At this rate, there won't be any games left for me to play

I have been feeling rather unhappy with Capcom for a while, but this takes the cake:

Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi tells Kotaku that calls of racial insensitivity haven’t affected the game’s design. Takeuchi tells the site that the team didn’t “set out” to make a racist or political statement and he feels there was a misunderstanding about the initial trailer.

Takeuchi says there are Arab and Caucasian targets for Chris Redfield’s bullets in RE5 and insists they were always going to be included in the game — despite the initial trailer showing a less ethnically diverse group of zombies. We’ll have to take a “wait and see” approach on whether Japanese developers will continue to fuel the fires of black/white racial tensions across the ocean.

I know Japan is pretty racially ignorant (from my experiences, but here’s a wikipedia entry on the matter), but Capcom is an international company, serving an international audience. The fact that it seems that their research only involved going to the location (without, you know, spending like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from) is bad enough. Takeuchi’s tactic of “it’s not racist because I didn’t mean it!” is infuriating, but expected. I am also not appeased by the inclusion of Arab and Caucasian zombies, because:

  1. An American killing an Arab. UH, HELLO? How is that not problematic given the current anti-Muslim (which, to the average anti-Muslim American translates to “Arab”) climate in America? And, I mean, with the Afghanistan and then Iraq wars, which made international news, it’s not like Takeuchi has an excuse not to know about those tensions.
  2. Adding a sprinkling of whities to get gunned down isn’t some magical panacea for racism. It doesn’t address the What These People Need Is a Honky problem, and it doesn’t change the way that the black people, even pre-infection, are portrayed as savages.

I have loved the Resident Evil series, even with all of its problems. I have done my best to play the games, even though I suck at survival horror (mostly because I spend most of the time thinking, “OH NOES TEH ZOMBIE IS GOING TO GET ME!!!111eleven”). I could tolerate stupid shit like Jill being sexualized and put in a dress for RE3, Ashley being completely useless in RE4, and the fact that they apparently thought there’s no difference between Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish. I didn’t even mind so much that all of the protagonists were dayglow white (after all, it isn’t like that’s unusual). The abominable trailer for RE5 wasn’t even enough to convince me to not buy the game.

But I can’t take it anymore. I feel like I have no other choice but to boycott Capcom because I simply cannot support what they’re doing.

Capcom/Takeuchi no longer have an excuse. They can’t claim ignorance, because they’ve been made aware of the issues and still chose to ignore it. They quite simply don’t care that their game is problematic from a racial angle. And I can’t support that. I can’t support people who willfully engage in racism even after the racism is pointed out to them by multiple people because they can’t fathom that, in their lack knowledge regarding racial tensions/issues, they could unintentionally create something racist.

I’m about to be twenty-six fucking years old. I’ve grown up. Is it so wrong for me to wish that the games I love would grow up with me?

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This entry was posted in Companies Behaving Badly, Japan, Privilege, Racism, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to At this rate, there won't be any games left for me to play

  1. Pingback: I’m Tired of Writing About Resident Evil 5 « Token Minorities

  2. DSimon says:

    Maybe it’s just excessive optimism, but I’m still withholding judgment until the game is actually released. It’s still possible (I hope) that they can manage to turn this thing around, that the final game won’t be as teeth-grindingly stupid as the trailers.

    Unlikely, but possible.

  3. tekanji says:

    DSimon: I understand where you’re coming from, but I just can’t muster up even that much faith in Capcom. I mean, even if RE5 somehow magically comes out as racially unproblematic, unless they acknowledge that they did show some pretty racist stuff in the trailers I’m just not interested at this point. Because if they don’t understand where their mistake was, then they’ll just repeat it the next opportunity they get.

  4. Sara no H. says:

    This is why I really only tend to buy a. party games and b. games starring animals like Okami. There are still problems, but they’re a lot easier to ignore when they’re not an integral part of the storyline.

  5. lemurcat says:

    “even though I suck at survival horror (mostly because I spend most of the time thinking, ‘OH NOES TEH ZOMBIE IS GOING TO GET ME!!!111eleven’)”

    I had that problem in Metroid Prime with the aliens. “Samus would not scream and run away,” my friends observed.

    But yeah, I watched the trailer on Feminist Gamers and it was disturbing in ways beyond the usual shooting people and being eaten by zombies.

  6. Happyfeet says:

    This seems very American-centric. Although you may have bad history about shooting at black mutants for most of the world it is no different than RE4 where we shoot at Spaniards. An international company without your history making a game for 80% of people who don’t have that history either doesn’t seem that odd. This reeks of “I’m American and my experience is the only one that matters” mentality.

  7. Alan says:

    My problem with this argument is the same one as when MTV Multiplayer ran the week of interviewing black people involved in games. It’s the short-sightedness.

    Is the trailer’s imagery is problematic. Undoubtedly. But it’s incredibly short-sighted, not to say missing the point, to look at that trailer and bring up AMERICAN race issues. It has nothing to do with the US, and by mentioning it you just make your argument weaker. The problem is deeper: the problem is taking Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia and making it a playground, of taking the hollow-eyed imagery of refugees and making them targets to blow away.

    They’re doing what all mainstream media does when it comes to Africa: they turn the suffering of these people into a spectacle, they remove the horror of the situation by having us stare at them like animals in a zoo, especially since Africa is so far away.

    The world does NOT revolve around the US, and no, Capcom should not ‘spend like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from’. They should instead look into the history of Africa, instead, which is much richer in atrocities.

  8. Alyx2.0 says:

    *sigh* I so wanted RE5.

    I absolutely adore RE4, it’s just an amazing game, but I just can’t feel anything but uncomfortable watching those trailers.

    I’m glad though that people actually spoke out against it.
    I honestly would’ve just ignored it’s problems (and resorted to the same stupid arguments that the vast majority of gamers use) and bought it otherwise.

    Ahh well… there’s always RE6?

  9. tekanji says:

    Alan: Where are you people coming from? Seriously. It seems likely that, given his e-mail domain and his IP address, Happyfeet is a sockpuppet of Degero, but your info and writing style seems sufficiently different for me to believe that you’re a separate person.

    And yet, I can’t believe that it’s a coincidence that in the span of a week I would get three commenters hawking the same argument. Especially since it’s an argument that hasn’t cropped up in any previous discussions that I’ve seen.

    I’m sick of catering to commenters who look very much like trolls, so this is my final word on the matter.

  10. tekanji says:

    Alyx2.0: I’m glad that people speaking out has made an impact on you, even if it had the unfortunate side effect of causing you to decide not to buy RE5 when it comes out (believe me, I understand). As for me, unless Capcom makes amends for what’s happened with RE5 (and I don’t think it will), there will be no RE6, or any other game Capcom puts out, for me in the future :(

  11. Pingback: Here Ya Go « The Essentia Sphere

  12. Sara no H. says:

    Hmm. I get that Alan’s comment is a bit combative, but honestly?

    The world does NOT revolve around the US, and no, Capcom should not ’spend like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from’. They should instead look into the history of Africa, instead, which is much richer in atrocities.

    I think he’s got a really good point here. I don’t read “shut up you’re being short-sighted” so much as “this argument could be strengthened so much by decentering American experience” – similar to, I suppose, the ways in which (white, middle-class) feminist analysis is enriched by decentering whiteness and middle-classness. Not that it’s completely illogical to address the concerns you have regarding black/white racial issues in the US, but because it’s also meaningful to analyse the game from a history-of-Africa perspective too.

    I’m not sure whether you’re qualified to do that – I’m certainly not – so (with your permission) I’d love to hear more from Alan about the point he’s brought up. It’s clear to me that there’s more to his statement than the kind of dismissive attitude you’ve noted in Happyfeet’s/Degero’s comments.

  13. tekanji says:

    Sara: The part that says “shut up you’re being short sighted” is where he says, “…no, Capcom should not ’spend like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from’. They should instead look into the history of Africa, instead, which is much richer in atrocities.” (emphasis added)

    He’s not simply suggesting “decentering American experience”, he’s saying that it’s wrong to address the concerns that in any way involve America. Not only is that a horribly divisive dichotomy that reeks of “the only valid analysis is my analysis”, but it’s also in direct violation of the dismissal clause of the discussion rules. Not to mention that his combative tone violates the rule that clearly states “disagree, but be polite”.

    You’re right that there’s more to his statement than Happyfeet’s/Degero’s comment, and if they hadn’t posted before him I probably would have taken the time to write a real post about US-centricism, fully equipped with quotes and links to discussions that address the other problems with the two trailers. But, given that he did come in riding the coattails of some obnoxious troll comments, I stand by my decision to lump him in with them. He is more than welcome to prove me wrong, and even to engage on a discussion in this matter providing he doesn’t continue to violate the discussion rules. But, I suspect he — like Happyfeet/Degero — was nothing but a drive-by and only wanted to “show me up” rather than start an actual productive discussion on the matter.

    As for those who want that conversation, there is a bit of one going on in the On RE5 and claims of “American-centricism” post that I made.

  14. Pingback: Jade Reporting » 23 August

  15. Mer says:

    This also seems to be pretty American centric. But by now I generally think of how the Americans view race is pretty different to the rest of the world and it is hard to view race issues from the perspective of another culture.

    I would have also enjoyed a story more based on Africans culture. The colour/race issue there does differ a lot from country to country , but there is a lot of interesting history, cultural issues and myths to draw on.

    An African lead would be nice (but unlikely) but it would have been very cool to have the characters visit some famous African city’s (looking like they do today, rather than 50 years ago) and have some famous and recognizable African monsters rather than back to generic zombies.

    Some topics however are way to touchy to draw on. Even if you follow the south African ideal that talking about what happened helps, I still could see many people being disturbed by large numbers of dead, if they are survivors of genocide .

  16. Mer says:

    >it’s wrong to address the concerns that in any way involve America

    I do not agree with this, but it is a popular attitude from those who are focused on America as Imperialistic.

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