Resident Evil 5: Is It Racist to Kill Black Zombies?

So, Capcom is developing the fifth Resident Evil videogame in the series. The Resident Evil series is about various misdeeds of corporations and cults that lead to zombies. In the fifth installment, it appears that there’s an outbreak in Africa, and the lead character who you play as has to kill African zombies in Africa. This worries a woman named Kym Platt, who writes a blog that focuses on African Women’s issues. She writes:

The new Resident Evil video game depicts a white man in what appears to be Africa killing Black people. The Black people are supposed to be zombies and the white man’s job is to destroy them and save humanity. “I have a job to do and I’m gonna see it through.”

This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.

Kim’s fears are understandable given the elements at play, but, as is the case with so many bloggers, she picks up a shred of information, draws a broad conclusion, and leaves with a shrug. She admits to not understanding video games in a later piece, and laments the fact that a bunch of filthy-mouthed, ignorant commenters call her racist names and lambaste her.

Again, Platt is responding in an understandable manner; the comments are disgusting and are likely the work of the juveniles who also ruin online multi-player gaming for those of us with the bearing of mature people with their foul, racist mouths. But again, Platt takes a shred of information (she focuses on a segment of the responses) and the makes a broad conclusion: “I confess I don’t know much about video games, gamers, etc. I don’t play video games, but I occasionally play solitaire on my gf’s PC. However, given the response from gamers… I think we should all be very afraid. Many of these folks seem like the type who would try to reenact scenes from Resident Evil 5. Can you say Columbine?”

I strongly question Platt’s handling of this entire situation. She is steering everything to her advantage without actually engaging in the debate she created. She sits atop a pile of self-righteousness that I have yet to see her defend in any cogent manner with anything other than vague suggestions and misunderstandings. But what’s worse is that I knew the entire scenario before it even got under way: blogger makes inflammatory and debatable assertion that implies people are racist, enthusiast press pick up the story, people with legitimate qualms and counterpoints are drowned out by the immature, ignorant, foul-mouthed jackals of the internet, blogger raises banner and asserts that this is not only proof of their assertion, but proof that they have discovered an even more troubling ‘fact’. I’m sorry, but provoking racist comments on the web is neither novel nor indicative of anything other than the unfortunate existence of racism and foul-mouths who hide behind anonymity and use epithets instead of ideas. Resident Evil 5 is hardly indicative of either. Calling attention to it in this way simply damages the efforts to identify the sorts of racial prejudice that are harming human relations all over the world.

All reasonable voices are yet again drowned out by the din and drone of ill-conceived actions. I am a gamer. I disagree with the assertion that the game is racist, particularly because there have been more than four prior releases of this series, featuring Caucasian, Latinos, and Asians. I am offended at the assertion that videogames have anything to do with Columbine beyond coincidence. Care to respond, Ms Platt?

Added: The original article in the Village Voice that spurred Platt’s post can be found here. I also question Bonnie Ruberg’s assertions about the game. She raises some interesting points, but ultimately I think it is yet another misguided attempt to address racism by conjuring it up at the point where black and white meet, rather than where black and white are truly in conflict.

Added: Platt was interviewed on Gamer Girls’ podcast, and it creates a nice space for actual discussion between two informed parties. Platt addresses the issue by clearing up her perspective: commenting on the images, not the story. One of the hosts also brings her perspective in as a friend of non-gamers who also reacted when they saw the trailer. As one might expect, it was all a matter of perspective and muddled communications.