Thursday, August 2, 2007

Random Encounters: Resident Evil 5 (360/PS3)


A current debate has surged since the release of the Resident Evil 5
trailer, post E3 2007. When I saw it, I knew the setting of the game and the ethnicity therein was going to be a problem. Most people did. Now, since I've developed a craving for more comments on the posts published, I'd like to make a serious attempt at a discussion. Retro gaming and social commentary. Can't fail, right?

It's perhaps the most predictable debate in video game history then, in a time when the UK bans Manhunt 2
. A few newspapers has cared to address it, for example The Village Voice, and an African blog, which found it very offensive. The most troubling aspect of the game seems to be the setting, known, even to this day and through history, as the "dark continent". The other problem being that the protagonist is a white man who arrives at a ravaged continent to cure it of its plague, liberate its people, fight the virus and not getting infected himself. The AIDS connection is obvious in this case, making the decision to set it upon African soil a politically charged one. Changing the main character could perhaps smooth things over, and so would relocating the setting.

To get an outside opinion, I showed the trailer to a friend who isn't interested in video games at all. She reacted strongly to its graphic nature. Not only is it too much like current events and in poor taste politically, she argued, but the realistic graphics are also a huge problem. And so we stumble dangerously close to the old debate of photo-realism...
With some luck, I hope Capcom try to emphasise the exploitation and problems of the African continent, merging it with the plot, and, as the trailer doesn't reveal any plot structures, that it merely looks bad right now because so little information about the game has been released.

Watch the trailer.
Is shooting life-like African villagers taking it a step too far? Could Capcom get away with relocating the setting to (for example) Haiti, and why? Is this even worth arguing about? Share your thoughts.

9 comments:

gnome said...

To be honest I hadn't watched the trailer before and it really does feel racist. Though not worse than say America's Army...

On the other hand, RE5 peasants aren't treated any worse than the RE4 ones and it is pretty clear they are zombies...

Still, nothing could ever justify censorship...

David said...

Yeah, the RE4 peasants had a tough time too, but (real-life) Spaniards were never oppressed (other than by their own regime) or exploited by colonial powers, so I don't think it was as offensive to them as it is this time around. Anyway, it's a tough call. I understand the reaction people get when they see the trailer, and the problem is that most gamers only seem to state the fact that "it's just a game". I don't know if that's enough. I don't think you can brush it off like that. If a game portrays scenes that are very close to modern events or tragedies, should we be able to play them without remorse or consideration?

Oh, and I'm not posting anything new here until a few more comments appear...

dnkn said...

Black, hispanic, asian, caucasian, it doesn't matter. They're all meat to the grinder.

gnome said...

David: You're right "it's just a game" has nothing to do with it and a Spaniard is not the same as -say- a Nigerian. Still, I wouldn't even censor a fascist... Beat him up perhaps, censor never...

Anonymous said...

I am a zombie and I'm truly offended by all the RE games and that damn Dead Rising one too.
Braiiins.

David said...

Haha, well, I guess that's about it for this discussion... Censorship bad, consideration good.

gnome said...

:)

Ross said...

I always heard that this WAS set in Haiti...

exitplanetdust said...

Could not it be that it's simply a new RE with a new location? The game mechanism is always the same, after all... Public opinion always looks for racism allusions, or other potentially offensive stuff... so boring...