Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Capcom - Racists or just Idiots?

A hypothetical conversation between two Capcom executives prior to the release of Resident Evil 5:

Jim: Hey, listen...I'm hearing rumors that game sites are previewing our upcoming release and calling it "racist". I haven't really been following the project that carefully, so is this something we should be worried about?
Slappy: Not at all. I put together some screenshots for you to look at. As you can see, there's nothing racist going on here.

Jim: Uh, this looks like a white hero locked in mortal combat with waves and waves of black people. That doesn't seem strange to you?
Slappy: Well, the game is set in Africa.
Jim: Oh I get it, so a viral outbreak - because ALL of our games are about a viral outbreak - happens in Africa and it affects the local populace. Okay, that makes perfect sense. We'll just get some PR guys talking to the media, they'll explain the setting and how it works within the Resident Evil conventions, and most people should understand that we aren't intending racism but merely verisimilitude.
Slappy: I don't know what "verisimilitude" means, but don't worry about the PR guys. We've already got it covered.
Jim: I'm not sure I like the sound of that...what do you mean covered?
Slappy: We made alterations to the game in response to the criticism. That should appease our critics.
Jim: I definitely don't like the sound of that. What kind of alterations?!
Slappy: Well, we made some of the mutated zombie villagers light skinned. See?

Jim: Wow, that's profoundly retarded. You do realize that it doesn't look like you mixed in some white zombies (which wouldn't make sense anyway), but that some Albino subgroup of the African populace was also infected? Because they have African features and are wearing local clothing...heck, it sort of looks like you spray-painted some of them white.
Slappy: Yeah, we pretty much just used the computers to recolor them and called it a day.
Jim: I don't think that fixes anything. Also, now that I read the design documents I'm seeing some other problems. It says here that the hero goes to a native village full of mud-and-stick huts? And the locals, dressed in rags and decorated with bones, feathers, and war paint, attack him with spears??? Is that right?
Slappy: Yeah, it's great. They make these yelping, growling sounds too. Spooky stuff. Well, not spooky like scary, but it disturbs the senses.
Jim: I'm definitely disturbed. You don't think that sounds a little over the top? I mean, spear chucking black natives...we're getting into some pretty blatant stereotyping here. And is this even necessary? How would natives living in isolation from the urban areas come in contact with the virus?
Slappy: Oh, they're being exploited by a pharmaceutical company run by white Europeans.
Jim: Hmm...is this some kind of commentary on the economic and industrial relationships between the Western world and underdeveloped nations? Sort of a "Constant Gardener" thing?
Slappy: Nah, they're just dicks. It establishes who the bad guys are. We couldn't think of a more subtle way to do it.
Jim: I'm getting a headache here...
Slappy: But don't worry, because I haven't shown you our trump card yet. The addition that makes it so nobody can accuse the game of being racist.
Jim: I'm afraid to ask.
Slappy: Meet the hero's partner, Sheva:

Jim: Yeah?
Slappy: Don't you see? SHE'S BLACK. So it's not a white person killing a bunch of black people. It's a white person AND a black person killing a bunch of black people. Bam - not racist.
Jim: Uh wow...you've got this all figured out. Why was I worried? I'm just going to check Monster.com for openings in the video game field.
Slappy: Before you go, check out the best part. Once you beat the game and find all the collectibles, you can unlock her super-sexy "alternate" costume.
Jim: Oh Lord, this is going to be bad.
Slappy: It's great! Check it out:

Jim: Ah, so you've decided to kill the twin birds of racism AND sexism with one stone. Nice. I think I'll just put our lawyers on retainer now and avoid the rush.

Thus concludes our scene. For the record, I don't think setting a game in Africa and then having some of the baddies be Africans is racist. But Capcom handled this entire situation with the deft grace of a battering ram to the skull. It's unfortunate, because gaming companies will likely take the wrong lesson from this: namely that they should go back to putting only white people in games. Showing a little cultural variety is fine, heck it's encouraged, but applying a healthy dose of common sense at the same time would really help!

1 comment:

  1. oh holy fuck! the alternate costume! are those feathers???? is that war paint??? does one not need armor when fighting the viral undead??? this is just...i mean, how can...

    there. are. no. words!