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Friday, March 13, 2009

"Resident Evil" goes "Racially Evil"

Resident Evil has been a popular video game franchise since 1996, selling over 12 million untis and producing nearly half a million dollars in sales. Now Resident Evil 5, released today, has raised some controversy among race-sensitive folks, although not apparently among most gamers. What's the problem? The game features the player as a protagonist white male shooting and machete hacking shirtless, ragged, red-eyed African zombies. Yeah, I'd say that might be a problem. THe criticsm started in 2007 when trailer previews were first released, but apparently few changes were made by the mostly Asian and white game programmers. ReporterMike Smith puts it well in this excerpt from

"Is it racist? Taken purely in isolation, the sight of a white male gunning down hordes of semi-mindless African opponents has provoked many reactions. But although only a few reviews have sneaked out so far, they largely brush off the racism allegations: it's currently scoring 87% at review aggregation site Even the BBFC, the group responsible for issuing age certifications in Britain, publicly declared the race controversy a non-issue.

Other commentators have been less charitable. One preview on slammed the game as playing "so blatantly into the old cliches of the dangerous dark continent and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s".

But most video game critics seem to have ignored the race controversy. "For my money, fun is fun, and RE5 has near infinite ammo in that department," said IGN in this review, which goes on to award it a top score. In fact, it's turning in top scores almost across the board.

Some critics have even pointed (rather accurately, I would judge)to the outbreak of a zombie-like, walking-dead-like infection in poor rural Africa to the AIDS epidemic raging through that continent.

One more note: the protogonist's sidekick is a resident of the area, but is female, lightskinned, straight-haired, and much of the focus is on her booty, not her beauty.

Finally, I looked for a facebook protest group to join. A keyword search of "resident evil racist" brought up a group called "Resident Evil is NOT Racist!" with 617 members and many other smaller groups defending the game. The first one I found protesting it, "Resident Evil 5 is the most racist game ever," is a closed group, apparently because an open group was or would have been overrun with militant defenders of the game, and the closed group has only 9 members. I ended up joining a group called "CAPCOMd is Racist" at

CAPCOM is the game's publisher.

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