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Eurogamer Hands-on Sheds Light on RE5's Treatment of Race

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sonicmj1

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Damn, I'm opening up a minefield here.

Today, Eurogamer presented a new hands-on of Resident Evil 5, playing through the game's first three chapters. Plenty of interesting information is contained therein, including a number of spoilers about encounters in those chapters.

That isn't why I'm making a new thread here, though. What caught my attention were a number of paragraphs on the last page of the article, addressing RE5's handling of Africans in the game. And it isn't what you'd expect from just playing the demo.

It's easiest if I quote the relevant section in full.

Eurogamer said:
There's also the spectre of the old racism debate, hovering the background. That debate is only going to get louder and more urgent once the game is released, and is being covered beyond the cosy world of the specialist gaming press, since there's imagery in here that goes beyond the general air of foreign menace that caused a ruckus in the first trailers.

One of the first things you see in the game, seconds after taking control of Chris Redfield, is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it's never revealed, but these are not infected Majini. There are no red bloodshot eyes. These are ordinary Africans, who stop and stare at you menacingly as you approach. Since the Majini are not undead corpses, and are capable of driving vehicles, handling weapons and even using guns, it makes the line between the infected monsters and African civilians uncomfortably vague. Where Africans are concerned, the game seems to be suggesting, bloodthirsty savagery just comes with the territory.

Later on, there's a cut-scene of a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men. When you attempt to rescue her, she's been turned and must be killed. If this has any relevance to the story it's not apparent in the first three chapters, and it plays so blatantly into the old clichés of the dangerous "dark continent" and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s. That Sheva neatly fits the approved Hollywood model of the light-skinned black heroine, and talks more like Lara Croft than her thickly-accented foes, merely compounds the problem rather than easing it. There are even more outrageous and outdated images to be found later in the game, stuff that I was honestly surprised to see in 2009, but Capcom has specifically asked that details of these scenes remain under wraps for now, whether for these reasons we don't know.

There will be plenty of people who refuse to see anything untoward in this material. "It wasn't racist when the enemies were Spanish in Resident Evil 4," goes the argument, but then the Spanish don't have the baggage of being stereotyped as subhuman animals for the past two hundred years. It's perfectly possible to use Africa as the setting for a powerful and troubling horror story, but when you're applying the concept of people being turned into savage monsters onto an actual ethnic group that has long been misrepresented as savage monsters, it's hard to see how elements of race weren't going to be a factor.

All it will take is for one mainstream media outlet to show the heroic Chris Redfield stamping on the face of a black woman, splattering her skull, and the controversy over Manhunt 2 will seem quaint by comparison. If we're going to accept this sort of imagery in games then questions are going be asked, these questions will have merit, and we're going to need a more convincing answer than "lol it's just a game."
I was concerned about stuff like this happening. Deep down, I had this vain hope that Capcom would use the setting intelligently, but going by their past record with the Resident Evil series, such hopes were foolish. That Capcom is so easily buying into the sort of racial types that have plagued the region for centuries is somewhat worrying.

If scenes such as the ones the author encountered are in the final game, is it a legitimate issue? If so, is there any way we can answer for it?
 

Teknoman

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Well I dont recall the movie Blood Diamonds causing much of a stir with Leo as the hero....but then again, games seem to be taken much more seriously when it's a topic such as this. I dont think it'll be any worse than when crazy people thought Mass Effect was space porn.
 

Quagm1r3

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Does this article mean to suggest that these Africans are in no way possessed by some sort of ailment, that they attack out of their own free will? If this is the case, then I can see where these worries are coming from.
 

BSTF

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May 14, 2006
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Wow, what the hell was Capcom thinking. Definitely not going to get this game now.

N'Gai was right all along.
 

AkuMifune

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But what about the racism against the poor zombies! Who is there to defend them? Maybe things will change when we finally get a zombie president.
 
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hmm.

one of the reasons it pays to have diversity on a team. whether race or gender. it can call attention to potential problems that others may not have the clairvoyance to see.

It'll be interesting to see how the imagery reverberates through the gaming and non-gaming world.
 

JasonUresti

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Gun had a terribly stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, but not much fuss was raised.

The key difference here is that Resident Evil is a more high profile game, and that black people have much stronger groups and organizations to protect themselves from being depicted like this in media, at least in the United States.

This stuff sounds bad from the written description, and even a potentially overly sensitive writer can't explain away all of it.
 
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JasonUresti said:
Gun had a terribly stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, but not much fuss was raised.

The key difference here is that Resident Evil is a more high profile game, and that black people have much stronger groups and organizations to protect themselves from being depicted like this in media, at least in the United States.

This stuff sounds bad from the written description, and even a potentially overly sensitive writer can't explain away all of it.
we'll all see soon enough.
 

BudokaiMR2

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Seriously this shit is just ridiculous and over sensationalist.

It's like some of these writers have their own heads up their asses and ignore the horrible shit that goes on in parts of Africa. Genocides in places like Darfur, human trafficing, civil war, corrupt politics, famine, etc., etc.

It's not like Chris is fucking landing in a Commonwealth country like South Africa.....
 

RoboPlato

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They do have bloodshot, red eyes and they are not acting of their own volition. I can understand a few of the criticisms and I do agree that at a glance some of what I've seen in the game can appear to be a bit ignorant but in the context of the story it's really not as bad as most are making it out to be. I don't know why people don't seem to get that this is a zombie game that just happens to be set in Africa.
 
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The Faceless Master said:
i doubt there will be a big fuss, i mean, was there one for ff7?
the internet wasn't as developed or as significant then. when FF7 came out, computers were still used for AOL chat rooms. now, any blogger in the world can write a post that can make a major impact.

And I'm still pissed about FF7, to be honest. And it's one of my favorite games ever. But damn...if Barrett wasn't all the black stereotypes put into once character, I don't know who is.
 

badcrumble

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BudokaiMR2 said:
Seriously this shit is just ridiculous and over sensationalist.

It's like some of these writers have their own heads up their asses and ignore the horrible shit that goes on in parts of Africa. Genocides in places like Darfur, human trafficing, civil war, corrupt politics, famine, etc., etc.

It's not like Chris is fucking landing in a Commonwealth country like South Africa.....
Agreed. Resident Evil 5 is clearly the place to find a mature, informed, and well-thought-out depiction of postcolonial strife.
 

Shockgamer

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I've no doubt that like past RE5 racial discussions, this thread will become amazingly horrible.

I'd just like to say now, before this thread turns into something too digusting and depressing, that I think it's funny how there are people out there who will fight to have videogaming seen as a worthy art form or entertainment media -and it is, like books, music, movies and television- and then use the "it's just a game!" defense when a title is challenged on its content.
 

Operations

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All Resident Evil games have featured "bloodthirsty savages". This time around, the outbreak was in Africa thus affecting the locals, what's wrong with that?
 

Majmun

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It's only racist when you think too much about it.

But let's be honest. Central Africa is a fierce territory with all the wars, genocides, child soldiers, blackmailing etc etc. And Mugabe...

I just think Capcom didn't know how to present that without making it look racists. It's a hard thing to do...

-edit- what budokai basically said...
 

gutter_trash

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so I wasn't the only one who thought the same thing about Sheva being lighter toned makes her more "Hollwyood" mainstream
 

Y2Kev

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Why is it sensationalist? Couldn't it be an accurate depiction of the game and its implications? Why are some people so defensive when it comes to the industry and this sort of stuff?
 

Quagm1r3

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RoboPlato said:
They do have bloodshot, red eyes and they are not acting of their own volition. I can understand a few of the criticisms and I do agree that at a glance some of what I've seen in the game can appear to be a bit ignorant but in the context of the story it's really not as bad as most are making it out to be.
If what you say is true then I'm in agreement with you. But what you say is in contrast with the article, which strongly implies that the Africans are in their right mind. This is the tipping point for me. To say that a group of Africans would randomly jump a white guy in Africa is extremely racist. But if this is just the newest location, a location which would require its inhabitants to be of a certain descent, then I see nothing wrong with the game.
 

badcrumble

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Operations said:
All Resident Evil games have featured "bloodthirsty savages". This time around, the outbreak was in Africa thus affecting the locals, what's wrong with that?
Hey guys I'm from Jena, TX and what's the deal with everyone freaking out about these nooses I hung up in the tree I mean they're just rope right?
 
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This is really troubling. Not the direction videogames need to be going in...are capcom this dumb to really let something like this happen to one of their most valuable franchises?
 
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BudokaiMR2 said:
It's like some of these writers have their own heads up their asses and ignore the horrible shit that goes on in parts of Africa. Genocides in places like Darfur, human trafficing, civil war, corrupt politics, famine, etc., etc.
parts of Africa != all of Africa. problem is, most people don't seem to know that. and their stereotypes are shaped from there.

I'm sure the game will be fun. I think it just unintentionally also reinforces some generalities and stereotypes. hopefully not too many, though.

Now if I see a KFC in the Shanty town, I'll be officially offended. :lol
 
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Shockgamer said:
I've no doubt that like past RE5 racial discussions, this thread will become amazingly horrible.

I'd just like to say now, before this thread turns into something too digusting and depressing, that I think it's funny how there are people out there who will fight to have videogaming seen as a worthy art form or entertainment media -and it is, like books, music, movies and television- and then use the "it's just a game!" defense when a title is challenged on its content.
ouch. compelling conversation point there.

*pops popcorn*
 

RoboPlato

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Quagm1r3 said:
If what you say is true then I'm in agreement with you. But what you say is in contrast with the article, which strongly implies that the Africans are in their right mind. This is the tipping point for me. To say that a group of Africans would randomly jump a white guy in Africa is extremely racist. But if this is just the newest location, a location which would require its inhabitants to be of a certain descent, then I see nothing wrong with the game.
If you play the demo the cutscene that introduces them shows them with glowing eyes, although it's not apparent during gameplay. They're all being controlled by a parasite, like in RE4. This parasite, also comes out of their mouths regularly. They are not just regular villagers like the article says. I got all this from the demo so unless something dramatically changes late in the game, they really seem to want to spin this one.
 

Red

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Having not played the game, I'm going to base my assumptions on RE4 and the nature of the series prior to this.

RE has never been "serious" in the sense that it's dealt with social issues or ramifications. It's camp, pure and simple. Its means are presented not necessarily through stereotypes but through very shallow constructions. RE4 portrayed nearly all its Spanish characters as rapid psychopaths. It implicated the Church through its cult motif, which is fairly relevant to contemporary issues regarding the influence of the church in Spain in regard to social and political control. It was very simplified, but it hit pretty close to something that could have been an ideological statement.

RE5 looks similar to me. Capcom probably didn't deliberately set out to make an overtly racist game. There was no propagandistic undercurrent set up for it. It simply falls into that because of events that have happened in the past. Again, it simplifies social issues for the sake of entertainment, but what does that mean for its public reception?

I'm not really making a judgment call one way or the other, but I find it strange that Eurogamer found this serious enough to write an editorial about it.
 

sonicmj1

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RoboPlato said:
They do have bloodshot, red eyes and they are not acting of their own volition. I can understand a few of the criticisms and I do agree that at a glance some of what I've seen in the game can appear to be a bit ignorant but in the context of the story it's really not as bad as most are making it out to be. I don't know why people don't seem to get that this is a zombie game that just happens to be set in Africa.
The scene being discussed is from the very beginning of the game. The Africans first encountered there are NOT Majini. After that point, of course, they're infected, but the bolded section refers to that first scene in particular.

If it were merely a zombie game set in Africa, I might be slightly put off, but not very offended. The author of the hands-on hints that it's not that simple. I'm especially curious as to what the events that he doesn't mention are.

What's most offensive about this to me is that there are so many ways to do a zombie game in Africa in a manner that either skirts the obvious racial types or that cleverly exploits them. This news seems to show that Capcom had no idea what they were actually doing when they were including these sorts of images in the game.
 

Rolf NB

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Can we somehow compare this to the violent savagery displayed by the Japanese, Italians and Germans in classic and recent WW2-related games? With a chart maybe?
 

EmCeeGramr

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Hmm. That's a bit disconcerting to hear. I won't make any judgments before the game is out and the content is out for people to see, but if that content later in the game involves something like cannibalism or rape, then Capcom and gamers have a huge problem on their hands.
 

JDSN

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This article is pretty objective and is only made with the purpose of informing an interesting point of view.
 

sonicmj1

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Crunched said:
RE5 looks similar to me. Capcom probably didn't deliberately set out to make an overtly racist game. There was no propagandistic undercurrent set up for it. It simply falls into that because of events that have happened in the past. Again, it simplifies social issues for the sake of entertainment, but what does that mean for its public reception?
I agree with you here. I don't think there was any ill intent on Capcom's end. But that's not going to be much of an excuse when the press comes calling, which I think is Eurogamer's point.
 

N30RYU

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JDSN said:
This article is pretty objective and is only made with the purpose of informing an interesting point of view.
Whatch out your avatar this days... someone will see black ppl on it...
 

TheCardPlayer

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Man if this game was taking place in Canada and had white people doing this, no one would complain.

It seems every single time there is something related to violence in Africa it's automatically racism. It's a fucking videogame. Give me a break.
 

M.J. Doja

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Racism's still alive
They just be concealing it

~Kanye West

Pedobear said:
Man if this game was taking place in Canada and had white people doing this, no one would complain.

It seems every single time there is something related to violence in Africa it's automatically racism. It's a fucking videogame. Give me a break.
ok son, go take a break, you are relieved. :lol
 
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EmCeeGramr said:
Hmm. That's a bit disconcerting to hear. I won't make any judgments before the game is out and the content is out for people to see, but if that content later in the game involves something like cannibalism or rape, then Capcom and gamers have a huge problem on their hands.
I doubt Capcom would touch the rape issue in any game for any reason. Thankfully, some issues are still taboo.
 

Divvy

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RoboPlato said:
If you play the demo the cutscene that introduces them shows them with glowing eyes, although it's not apparent during gameplay. They're all being controlled by a parasite, like in RE4. This parasite, also comes out of their mouths regularly. They are not just regular villagers like the article says. I got all this from the demo so unless something dramatically changes late in the game, they really seem to want to spin this one.
The article clearly states that there are parts where the villagers act like savages without being controlled by the parasite. If this is true, then it is completely understandable why people would be upset.
 
D

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hoo boy.

The game isn't out yet, so I can't really weigh in. Speak to me on March 15th, when I've finished the game.
 

M.J. Doja

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EmCeeGramr said:
Because white Canadians weren't enslaved, invaded, colonized, treated as second-class citizens, or portrayed as inhuman murderous savages for hundreds of years.
wat

N30RYU said:
Whatch out your avatar this days... someone will see black ppl on it...
I see stupid people!

/Sixthsense



edit: ITT: Ignorance
 

Teknoman

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EmCeeGramr said:
Hmm. That's a bit disconcerting to hear. I won't make any judgments before the game is out and the content is out for people to see, but if that content later in the game involves something like cannibalism or rape, then Capcom and gamers have a huge problem on their hands.
Im sure they wont. If Capcom pushes anything...it's usually just gore, and even then its never really explicit to the point of people getting up in arms about it.
 
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