AbTeC Newsletter #19 – LAST WORDS ON THE RESIDENT EVIL 5 RACISM CONTROVERSY

Posted on June 1, 2009, 12:43 pm, by admin, under NEWSLETTER.

If you agree with Capcom’s assertion that the game actually aims to deliver an anti-colonialist message, then how do you reconcile the Tarzan-movie natives that some [enemies] revert to later in the game? The ancestral habits into which the [enemies] devolve line up exactly with the kinds of ooga-booga Africans that the prevailing logic of colonialism said it was okay to kill and displace….[T]he subtext feeds on awful, previously understood notions about not just Africans on the continent, but black people everywhere. There’s no sense of scale, in terms of humanity, in RE5. You don’t see daily life before it’s destroyed by the infection. No bustling market. No kids playing. It opens on guys with machetes. As a result, the fictional country of Kijuju looks like a place that’s just ripe for evil to manifest.

http://www.crispygamer.com/columns/2009-03-16/thoughtprocess-more-on-resident-evil-5-and-uncomfortable-echoes-2.aspx


Like the zombies featured in the long-running series, posts about possible racism in the Resident Evil 5 keep coming and we’ve assembled the latest and most thoughtful in this month’s edition of the newsletter in the hopes of plumbing the depths before finally laying the the controversy to rest with some finality. (Is this possible? We wonder.) N’Gai Croal formerly of Newsweek and now of Hit Detection, recently sat down with the producer, Jon Takeuchi, and the resulting interview was recently published in Edge Magazine. Finally we preview the upcoming issue, devoted to games and war. On to the links!

BRIEF HISTORY AND LAST WORDS ON THE CONTROVERSY

While the controversy raged for a  time on the forums, it only seems fitting to give the last word to N’Gai Croal, the Newsweek writer who set it all off with his original comments on the MTV Multiplayer blog. Unsurprisingly, the response to his original post was pretty typical of the way gamers respond when they feel like their hobby is being threatened and save for a few other industry bloggers, who rose to his defense, he was roundly criticized. Popular gaming blog Kotaku even disabled comments for a time with this statement from the editor. Recently, however, Edge Magazine published the results of a conversation between Mr. Croal and the Producer, Jun Takeuchi, in which he got to ask him some of the questions that came up in his original post and we’ve linked to this below. Also, while most of his criticism focused on the imagery of the character models themselves, we dig deeper with links to articles about both the environments as well as the gameplay that follow.

They work very hard to show you that this particular West African Town is poor, dirty, and dangerous: that people are vicious, violent, and skulk around the heroes. Furthermore, their houses and places of business are even more alarming, filled with “bizarre” practices….[T]his kind of ignorant, traditionally stereotyped imagery is considered to be a good way to scare Capcom’s audience….[W]hy is it “scary.” What’s being coded as horrifying and alarming in this game are poor, “West African,” people who froth at the mouth and cannot be trusted due to their violent natures. This is brought home hard when you realize what other “scares” the game has in store. It doesn’t have any….

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2009/03/column_diamond_in_the_rough_how_does_this_make_you_feel_partner.php

The story in Resident Evil 5….is a recursive set of playthroughs….Your first will be your most challenging….You’re dropped immediately into a village siege with nothing but a handgun. This might frustrate you. It’s supposed to. You will remember this place. You will remember it well. Then you will return with a shotgun, an assault rifle or maybe a grenade launcher….There’s an economy in Resident Evil 5, built entirely around the shortage of ammo and the increasingly powerful weapons. You upgrade your weapons to make your shots more effective, to minimize the downtime between reloads, to maximize the chance of a fatal headshot, and so on. As I said before, every bullet counts. It’s like a role-playing game, but instead of characters you have guns….[R]eplaying a level isn’t just replaying a level. It is a revenge story.

http://www.crispygamer.com/columns/2009-03-18/dissenting-opinion-resident-evil-5-2.aspx

And as [the game's producer] went on to explain that the enemies with the grass skirts and spears were seeking to defend the ruins from intruders and that he’d been inspired by Indiana Jones movies, I felt like I once again understood where he’d been coming from. That a two-to-three-week trip to unspecified African countries and looking at a number of movies set in Africa alongside pop-cultural inspirations like the Indiana Jones series simply hadn’t been enough to sufficiently educate him or the team about he legacy of the imagery that they were tapping in to and, as a result, they’d lost control of their message.

http://kotaku.com/5261282/resident-evil-5-producer-meets-his-chief-critic

NEXT ISSUE

With the recent controversy over Konami’s publishing “Six Days in Fallujah,” a game set during the first Iraq War, the controversy over Resident Evil 5 points to a shift in the conceptions of what games can be. Commercial games producers are taking game seriously to address real-world issues in the games they produce and gamers are beginning to consider real-world issues in their games. We’ll be covering this next controversy in the next issues of the newsletter, entirely devoted to games and war.

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This newsletter produced by Beautiful Vandals for Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace
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