Houston Chronicle Claims Video Game Racism Now ‘The Norm’
I was thoroughly annoyed when I saw the title of this blog post over at the Houston Chronicle called “Racism in video games: The new norm?” Game Hack blogger Willie Jefferson goes on to detail just why he thinks this is the case, and his reasoning is misguided at best and idiotic at worst. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion I suppose, but I am entitled to call you a moron if need be.
Here are the highlights:
“One of the games that comes to mind is “Left 4 Dead 2.” Though the game isn’t out yet, it’s already causing an uproar. Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies – with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Setting the game in a city that was scene of dead, bloated bodies floating by so soon afterward was a bad call, IMHO. The city has had enough to deal with — Valve, you should have spared them, even if it’s just a video game.
Another game, “Resident Evil 5,” puts gamers into the heart of Africa, blasting zombies. I bet you’ll never guess what color they are.
The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft’s “Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.” The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer, working to save his brother, Thomas, who’s pinned down by Union soldiers. I nearly dropped the controller. I have so much respect for President Lincoln — he wanted to preserve the Union and ended up freeing the slaves — and have just as much respect for the Union Army.”
So we’ve got three separate games here, each with their own arguments, yet he decides to group them all into one category: Racist.
First, Left 4 Dead 2, set in New Orleans. To me, the issue here has nothing to do with racism, and that’s more a debate about the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a whole. I’m firmly of the stance that natural disasters aren’t racist, and our government wasn’t purposefully holding back aid because it was mostly black people who were affected (despite what Kanye West believes), and instead they failed to act quickly because they were ill prepared and incompetent.
So to say that L4D2 is racist because it’s set in New Orleans and features some black zombies is inherently stupid. There is a different question about whether or not the site of a national disaster should be used as the setting for such a game. I can see the arguments both ways (I personally think in this case it’s alright) but the debate should have nothing to do with race and racism.
The next game he touches on for half a second is Resident Evil 5, which garnered a ton of controversy for having a white man shooting black zombies in Africa. I was so sick of this argument I thought I’d snap if I heard it again. And guess what, I heard it again.
This thought process is absolutely moronic. The producers of Resident Evil 5 should be applauded for taking the game to a country that most developers have been scared to go to because they were afraid of overreaction like this. Setting the game in Africa rather than some generic industrial town in America is a great creative departure, and the amount of heat Capcom took for it is absurd.
Guess what happens when the T-virus splashes down in Africa? AFRICANS get infected. And as it so happens, most Africans are black. Chris Redfield has always been white, they’re not going to change his color just so it makes it more PC to shoot black zombies (though they did give him a black partner for that). Would it be racist for a Chinese solider to go to Canada and shoot Eskimo zombies? How about an Indian mercenary heading to Paraguay to kill Latino zombies? The key word here is ZOMBIES. The color of the zombie is not a metaphor for Capcom’s deep seeded racism, it’s merely a reflection of where the game is taking place.
Lastly, Will addresses Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, where in one mission players take on the role of a Confederate solider trying to save his brother from some Union officers. Where were his complaints when players got auto assigned to the Nazi or Terrorist squads in Call of Duty? But once again, I don’t believe this complaint about Juarez has to do with race, as I’m sure the game doesn’t involve owning slaves or assassinating Lincoln. A soldier trying to save his brother seems like a perfectly adequate mission objective, and honestly I wouldn’t have a problem playing the same mission in Call of Duty as a Nazi soldier trying to save his brother.
To me, it’s dumb to rubber stamp every single enemy soldier in every war the US has fought as pure, unadulterated evil. This is of course a larger philosophical question outside of the realm of video games, but I’m reminded of watching a movie like Letters from Iwo Jima, in which Japanese soldiers are firmly determined to kill any and all Americans, but you see that they’re just soldiers following orders, and they have wives and children as well. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of taste to have a video game where a Confederate soldier must kill Union officers to save his brother. You’re not killing them in order to beat a slave at the end of the level, you’re fighting to save your brother. Race has nothing to do with that.
So that’s my bristling response to Will Jefferson’s tear-stained post about how racism in games is now the “norm.” Citing three examples of games, where only two of them actually feature black people, is hardly the “norm” I’d say, and I’d suggest Will refrain from such sensationalistic titles in the future. Idiot.
[via Game Hacks]