A week-and-a-half ago my friend Sokari’s blog, Black Looks, published a post by Kym Platt called, “Resident Evil 5,” about the newest iteration of the popular video game. Kym reviewed the trailer that was recently released for the zombie-shooting freakfest and decried it as racist.
In fact, the images, primarily that of a white guy in a military outfit blasting what look like African villagers, were shocking. This was at the very least profoundly bad judgment on the part of Capcom, the Japanese game-maker that produced it. We live in a world with history. Unfortunately, it’s a history some people try to remake.
Now, I very seriously doubt that anyone involved in the design and production of RE5 said to themselves, as Kym did, “Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.” But why Capcom, either those at the headquarters in Japan or those Capcom bloggers in the U.S., did not immediately jump on this and reassure people is utterly beyond me. (Unless they were sitting behind their immense, teakwood desks, tenting their fingers and breathily intoning, “Excellent…” as they looked over the subsequent comments.)
Others maintain that this iteration of the game is set in Saudi Arabia, not Africa, meaning the hapless zombiefied villagers are Arabs, I suppose, not Africans. (Whew!) But that’s not really the point, at least not mine. Authorial intent is fine, but it’s nowhere near enough. What we bring to the game makes the game. If a number of people, including a blogger at the Village Voice, were shocked by this, then it should have been either thought out beforehand or addressed when it became a problem.
All that aside, the thing that freaked me out the most were the comments on Black Looks (as well as those on Game Politics and Kotaku and others). Fully 10 percent of the comments, I’d guess, were full-out hardcore racist pissant gibberish. They included the words “nigger” and “bitch,” and they included them a lot. Another 50 percent were apologists. The most frequent gabble in this column was, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill” and “Nuh-uh, you’re the one who’s racist.” Additionally, the apologist camp screeched at Kym for not being fully conversant with the history of this title. (Good point. Now hurry back downstairs before another one of your pimples bursts and you ruin your Adult Swim t-shirt.)
Well, to say this freaked me out of my skivvies, one month into my tenure as the social media manager of a video game company, would be a bit of an understatement. Had I stumbled into The Pimply Rec Room of the Klan?
Then, three days ago, I read in Game Politics that a special-interest gaming blog I subscribe to, GayGamer, had been hacked. According to GayGamer, “First we were blocking the IP addresses of a rather feeble DoS. Then the hate speech started appearing all over our forums.” The tenor of the comments on both Game Politics’ and Kotaku‘s coverage of the hack was not nearly as evil as the ones on and about Black Looks. Maybe GayGamer is only gay, but Black Looks is black and gay and female, I don’t know. But this reaction also partook of the notion that there was a great deal being made of nothing, that the people offended should get over it.
There’s no question that Black Looks’ incendiary language and polemical style resulted in some of the extra evil they got. But guess what, wieners? It’s a blog. It’s free speech. Get over it? You get over it.
Now, I’m fucking bulletproof when it comes to accusations of being PC, so, as John Zorn once yelled at Václav Havel and Madeleine Albright, “Shut the fuck up and listen to the music!”
- RE5’s imagery is weird and inappropriate, if not racist
- Capcom’s silence is insulting and cynical
- Racist, sexist and homophobic comments are dimwitted and violent, not outrageous and gutsy
- Hacking a site because the people running it like to play kissy-face with their members of their own gender is a titanic idiocy
Is “the world of gamers” racist? Well, I’m in that world, as are many fine people that I’ve recently met. So I’d be awfully wary of making the very kind of blanket statements that have characterized blog response to the above-mentioned posts. But considering what’s happened in the last week, and the way that the readers of these blogs, most of whom identified themselves as gamers, have reacted, demands the games industry find the guts regard themselves in a full-length mirror.
Guess what guys? Right now, you don’t look like your heroes.