.

But the BBFC's Sue Clark dismissed the racial angle in a scene fretted about by Eurogamer:

It's the bit where you see "a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men", as our preview put it... [BBFC's] Clark responded, "In the version [of the scene] submitted to the BBFC there is only one man pulling the blonde woman in from the balcony, and I can't say the skimpiness of her dress impressed itself on me. The single man is not black either.

"As the whole game is set in Africa it is hardly surprising that some of the characters are black, just like the fact that some of the characters in an earlier version were Spanish as the game was set in Spain," Clark continued.

"We do take racism very seriously, but in this case there is no issue around racism."

Odd that both Eurogamer and Kikizo reported it was black men doing the dragging, but presumably we were given an earlier version of the code than the one submitted to the BBFC.

27 comments

Penny Arcade Examines the RE5 Racism Controversy

February 18, 2009 -

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.

73 comments

Capcom Debit Card - Deal or No Deal?

February 17, 2009 -

Kotaku and other sites reported today on a new series of game-themed "Unity" debit cards from Capcom. Here's how Kotaku explained the program:

The co-branded Visa debit card is the first of its kind in North America. The cards will feature art from Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5 and Bionic Commando.

The pre-paid cards will also let gamers earn points on Capcom-Unity.com, cash back from online or retail purchases and earn "accelerated rewards" through the online Capcom rewards mall...

 

Unity card holders will also be able to "jump the line" at Capcom events or gatherings, gain access to Beta tests and other things like "being written into a Capcom game or comic book or possibly even being an extra in a Capcom movie.

However, the Bitbag urges caution before taking the Capcom card plunge:

I just wanted to warn folks that are planning on getting this “rewards” card that it doesn’t really give you Capcom-specific rewards. There is also a $9.95 set-up fee and a $4.95 monthly fee. Just lookin’ out for you guys.

GP: Gamers, what do you think?

22 comments

GP Poll: Racism in RE5 ?

February 12, 2009 -

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...

 

78 comments

The Atlantic Weighs in on RE5 Racism Controversy

February 11, 2009 -

In what is likely the first of many mainstream media outlets to weigh in on the topic, a blogger for The Atlantic seems convinced that the upcoming Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery.

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.

84 comments

Resident Evil 5 Imagery May Generate Renewed Racism Controversy

February 6, 2009 -

The debate as to whether the upcoming Resident Evil 5 contains racist imagery has raged ever since Capcom released a controversial trailer for the game at E3 2007.

Eurogamer, which has a detailed hands-on preview of RE5, reports that there is additional room for concern over images in the retail version:

There's also the spectre of the old racism debate, hovering the background. That debate is only going to get louder and more urgent once the game is released...

One of the first things you see... is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it's never revealed, but these... are ordinary Africans... Since the Majini are not undead corpses... 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... 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...

 

All it will take is for one mainstream media outlet to show the heroic Chris Redfield stamping on the face of a black woman, splattering her skull, and the controversy over Manhunt 2 will seem quaint by comparison. If we're going to accept this sort of imagery in games then questions are going be asked, these questions will have merit, and we're going to need a more convincing answer than "lol it's just a game."

Resident Evil 5 will be released on March 13th.

252 comments

Capcom Joins PC Gaming Alliance

February 5, 2009 -

Not best known for their computer games, Resident Evil publisher Capcom is a somewhat surprising addition to the PC Gaming Alliance.

The news comes via a PCGA press release which mentions that The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (SMU) has come on board as well.

Capcom exec Christian Svensson commented on the decision to join the nonprofit corporation which is dedicated to fostering computer gaming:

Capcom believes strongly in the value and strength of the PC gaming market as a global platform for our entertainment brands. Our participation in the PCGA’s activities over the past year has greatly improved our understanding of the market, provided us great business opportunities and allowed us to participate in improving the field of PC gaming. We’re pleased to have a representative on the board in order to directly help shape the future of the PC gaming environment.

PCGA president Randy Stude added:

Since the PCGA was formed, the organization and its member companies have spread the word that PC gaming is a thriving $54 billion a year industry. With the recent addition of Sony DADC and Howie’s Game Shack to our membership roll, we are already seeing proof that our new structure will provide the right mix of benefits for a greater number of industry players, while also better serving our current members and the overall PC gaming community.

8 comments

Resident Evil 5 Producer Slams Racism Charges

October 27, 2008 -

Most gamers will recall the race controversy sparked by the Resident Evil 5 trailer released at E3 2007. Set in Africa,  the trailer showed a white protagonist mowing down hordes of black zombie villagers.

As the long-awaited game draws closer to its March, 2009 U.S. launch, CVG serves up an interview with Capcom's Masachika Kawata, an RE5 producer who says his team had no racial agenda in the game design:

We chose Africa [as RE5's setting] because we're extending the storyline logically. Following the tradition of the Resident Evil franchise, you'll remember from Code Veronica - the Progenitor virus comes from Africa so we wanted to go back to the root of where the virus originated.

 

For the people who think it's racist... well, we can't please everyone. We're in the entertainment business - we're not here to state our political opinion or anything like that. It's unfortunate that some people felt that way.

We've gone where the story has taken us...

Via: Edge Online

 

 

52 comments

Capcom Frets Over Game Violence Backlash (RE5?) in Annual Report

September 12, 2008 -

Is Capcom worried about media and/or political backlash from its upcoming Resident Evil 5?

videogamer.com raises the question after flipping through Capcom's 2008 annual report. In the document, Capcom lists potential risks to its home and arcade-based operations.

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. 

17 comments

Resident Evil Activity Book

September 11, 2008 -

Not content to rest on the laurels of their hilarious GTA IV Activity Book for Kids, the crew at the -minusworld has come up with a Resident Evil Activity Book for Kids.

By way of explanation, there's this:

Oh Resident Evil 5, you elusive wench! Why must you make us wait so long to play you? What the hell are we supposed to do until March? And think about the kids! They can’t even play the game, period. Luckily, though, Capcom has heard your cries and is clappin’ back with the Resident Evil Activity Book For Kids. You won’t find any blood, gore, or racism here but you will find good old wholesome fun! So much fun that your head might explode, exposing wavy tentacles of joy that flail around the village. Get to it!

 

13 comments

 
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Poll

Have you visited a video game arcade in the last year?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
MechaTama31I sure have. Dorky's barcade in Tacoma, WA.08/20/2014 - 5:56pm
Matthew WilsonI have not been to a arcade in years. I know arcades are still big in japan.08/20/2014 - 5:38pm
Sleaker@AE - Ah no it's called GroundKontrol - I was just referring to it as a Bar-Arcade.08/20/2014 - 4:39pm
Andrew EisenStill looking for confirmation that High Moon Studios (dev behind the PS3/360 versions) isn't working on it.08/20/2014 - 4:38pm
ZenGotcha.08/20/2014 - 4:37pm
Andrew EisenI already updated the story with it!08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
Zenhttp://www.gonintendo.com/s/235574-treyarch-isn-t-working-call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-for-wii-u-either08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
ZenLet me send the link for the Tweet as well...they state Treyarch is not working on it. Grabbing it now.08/20/2014 - 4:34pm
Andrew EisenWhere does it say that "NO dev is working on it"?08/20/2014 - 4:33pm
ZenHere's the link for my last comment: http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/08/20/call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-not-coming-to-wii-u08/20/2014 - 4:24pm
ZenWell, Call of Duty is skipping Wii U completely it seems...they updated that NO dev is working on it. Great way to just skip a market.08/20/2014 - 4:24pm
Andrew EisenYeah, Dave and Busters back in 2011 was the last time for me.08/20/2014 - 4:16pm
ZenWell, I tried lol. We just got a Dave and Busters on the beach but haven't been there yet...may go this weekend.08/20/2014 - 3:52pm
Andrew EisenIt's called The Bar-Arcade? Missed opportunity. I would have gone with Barcade.08/20/2014 - 3:25pm
SleakerThe Bar-Arcade however did have a lot of good pinball machines, they were however always taken as the place was packed..08/20/2014 - 1:17pm
Sleakerso I've been to an Arcade-Bar, not that great of a place has some okay machines, but generally over-packed. And then all the kid-friendly ones have is ticket-games nothing actually good unfortunately :(08/20/2014 - 1:14pm
Andrew EisenIf it has an area dedicated to arcade machines, I'd say it counts. Arcade machine in your house though, nope.08/20/2014 - 12:16pm
ZenDoes it count if you have actual arcade machines in your house?08/20/2014 - 12:01pm
E. Zachary KnightWith the current poll, I guess it all depends on how one defines "arcade". If Chuck E Cheese or similar multipurpose businesses count, then that is a yes for me.08/20/2014 - 11:59am
ZenLet the ax fall Sleaker...lessons MUST be learned...08/20/2014 - 11:44am
 

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