What we bring to the game makes the game

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.

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Published by Curt

I am a poet and journalist and so on amber so forth in rows magnet.

3 thoughts on “What we bring to the game makes the game

  1. I agree that racism is wrong. No doubt about that one. Prejudice and hate are wrong in my book, too. And you have some good points.

    But please. Are you really that bothered by it? You’re killing those people because they are *zombies*, not because of the color of their skin. The color of their skin is a result of their origin. Why would you be in Africa or Saudi Arabia killing a village full of white zombies? So does this mean that a developer shouldn’t make a game where the enemies are mostly one color of skin? I hope everyone can grow up a little and realize what’s going on here.

    If the main character in previous RE games was black, would you think it was racist then? I certainly wouldn’t.

    I guess what bothers me more than anything is the realistic violence of the game, though I’m not _that_ bothered by that. I’m certainly not thinking about race, that’s for sure.

  2. No, with respect, you’re missing my point. First, yeah, it’s a weird image. All we have is the trailer, so there is NO context. Most of us are not intimately familiar with the series of games, so you can hardly fault people for getting a bit wiggy when they see the trailer. But more important are two issues:

    1. Capcom made no statement of any kind. That says two things to me. First, we (Capcom) don’t care about what you think. Two, we aren’t concerned enough over our own reputation to address this issue. It may well not be a racist image, but the radio silence was cynical.

    2. The response to the posting, well postings actually, was so uniformly either hate-filled or dismissive that it made me feel awful to be a part of the industry that spawned all the fucking morons who either didn’t see anything wrong and/or thought the “nigger cunts” who complained were niggers. And cunts. And thought it was alright to say such things because they wouldn’t be shouted down. They were right. They weren’t.

    People keened and complained when, after 9-11, there were few Muslim religious figures who condemned the way of thought that powered the hateful actions of that day. This is different in terms of quantity God knows, but not, essentially, in quality. There should have been a gigantic ass-kicking administered to the creeps who attacked Sokari and Kim, regardless of whether they were right or not. Instead, there was a weird kind of online lynching.

    Thanks for piping up, TC. I hope I clarified my position. Nothing against games (I work in the industry), sure as fuck am not PC. But a little respect, calmness, reason and dialogue need to be a part of it and they clearly, by and large, were not.

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