A lot has been written, and I expect a lot more will be written, about Resident Evil 5. IGN published a column insisting that it’s not really racist; Eurogamer wrote that of course it’s racist and gamers and the gaming press need to confront it if we want to have any credibility for our claims that games deserve to be taken seriously as an artistic medium.
Penny Arcade addresses the issue today. As often happens, the comic went up before the news post, and I was very concerned, without the context provided by the latter, that the former was an attempt to, like IGN, deride the criticisms of the game’s imagery. I’m very glad to see, in reading the post, that that isn’t the direction Tycho was going. I could have hoped he’d spend more time seriously engaging the racism and what’s wrong with it, but since I was concerned that he’d join much of the gaming press in simply insisting it was no big deal, I’m happy he is in fact taking it seriously. He links to an interview at MTV’s Multiplayer blog with N’Gai Croal, who writes for Newsweek, which I think is worth your time to read. And I think Tycho’s closing paragraph does a good job articulating the change of perspective I hope the discussion of this game provokes in at least some young gamers:
It’s sort of like those Magic Eye pictures. You can’t see it, you can’t see it, and then bam. All you can see is the genocide.
One final note (as it were) that particularly pleased me about the news post: be sure to mouse over the small, italicized epigraph at the bottom of Tycho’s post.
I thought I was going to have more to say about RE5, when I started writing this post: I didn’t mean it to just be about Penny Arcade’s response. But, it turns out, I find the whole situation — both the fact1 of the game’s racism and the impassioned defense of the game being mounted from many corners of the gaming world: a defense which, given the aforementioned fact, genuinely cannot be perceived as anything but pro-racist — tiring and depressing. RE5 is unabashedly, violently racist, and uncritically, unironically2 portrays the wholesale slaughter of black Africans by a white American as heroic. How there can be any debate over whether it’s a “good game” or whether it’s “worth playing” in the face of that, let alone any debate over whether that’s an accurate characterization, is beyond me.
1 Yes, fact. There really is no room for interpretation here.
2 No, “but, see, it’s ironic!” wouldn’t be any kind of defense; I’m not advocating hipster racism. I just want to highlight the apparent complete lack of awareness on the part of the developers that anyone might find blatantly racist, pro-genocide imagery offensive.