Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dept. of It's in the Air or Something

Synchronicity abounds. Or maybe he reads this blog. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about a scene in Resident Evil 5:

First, he quotes an article in Eurogamer:

One of the first things you see in the game, seconds after taking control of Chris Redfield, is a gang of African men brutally beating something in a sack. Animal or human, it's never revealed, but these are not infected Majini. There are no red bloodshot eyes. These are ordinary Africans, who stop and stare at you menacingly as you approach. Since the Majini are not undead corpses, and are capable of driving vehicles, handling weapons and even using guns, it makes the line between the infected monsters and African civilians uncomfortably vague. Where Africans are concerned, the game seems to be suggesting, bloodthirsty savagery just comes with the territory.

Then, he takes on the attitude, "It's just a game".

But if we're going to allow video games to enter into the world of adults, if we don't want to looked upon as boys in the bodies of men, then we have to be serious. Either this shit is real, or it ain't. You can't ask people to at once respect the creativity of gaming, and then tell them they can't critique it.

I think this is exactly what Psychochild was talking about when he asked game developers to respect themselves and their audience as artists.



Anonymous Psychochild said...

This is indeed what I was talking about with legitimacy. Of course, it's really hard to discuss this in depth without knowing the source material being referenced.

This could be an emotional Rorschach test. The scene in a game shows a bunch of black people beating a bloody sack, do you:

1. think they're killing an innocent?
2. think they could be killing a threat?
3. withhold judgment?

Part of the problem with that scene is that horror movies and (especially) horror games thrive off of ambiguity. Not knowing if that body ahead is a real corpse or a motionless zombie is what makes the Resident Evil games so suspenseful. But, you take that ambiguity and apply it to a different area and suddenly you're stomping on culturally sensitive areas.

Of course, this could also be a calculated PR stunt by Capcom. Put a bunch of questionably racist stuff in the game, let the mainstream press get in a tizzy about it, and get free coverage for your next big game. If this is the case, then it definitely goes against the struggle for legitimacy for games. Sadly, it's not easy to rule this out as a possibility, given the depths that game-related PR and marketing has gone to before.

On the other hand, I'm a bit worried that all this discussion might be happening just because it's a game. There might be perfectly acceptable explanations for the apparently racist scenes; as people point out, the white woman being dragged to her presumed death by the black zombies is actually a character from an earlier game. Even though the scene of the "black brutes dragging away the helpless white woman" is filled to the brim with racial issues, particularly in the U.S. It is a known technique to use a provocative image like that to challenge people's assumptions; I think it can be done well as long as it's appropriate to the story.

The core problem is that it comes down to intent, and it's really hard to know what the intention of an artist is in most cases. Wanting to believe that people aren't that insensitive, I'm inclined to believe that the purpose of the game isn't to encourage a racially-divisive world view, but to present a truly horrific game that might touch on some deep-rooted issues. But, people will read their own issues into it, and I can understand why some would think that there can only be racist motivations at the core.

5:08 PM  

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