Stolen Pixels #207: Resident Equality

By Shamus
on Jun 29, 2010
Filed under:
Column

The “racism in Resident Evil 5” debate is SO old and played out. But I restarted it anyway because I’m a jerk like that.

EDIT: And now it’s done again. Let’s talk about something else.

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201939 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Jarenth says:

    You’re a mean man, Shamus Young.

  2. Gandaug says:

    Good comic. Best one in quite some time.

  3. Atarlost says:

    It’s very simple. All whites are incurably racist and must be berated constantly for being white. Any excuse will do

    • Jack says:

      Quite frankly we should simply execute all white people for being racists and supporting genocide and such.

  4. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Is this the most foul mounted sp so far?

  5. krellen says:

    Am I seriously supposed to believe that woman is “Black”? Hispanic or Arabic I might buy.

    • Joe Cool says:

      She is mass-appeal black. Because white people are too racist to find actual black women sexy, they have to whiten her skin color so she’ll appeal to the lowest common denominator.

      Or so the marketing execu-bots tell me.

      • krellen says:

        Her facial structure isn’t particularly “Black” either, though. It’s not just the skin colour.

        What’s the story with her? Is she supposed to be “Black”, or is she just “African” (which doesn’t necessarily imply “Black”)?

        • Shamus says:

          When your character (captain white bread) arrives in Africa, she’s your contact. She has an accent that seems consistent with the other accents in the area.

          So she’s there to fend off charges of racism but ends up adding fuel to the fire but then the game was made in Japan where they are going to have a lot less understanding of the tensions they might be dealing with.

          The whole thing is a perfect storm designed to twist people’s knickers. It’s like Capcom was trolling us all.

          • krellen says:

            If she’s just generically “African”, that sits fine with me. Lots of people in Africa aren’t Black.

            As far as the tensions go, I think there are lots of people looking for excuses to start problems, and they probably would have found one even if the game wasn’t set up the way it was.

            • ehlijen says:

              Try Jagged Alliance 2 for a game set in Africa :P

              Not sure how they can cram so many accents into one country…

              • The Scarlet Mathematician says:

                I thought Jagged Alliance 2 took place in Madeupistan. Or something like that, anyways.

                • ehlijen says:

                  Madeupistan, Africa, though. Or so I thought.

                  But yeah, it avoided any racism issues by not making sense. Not sure what that didn’t work for RE5…

                • Someone says:

                  The nation was called Arulko and im pretty sure it was impled to be in latin america, not africa.

  6. Henebry says:

    This is precisely the sort of discussion you usually frown upon. Your toon is nicely even-handed, but already this comment thread is getting controversial. I’m tempted to respond to Atarlost’s provocation with a justification of the liberal critique of the game—or perhaps by voicing a parody of the conservative defense, since he’s parodying the liberal one. But I’m not going to rise to the bait.

    • Shamus says:

      You’re right that I don’t usually tread here, and I knew when I made the comic that it might blow up in my face.

      I wouldn’t characterize this as a conservative / liberal thing, just a refutation of annoying idiots. (Which is usually fair game.) “Liberals preach white guilt” isn’t any more or less true than “conservatives are racists”. It’s the characterization given by their political enemies, but it’s a sloppy guilt-by-association thing, like a thousand other retarded slap-fights on the internet. Certainly none of the liberals I’ve ever known would even sympathize with what either Sheva or Atarlost has espoused in jest.

      But yes. This may turn into a mess and I might have to lock the thread if it does.

  7. tremor3258 says:

    I didn’t pick the game up, and I’m going to sidestep the issue (nice Kobayashi-Maru level scenario, though) – but I’m sorta impressed with the facial animations in the screencaps.

  8. Galad says:

    As someone not in the flow, would someone please enlighten me about those supposed racist problems with RE5? Maybe give me a link or two perhaps?

    • Vipermagi says:

      Well, the comic already covers it mostly. The protagonist is white, and 99% of the enemies (I don’t have an actual number) are black.

      Yes, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

      • Tizzy says:

        I don’t think the criticism was so much racism per se, more that the publisher had been insensitive to the unfortunate implications raised by having a white guy running around the dark continent gunning down Africans (and thus conceivably more of a colonization issue than a strictly racist issue).

        And yes, I shamelessly linked to TV tropes. Why should I be the only one wasting my time there?

    • Ash says:

      To add to what Vipermagi and Tizzy have said, it’s not only that the game plays into a very ugly and damaging stereotype regarding blacks and/or Africa, but that positive representation for black characters is almost nil. This is what, the fifth Resident Evil game? And Sheva is the first black character. This sends all kinds of problematic messages, especially when the imagery in the game already reinforces afore mentioned stereotypes of Africans as primitive and bloodthirsty.

      If it was just single series this wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but this is one of few representations of Africa or blacks in videogames at all (actually, this may be the only representation of a black society in a videogame). Outside of gansta type characters like in GTA or 50 Cent, sports games, or RPG’s where you get to make your own character, playable black characters are nearly non existent and NPC’s are few. (Though, funnily, blacks are probably the best off. If you’re Hispanic, middle eastern, or Native American, the chances of seeing someone like you in a game is laughable.)

      All of which makes it kinda of annoying that in this day and age if any of this is mentioned someone has to bring up the ‘race card’ stupidity.

  9. JKjoker says:

    in the begining there are a LOT of white enemies (palette swapped probably, they kind of look like mexicans tho so you could say they added another minority to the mix), in the middle of the game the enemies are 100% black (when you fight the ones using spears and shields), in the last part of the game 99% of the enemies are monsters and 1% are white guys

    anyway this joke wasnt even funny at the time, there is so much more wrong with that game but all everyone ever mentions about that game is the racism, what about how Sheeva manages to screw up the last boss battle 99 times out of 100 ? or how about her AI seems designed to piss you off ? or that they can either carry 9 smokes or 9 super star destroyers in their pockets since they all take up 1 slot, or that they should have called Leon for this game, he ALREADY PLAYED IT after all (its the same freaking game as RE4) and so on

  10. BlackBloc says:

    The original charges of racism were about the *E3 trailer*, which had racially problematic imageries (colonial undertones and such). A non-gamer blogger was exposed to the trailer, said something to the effect of “this seems pretty racist on its face”. At which point gamers could have collectively shown their maturity by acknowledging that Capcom made a lot of poor decisions in creating the trailer but that in context that game series is not really racist. Instead they went full-on “The Media is Attacking Gamers” mode and decided to troll her blog by posting a bunch of *actually racist* posts. And crapped over all gaming forum threads with same. In effect, the online gaming community decided to fight charges that collectively they’re a bit blind to racial issues by going full blown racist. It’s a bit like if a politician was accused of not being aware enough of issues from his black constituents and decided to counter these accusations by dressing up in KKK robes. It ended up showing things were even worse than the blogger in question could have assumed.

    • LB says:

      Yeah, I was going to comment about this. It did all come from the trailer with the pretty questionable imagery.
      Which I think can be found here: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2007-resident-evil/22801

      No one reasonable thought Capcom were being racist, they just thought it was stupid to have a trailer that doesn’t give any zombie context to footage of primal and savage black people in mindless hordes lurking in the shadows and hunting the huge white guy mowing them down with guns.

  11. Doug Sundseth says:

    “I don’t see the percentage in worrying about the possible insult to Africans when the story itself is definitely an insult to everyone.”

    The argument works as well as a “defense” of Denny’s as it does as a “defense” of RE5. They’re not racists, they’re just Mikey* — “They won’t serve you; they hate everybody.” I don’t boycott Denny’s because it’s staffed by racists**; I boycott Denny’s because it’s staffed by arrogant, obnoxious incompetents and because its food has to strain to reach barely edible.

    Somehow, I don’t think that actually helps Denny’s — or RE5.

    * Yes, I know that Mikey liked the cereal; work with me here. 8-)

    ** I don’t think it is, btw.

  12. Sean Riley says:

    Since we’ve already been through this (in what I consider an excellent thread) on this very site, I will not repeat myself.

    However, as an intriguing comparison: Far Cry 2 was also a game about playing a non-African, wandering through Africa and killing mostly black men. With the added bonus of them being not zombies — Killing actual living black guys. Yet it attracted very few complaints of racism. Why? Pure random chance feels unlikely to me.

    I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head, but I’ll just pose the question for now.

  13. Ramsus says:

    Clearly Capcom made the game racially charged on purpose. This is because they secretly own a scientific research and weapons making company (plus probably a few doubly or triply secret ones that will never be mentioned until the first one has been dealt with) that will profit if racial tensions escalate into a cold war state. Sadly this will all end in one lone hero being abducted and forced to work for a super secret government agency (that really works for the company Capcom owns that will profit from this) and will end up being sent on a mission to erase evidence of some slip up or another and then they’ll casually try to eradicate even him as he’s also evidence. Then he’ll discover their plan will end up causing a real war and he’ll run around gathering evidence (and shooting a lot of guys who are only tangentially involved) and bringing the whole thing crashing down on their heads…or end up deciding he doesn’t care if the world ends and start working for them instead.

    • Jarenth says:

      Sleeping with attractive fellow secret agents, enemy secretaries and minigun-toting mercenary cougars optional, of course.

    • cassander says:

      Fool. If you let the secret out they’re sure to hunt you down and kill you!

  14. Jep jep says:

    And another debate I’m glad I don’t need to participate in. Your critcism is pretty much spot on, should someone ask my opinion.

    Conjecture and conspiracy theories don’t really make good arguments.

  15. Templar says:

    This sends all kinds of problematic messages, especially when the imagery in the game already reinforces afore mentioned stereotypes of Africans as primitive and bloodthirsty.

    Right, because as everyone knows, this perception is totally unwarranted and unsupported by real life observations *cough*Rwandan genocide*cough*