Bil Browning

What the hell was Capcom thinking?

Filed By Bil Browning | August 03, 2007 6:06 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Capcom, racism, Resident Evil, video games, zombie apocalypse

While you see quite a few sexist and homophobic video games, racism isn't usually an issue. Resident Evil 5, however, has picked up the flag and ran with it...

Who in their right mind thought that it was a good idea to okay a video game about a big white male hero who goes around shooting mobs of Africans and African zombies? This one just goes directly into the "Holy Crap!" files. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. What do you think? Racist or not?

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Kevin Lahti | August 3, 2007 8:14 PM

As a gamer of sorts I have never played a Resident Evil game, I do however work with alot of people who do and as they have explained to me I believe that the guy is the same one who was in Resident Evil 4 and essentially the only thing that has changed is the setting from a european village to Africa, so I dont know if its really racist but I won't be the judge..

A. J. Lopp | August 3, 2007 8:46 PM

I checked out many of the unending comments at the Village Voice (the link above) ... most commenters thought the game was not racist, including several black men and women who wrote in, and many said, "It's just a game --- get over it!"
Others thought seeing a racial issue in everything is hypersensitive, and may be even racist in itself.

That may be a point --- if black people can't appear as the zombies in a video game, isn't that also a form of racism? You decide.

If I didn't read your Headline, and just saw the preview to this New Game...I would have never thought about it being Racist....just a guy in a Village of Zombies....Beautiful effects tho, I probably won't get it cause it would scare the crap outa' me and make me nervous..and Im 47yr,gay and a moderate liberal.

It takes place in Africa. Of course the zombies are black. The people claiming it's racist are impeding the fight against real racism.

Bruce Parker | August 4, 2007 12:50 AM

Well, I think the issue is much more complicated than the comments thus far take into account. Yes - the game takes place in Africa so the zombies are black. Yes - it could be considered a guy in a village of zombies. We can first call into question the decision to have the game take place in an African village at all. We can also call into question the fact that if its just a guy in a village why isn't the guy black? But, ultimately the question can surface what is the message of an entire video game being full of images of a white man mowing down black folk with heavy artillery. Perhaps, the intent wasn't racist but we can consider the images taht are outcomes as having racial overtones and meanings. White and black youth will be playing the game. I Just don't think its that easy.

I've played the RE franchise of games. Usually the zombies are more, well, beyond race. They're not really white, but not black either. They're a little darker than the usual white heros - more of a gray color. There have been black major players too (especially in the beginning of the franchise).

But I guess my point is that while in the last game the same hero was shooting "European zombies," now they've taken the big, bad European hero and sent him off to clean up Africa. Hasn't Europe tried to "clean up Africa" enough - usually with horrible results? Why not give the Africans the empowerment of dealing with their own issues? Either create a new main hero - a black hero from Africa - to solve the African zombie problem or send Mr. Europe to America, Canada, or Australia. (Not that all three didn't also have issues with Europeans coming in and announcing themselves the "hero" while killing most of the darker-skinned natives of all 3 countries. And what was a big motivation for this bit of European history? Money, greed and religion. And anyone who thinks that this story line of the white, presumably Christian, hero coming in to solve the problem in Africa caused by some sort of religious "cult" doesn't have undertones of European conquest and subjugation has to blind.

It sends a racist message - loud and clear. While it can be explained away with some compelling arguments, they shouldn't be in the place of having to explain it away. Good decision making would have solved this problem in the beginning.

I think one of Ruberg's points on Village Voice is worth stressing here:

But looking again at the trailer, I see a different message: it’s not just that these zombies are black, but that the uninfected black villagers are zombie-like too. See all those spooky shots of the villagers before they get infected? It’s as if race itself were a disease. The white protagonist has to fight back or be infected.

And that the representation of black folks in this game mirrors very similar representations in films (where black has been visualized as the savage, spooky other, like in the most recent King King film) is something to consider as well.

I played the first RE game when it originally came out, and, as I recall, the zombies in that one were white.

While only a fool ignores the reality of racism, at the same time, I'm forced to wonder if some aren't reading something in here that just isn't there. I also tend to agree with Bruce Parker that if there weren't black zombies in a game based in Africa, any reasonable person would wonder why.

With the trend in these kinds of games leaning to more and more realism within the fantastic fiction upon which they're based, couldn't it simply be that it just made more sense to the game's creators to use black characters in a game set in Africa?

As every gamer knows, there's no shortage of racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. in modern video games. The question I still have here is if we're really so certain that's the case here, or are we simply imposing our own value system and judgments upon those who have simply created a game they designed to be entertaining and realistic rather than send some kind of overriding social and political message?