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Marketing Gone Bad?
March 11, 2009 7:19 AM   Subscribe

The videogames industry's not known for its subtlety when promoting its wares. Controversy has often been a successful part of their marketing campaigns. But is this a step too far? They'll have to go some way to cause more chaos than these guys
posted by muggsy1079 (86 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just about to compare it to Boston's propensity for pants-shitting before I saw the last link. Honestly I think Resident Evil 5, thanks to the racial content of the game, is going to have much, much worse publicity problems than hiding fake body parts in Trafalgar Square could produce.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:28 AM on March 11, 2009


This stuff ends when someone gets shot. Which, given the increasingly overreacting paranoia among both law enforcement and the public, shouldn't be long now.
posted by rokusan at 7:29 AM on March 11, 2009


Body parts worried you? The fake soldiers with fake machine guns on the motorway didn't do it for you, Pontiff?
posted by rokusan at 7:29 AM on March 11, 2009


Why are all the links run through google.co.uk redirects?
posted by dunkadunc at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2009


The Mercenaries guys did that in LA too. A friend of mine who worked on the game got some really great shots of the people dressed up as the game characters and the lines of traffic.
posted by mkb at 7:45 AM on March 11, 2009


first link is NSFW if you consider body paint on boobs NSFW.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:48 AM on March 11, 2009


Honestly I think Resident Evil 5, thanks to the racial content of the game, is going to have much, much worse publicity problems than hiding fake body parts in Trafalgar Square could produce.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:28 AM on March 11 [+] [!]


What racial content? It's a zombie game about an infection in the general populace. The last one was in Spain and you shot Spaniards. The new one is in Africa so you shoot Africans. If it was in Tibet you would shoot Tibetans.

Jesus, I'm sick of hearing about how RE5 is somehow 'racist'.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:53 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


This FPP brings an older Hitman ad to mind as well.
posted by mkb at 7:54 AM on March 11, 2009


This is an affront to the memories of actual zombie victims.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:55 AM on March 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Local MP for Hornsey and Wood Green,Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, said: "Trying to recreate Venezuelan-style fuel riots on the streets of London is completely irresponsible and downright dangerous."

I refuse to believe this isn't Jennifer Saunder's new character or something.
posted by The Whelk at 7:55 AM on March 11, 2009




For the record I think it probably is racist or at least very insensitive. But I haven't played it.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:02 AM on March 11, 2009


All these years later, John Romero has yet to make me his bitch. I'm starting to think that it's slipped his mind, frankly.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:06 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Didn't we already have a huge thread about how Resident Evil 5 is racist?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:08 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're in marketing, kill yourself. And then spread your body parts throughout London.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:09 AM on March 11, 2009


What racial content? It's a zombie game about an infection in the general populace. The last one was in Spain and you shot Spaniards. The new one is in Africa so you shoot Africans. If it was in Tibet you would shoot Tibetans.

Jesus, I'm sick of hearing about how RE5 is somehow 'racist'.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:53 AM on March 11 [+] [!]


It is one of those out of the box racist things. It is a white cop shooting at savage black people. That alone makes it sound completely racist. However it is completely un-intention if you ask me.

On another note.... How many times in all of the GTAs did a black man shoot a white cop?

Lastly these are fake body parts right? ?!?!?1 That is disrespectful and disgusting if they are using real parts!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:10 AM on March 11, 2009


So if the newspapers really think these stunts are horrible and disgusting, why are they calling more attention to them?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2009


The last one was in Spain and you shot Spaniards. The new one is in Africa so you shoot Africans.

If we're allowed to include the game's past history as context, then why aren't we allowed to include the world's past history too? In that context, white men mowing down blacks in Africa is very, very racist.
posted by DU at 8:13 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Penny Arcade: Racist | Not Racist
posted by ahughey at 8:16 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the comments on the Guardian article: "so there's going to be a crowd of people waving dismembered body parts about while shouting incomprehensibly and all rather close to the houses of parliament - that sounds grand"

They should sell tickets.
posted by zarq at 8:22 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The preceding RE5 thread is still open, guys.
posted by mkb at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2009


How many times in all of the GTAs did a black man shoot a white cop?

Ever play GTA: San Andreas?
posted by SweetJesus at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2009


Here's a few links about the racism thing, based on people/entities that have actually played the game rather than interpreted the trailers.

'It's silly to call it racist', says leading anthropologist.

BBFC Rubbishes Resident Evil Racism Claims

As for the marketing campaign. Here is what I said about the viral advertising campaign for 28 Weeks Later (a bunch of biohazard signs dotted around London) and I feel it still stands:

This is London. Not Boston. I have never met people more grounded in reality and less likely to panic for no reason. You know what most people did during the 7/7 bombings? They went to the pub because they couldn't get to work. The only people that are going to panic about some willy nilly biohazard signs are tourists.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that in one breath, that expert says the game is anti-colonialist, because there are white guys from pharmaceutical companies pulling the strings. Then in the next breath he says this: "It's the fact that what they're using to make you feel under threat is largely a series of black faces and then motifs of African masks and the like. It is about using Africa as threat, but they've got to use somewhere as threat." Wow, I'm guessing he hasn't read Orientalism...
posted by naju at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2009




No reference to the ShadowMan 2 stunt? Acclaim Entertainment was seeking to advertise the game on gravestones, and the company was often quoted mentioning that the offer might "particularly interest poorer families".

The worst part about gravestone adverts is that the signs would remain long after we've forgotten about the game. Body parts strewn in a public square is awkward/bad, but doesn't last more than the day (plus news coverage for the next week).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:40 AM on March 11, 2009


Controversy Metafilter has often been a successful part of their marketing campaigns.
posted by swift at 8:52 AM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


If I were a serial killer with large drums full of remains of my victims stored in my basement, I could have a lot of fun with this promotion. Imagine how quickly excitement would turn to horror when a gleeful Resident Evil fan presents a decomposing arm to a marketing supervisor only to be told "Um, that's not one of ours." This scene would repeat several times because I would have a lot of limbs that needed disposing, so the depraved laughter would just keep on coming.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2009 [18 favorites]


Well, Servo5678, when life gives you limbs, make limbonade!
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:14 AM on March 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


If we're allowed to include the game's past history as context, then why aren't we allowed to include the world's past history too?

Everyone got that? Because of past events, it's now immoral for any media anywhere to show a black man being killed by a white man, unless it's a pre-approved, politically correct historical piece where the white man is shown to be appropriately evil, as all white men everywhere are known to be. Write that shit down!

So, now, let's all line up for the ceremonial book-and-DVD burning...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:17 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously RE5 isn't racist in the sense that Klansmen are. But racism != KKK.

Part of the problem is that we've been so successful in turning overt racism into one of the few completely unacceptable things in our society (and that's a good thing, I argue), that its made discussion of race, and racism, more difficult. By saying "RE5 is racist" there's the implication that the speaker thinks the dev team is sitting around in hoods and burning crosses, when that isn't really what is meant.

But the image of the Bold (White) Action Hero shooting all the Evil Black Savages is an image that is inherently racially charged. Perhaps in a few more decades it won't be a problem, it'd be nice to live in a world where there really aren't any racial tensions and that images like that don't get mucky. but right now there are, and the image is mucky.

I really doubt the dev team, mostly Japanese remember, specifically set out to create a game that has racial problems. But that doesn't mean that the problems don't exist.

To an extent we're running up against Don Imus' problem. I really do think that Imus was genuinely shocked to find that people considered his comments to be racist. Like a great many people he's convinced that racist == KKK, and I'm sure that he's opposed to the KKK. But, racism is more than the Klan. Its also in the perpetuation of certain imagery, certain attitudes.

No on complained about savage hordes of Spaniards, because Spaniards mostly look like other Europeans. And there isn't a hundreds of year old history of considering Europeans to be savages. The zombie trope relies on the idea of masses of humanity turned into unthinking, savage, brutes. Africa, and African descended people, have been considered unthinking, savage, brutes, for hundreds of years, and are still considered such by many people. Even people who are not racist, people who dislike racism and oppose racism, often have a culturally ingrained tendency to think of African descended people that way. They may not like it, but it exists despite the best efforts of many people to excise it from themselves.

Porn, in many ways, is an excellent representation of America's Id. Most porn involving a white female actor and a black male actor will include either overt racism [1], or less overt terminology. The idea of the black male actor defiling the white female actor is often a feature of such porn, and often alluded to in the titles.

The point is that racism, in the non-KKK sense, is quite common, and manifestly does have a tenacious hold in many people's minds. Even among people who are themselves anti-racist racist imagery can hold power and have emotional connection. We can't merely look at RE5, or other things, from the standpoint of "does it look like the Klan?", but must evaluate it in the environment of subdued, non-KKK, racism that is pervasive in America and Europe. And, I might add, Japan.

While its accurate to describe the problem in Japan as one of ethnocentrism, rather than racism, there is a racist element. All foreigners are, of course, less than Japanese but there are degrees of being lesser. And blacks are right at the bottom of the hierarchy with which many Japanese evaluate non-Japanese. And, more important, the racial imagery (savage blacks, heroic whites) is very much a feature of the Japanese cultural landscape.

Again, we aren't looking at a Japanese version of the Klan, but rather a more subtle, more insidious, form of racism. One which does not call for lynchings, but merely presents covert imagery of blacks as less than people.

[1] Often expressed through the medium of a non-American third party. Lately there's been a rash of porn involving women with German accents referring to a horde of black men as niggers, before being gigglingly "corrected" by their female costars. Its an interesting way to work in the racist terminology while denying it. The "foreigner" is assumed not to know better, the Americans get to make a show of not being racist, while the racism is permitted to be extant for those who get off on it.
posted by sotonohito at 9:20 AM on March 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


Also, that PA cartoon is completely specious. (PA is funny but they have a history of being typically oblivious white, male computer nerds.) Is depicting an alien with big white lips eating a watermelon racist? What about a black dude? I mean, what they are basically saying is "it's possible to substitute the race-based element to make this image non-racist, therefore the image is non-racist". Makes no sense at all.
posted by DU at 9:21 AM on March 11, 2009


What racial content? It's a zombie game about an infection in the general populace. The last one was in Spain and you shot Spaniards. The new one is in Africa so you shoot Africans. If it was in Tibet you would shoot Tibetans

Spain=Country
Tibet=Country
Africa = Continent

Maybe there would have been less of a backlash if a specific country was specified - Uganda, South Africa, Somalia, Sudan?

Or maybe the plot of the story could be that the members of the Lord's Resistance Army or Janjaweed are actually zombies and you need to kill them all - I wonder if that would create some awareness to the real-life issues that exist there or would it have the opposite effect...
posted by bitteroldman at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


immoral for any media anywhere to show a black man being killed by a white man

Is that what RE5 shows? A single black man being killed by a single white man? Or did you just construct a straw man? No, it's probably the first thing.
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2009


By saying "RE5 is racist" there's the implication that the speaker thinks the dev team is sitting around in hoods and burning crosses, when that isn't really what is meant.

But what is meant by the speaker is that, at best, the developers are insensitive clods that need re-education and sensitivity training.

Come down out of the ivory tower, mmm-kay?

We'd all be far better off in a world with a few less insensitive clods, true. But better still would be a world with far fewer clods prone to tossing out half-assed assertions about racism.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2009


Come down out of the ivory tower, mmm-kay?

Yeah, down here into the REAL WORLD sometimes we NEED to display racist images! Where the rubber meets the road, sometimes you HAVE TO show a black man hanging from a noose in a tree. It's just the way the world works. GitRDuntm!
posted by DU at 9:34 AM on March 11, 2009


Where the rubber meets the road, sometimes you HAVE TO show a black man hanging from a noose in a tree.

So, what were you saying about straw men back up earlier in the thread? ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What else does the "ivory tower" comment mean other than "in the real world, sometimes you have to/can be racist"?
posted by DU at 9:46 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, what they are basically saying is "it's possible to substitute the race-based element to make this image non-racist, therefore the image is non-racist". Makes no sense at all.

That's not what I got. I read "pick one" as an attempt to force a binary judgment of "racist" or "not racist" on a depicted confrontation of members of two nationalities. Because "pick one" admits no shades of gray, no subtlety, it is necessary to go to absurd lengths and substitute in non-humans to avoid the interpretation of "racist."
posted by kid ichorous at 9:50 AM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem is that we've been so successful in turning overt racism into one of the few completely unacceptable things in our society (and that's a good thing, I argue), that its made discussion of race, and racism, more difficult. By saying "RE5 is racist" there's the implication that the speaker thinks the dev team is sitting around in hoods and burning crosses, when that isn't really what is meant.

...

While its accurate to describe the problem in Japan as one of ethnocentrism, rather than racism, there is a racist element. All foreigners are, of course, less than Japanese but there are degrees of being lesser. And blacks are right at the bottom of the hierarchy with which many Japanese evaluate non-Japanese. And, more important, the racial imagery (savage blacks, heroic whites) is very much a feature of the Japanese cultural landscape.

Again, we aren't looking at a Japanese version of the Klan, but rather a more subtle, more insidious, form of racism. One which does not call for lynchings, but merely presents covert imagery of blacks as less than people.

posted by sotonohito at 12:20 PM on March 11 [+] [!]


I don't agree with the claims of racism in this game, but your analysis is very sharp.

An argument could be made that Metal Gear Solid 4 was very subtly racist with its inclusion of Drebin's pet monkey that acted exactly like its owner. Why a monkey? Why did Drebin need a pet at all; it contributed nothing to the story besides comic relief at the expense of stereotypes.

To make an argument of racism in RE5 is stretching it though. This isn't Pokemon: Amistad Edition; the point is not to beat the locals into submission and enslave them. I played the demo and didn't see anything as insidious as MGS4's subtle racism beyond the fact that it's "OMG white guy and mixed girl killing black people."
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:52 AM on March 11, 2009


Oh, man - I was wondering how long it would be before the hackneyed Bill Hicks horse got dragged out here. I'll agree that marketing/advertising is a vacuous, souless business, but please make your own case for a thing like that. Parroting what some dead 'comedian' had to say about it is pretty legless as an argument and doesn't hold much water as an opinion either ('cause it's not one).

That said; !zOMG, RaCIsm!!!!!eleven!!!
posted by Pecinpah at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2009


Can you be racist towards zombies?
posted by Elmore at 10:32 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


still not as bad as this marketing promo
posted by ericbop at 10:45 AM on March 11, 2009


While we're posting video game marketing that offends/offended people, here's the best game console commercial ever, and most people never got to see it.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


What else does the "ivory tower" comment mean other than "in the real world, sometimes you have to/can be racist"?

ivory tower
noun
(idiom) A sheltered, overly-academic existence or perspective, implying a disconnection or lack of awareness of reality or practical considerations.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2009


Right and my question is: What "reality" or "practical considerations" requires or allows developers to be racist?
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on March 11, 2009



If we're allowed to include the game's past history as context, then why aren't we allowed to include the world's past history too? In that context, white men mowing down blacks in Africa is very, very racist.


Wait, so anytime there is a depiction of a white person shooting people who have dark skin somewhere south of Europe it is racist? Ignoring of course the context in which that depiction takes place...
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2009


ivory tower
noun
(idiom) A sheltered, overly-academic existence or perspective, implying a disconnection or lack of awareness of reality or practical considerations.


I'm pretty sure most people in the real world would find a game where a white dude kills "savage" black people for points to be problematic. I think you may wish to recalibrate your realityometer.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought those limbs tasted a bit rubbery. Crafty little buggers, aren't they?
posted by doctorschlock at 11:05 AM on March 11, 2009


Wait, so anytime there is a depiction of a white person shooting people who have dark skin somewhere south of Europe it is racist?

If you are planning to make such a depiction, I would definitely strongly advise you to think about possible racist overtones.
posted by DU at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2009


Can't you just go into Options and change the skin color of the zombies. Problem solved.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:23 AM on March 11, 2009


No offense, kittens for breakfast, but when was the last time you played a video game? People don't kill in video games for points, they do so to progress in the story. RE5 makes it pretty clear that these are not average citizens of Africa, they are murder-zombies - just like the American murder-zombies of Raccoon City in RE1-3, the rural city in Spain from RE4, etc. etc. The plot of RE5 concerns the fictional country of "Kijuju", it is NOT condoning all Africans see the business end of a shotgun.

At any rate, this is all pretty far off-topic. Does anybody remember when Acclaim wanted to get parents to name their child Turok?
posted by bookwo3107 at 11:25 AM on March 11, 2009


Part of the problem is that we've been so successful in turning overt racism into one of the few completely unacceptable things in our society (and that's a good thing, I argue), that its made discussion of race, and racism, more difficult.

Yes. The real problem here is that the word "racist" is used to mean everything from "has participated in genocide" to "hates people of another race" to "is oblivious to how society is tilted in your favor" to "has absorbed a few negative stereotypes from popular culture".

And because of the more extreme meanings of "racist," when you call something "racist," some people will hear you saying, "This is one of the most morally evil things imaginable and should be rejected as such." And if you're talking about RE5, they will think you're being ridiculous.

But if instead of using the lazy epithet "racist," you describe exactly what you think is bad about the images and stereotypes in RE5, then people might hear what you're saying everyone will ignore you and move on to arguing with the loudest, most extreme person yelling "RACIST!"
posted by straight at 11:45 AM on March 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maybe there would have been less of a backlash if a specific country was specified - Uganda, South Africa, Somalia, Sudan

It actually *is* set in a specific a country, and a fictitious one at that.

Is that what RE5 shows? A single black man being killed by a single white man? Or did you just construct a straw man? No, it's probably the first thing.

RE5 also shows a black woman killing black men too, but that tends to deflate the claims of racism, so it's usually conveniently ignored or written-off as "Well, she has an English accent, so obviously she's a stand-in for whites."

Anyway: the thread on this is STILL OPEN.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:54 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyway: the thread on this is STILL OPEN.

In the defense of this thread.... it wasn't about the racism of RES 5. It was about wacky marketing schemes done by video game companies. RES 5 is having people collect fake (i hope!) body parts to promote this game. That to me is disturbing in itself... more so than shooting zombies from Africa. They could have made people collect those plant things that heal you. But no they hid arms and such all over the town for random people to collect..... I bet the police are having fun with this today.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 12:45 PM on March 11, 2009


Just a random thought here... if they wanted to promote the game they could have had a ton of people get dressed up as zombies and hand out flyers for the game at a mall or something. I swear marketing people are stupid sometimes.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2009


Kudos to Electronic Arts / The Marketing Team for having the guts to do this and grab an immense amount of publicity as a result.....

I couldn't help but laugh at the sensationalised language in the press release and I quote;

"caused fury"
"Venezuelan-style fuel riots"
"hundreds faced misery"


Jeez it was just a bit of free fuel.

Now compare that response to the almost glossed and ignored muggings, deaths and violence which occurs everyday.

Just goes to show that "REAL" marketing is such a scarcity these days that it causes a big stur, bigger than the loss of life in some cases....wow!
posted by SaMaMedic at 12:54 PM on March 11, 2009


Does marketing go good?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:04 PM on March 11, 2009


In the defense of this thread....

Oh, no complaint about the thread, just the derail. I was actually trying to find some other examples of "what were they thinking?" video-game marketing, like Sony's questionable "black on white" PSP ads, or their "dead goat" promotion for God of War, but I can't find any suitable links.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2009


No offense, kittens for breakfast, but when was the last time you played a video game? People don't kill in video games for points, they do so to progress in the story. RE5 makes it pretty clear that

NERRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDSSSSSSSSS

The narrative is nice and all; I'm talking about the imagery.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2009


if they wanted to promote the game they could have had a ton of people get dressed up as zombies and hand out flyers for the game at a mall or something. I swear marketing people are stupid sometimes.

I doubt that would have gotten written up in the Guardian or linked on MetaFilter. This sounds more like smart marketing people.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2009


RE5 also shows a black light-skinned mixed-race woman killing black men too, but that tends was added after the fact to deflate the claims of racism

ftfy
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:25 PM on March 11, 2009


Can't be no worse than this game-related marketing.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:52 PM on March 11, 2009


Man, I wish the game was just out. None of this pre-release run-up is doing anything for me one way or the other.
posted by cortex at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2009


Good post. I like the way the marketing is focusing on the fact that the game is a survival horror and the enemies are ZOMBIES.

The derail reminds me of the furore over Far Cry 2. Oh wait...
posted by Elmore at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2009


was added after the fact to deflate the claims of racism

No she wasn't. It's a co-op game, with two primary characters. It's just that the very first trailer only showed Redfield because Capcom didn't want to drop the "Resident Evil goes co-op" bomb too soon.

What's funny is that all this controversy probably could have been avoided if they'd released the first trailer with Sheva in it. Hardly anyone batted an eye at Far Cry 2's African setting.
posted by Durhey at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2009


It's not racist if some of your best friends are zombies.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:31 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast

Okay, I deserved that. However, the people playing the game will be playing it for the narrative and not just experiencing it in a vacuum. The only people that can cry racism are the people that have not played the game - i.e. people who it won't influence at all.
posted by bookwo3107 at 3:47 PM on March 11, 2009


Okay, I deserved that. However, the people playing the game will be playing it for the narrative and not just experiencing it in a vacuum. The only people that can cry racism are the people that have not played the game - i.e. people who it won't influence at all.

Oh, I don't know about that part. Charged imagery is charged imagery. I guess my real issue here is not that it will "influence" someone*, but that it will cater to the kind of people who would, well, really enjoy pretending to be a strapping white dude who shoots up a screen full of black people. It just seems creepy and, I dunno, reckless to create a game like that. I'm not sure what kind of (hate to use this internet cliche but here we go) Asperger-y person would design that game and somehow not realize what it would look like. It's just in bad taste.

*Because I give people more credit than that; I believe that, for instance, violent stuff in art -- movies, games, books, comics, what have you -- can be triggering, sure, but I don't believe that it creates a trigger, if you see what I mean. I think a person who has been the victim of violence can be upset by seeing a dramatization of similar violence, that a person who is violent anyhow can take inspiration from same...but in either case, the originating violence is real and outside the art.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:35 PM on March 11, 2009


Okay, I totally see your point about catering to audiences that would enjoy being Chris Redfield shooting up blacks being completely creepy, however, I'd wager the majority of people that pick up RE5 are the type of people that are mature enough to appreciate it as a piece of fiction.

I could, of course, be overestimating the maturity level of most people that play Resident Evil.
posted by bookwo3107 at 6:32 PM on March 11, 2009


As Durhey points out, the rumors (which turned out to be accurate) outlining the co-op and characters in RE5 predate the controversy. The only concession to the furor (as far as I know) has been Capcom making the villagers multi-racial.

Charged imagery is charged imagery.

I don't buy that. Imagery exists in context (which is often provided by a narrative). Nothing is inherently charged. How would one even know that something is racist without the wider context of historical racism?

To take this to an even nerdier place: go watch the part of the third Indiana Jones movie where he's escaping the Nazis and comes face to face with Hitler. Now freeze-frame. Is that shot -- absent any other information -- charged? Your hero is dressed up like a Nazi. He's talking to Hitler. Now watch the rest of the movie. Still offensive? No? Then that's context.

I guess my real issue here is not that it will "influence" someone*, but that it will cater to the kind of people who would, well, really enjoy pretending to be a strapping white dude who shoots up a screen full of black people.

That's not the game's fault. Idiots will bring anything down to their level. That kind of person will take a game full of faceless, genderless cyborgs and enjoy killing all the "fags and jews." Trying to safeguard against the lowest common denominator is a losing game.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:19 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


GamePro's take on most controversial videogame ads. I wish I could remember the controversial ad with the crouching half naked slave girl. Probably old hat now.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:34 PM on March 11, 2009


Oh my Christ. I've been playing a bootleg copy of RE5 for the past week and it's totally, totally racist. I mean, you kill almost nothing but black zombies. I mean, I know your in Africa and there are probably sooooooome people in Africa, but I'm sure they don't make up the majority of the population. Especially not in the smaller, poorer villas. You also kill dogs, so I'm hoping someone calls PETA and gets a good grip on their panties so as to pull them up into a tight, tight bunch.
I had absolutely no idea that this debate/drama/stupidity even existed until I read this post. Bleh.
posted by Bageena at 10:05 PM on March 11, 2009


That kind of person will take a game full of faceless, genderless cyborgs and enjoy killing all the "fags and jews."

Case in point: the level of discourse in multiplayer Starcraft.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2009




I talked to my boys yesterday, who are 15 and nearly 14, and both avid (maybe even rabid) gamers. I explained the concerns that Resident Evil 5 has racist overtones, that some are concerned it may even promote racism or lead to desensitization because of the rampant killing of blacks by whites in the game--and they thought it was utterly ridiculous.

These are kids who in their day-to-day lives take a strong interest in politics (right now, they are disgusted that Florida voted gay marriage illegal but excited that Obama was elected and optimistic for the future with him in charge), and they don't for a minute discount that there are racist gamers or that America specifically has a huge problem with racism.

But they completely and utterly reject the supposition that this game will in any way cause them, or their friends, to become desensitized to racism. To them, the "enemies" in the game are zombies, pure and simple, and they've killed lots of zombies in their time (currently, their favorite game is Left 4 Dead), and it's never made them want to go out and kill anybody or think that violence was okay in real life.

My oldest did mention that he thought it might have been a good idea to have a strong black character in the game--we are all fans of "Cole Train" from the Gears of War games--but other than that, they were very "meh" about the whole controversy.

So, that's the current teen gamer demographic's view on the subject.
posted by misha at 10:32 AM on March 12, 2009


What racial content? It's a zombie game about an infection in the general populace. The last one was in Spain and you shot Spaniards. The new one is in Africa so you shoot Africans.

Spaniards >> Hispanic (most populous US ethnic minority) >> Catholic.
Africans >> Black (secondmost populous US ethnic minority) >> occasionally Muslim.

How is this not KKK: The Video Game?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, and Midwestern Americans in Raccoon City >> WASPs >> Protestants by definition.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:58 AM on March 12, 2009


it might have been a good idea to have a strong black character in the game--we are all fans of "Cole Train" from the Gears of War games

Interesting example. I found Cole Train to be a stereotype. I'm not the only one:

"There's no reason that Marcus Fenix in Gears of War couldn't have been a black guy... Cole Train on his own, no harm no foul. But what is Cole Train? Cole Train is basically like every other effin’ black character in a video game. Like here comes the urban stereotype...Where is this 1990s - not even 2000 - black slang, where does this fit in this futuristic world that doesn’t even take place on Earth? They go really far to do a lot of fictional justifications for this culture that they’ve built, and they go right back to this urban stereotype for the black character.

"It’s almost like, 'Cue the drum beat, here comes the black character.'"

posted by naju at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2009


Cole Train? Like John Coltrane? That's like.. awful.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2009


It's not that Cole is a former athlete or what he says that we like (admittedly, all stereotypical) but that he is an indestructible badass.
posted by misha at 2:05 PM on March 12, 2009


Like 50 Cent?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on March 12, 2009


But they completely and utterly reject the supposition that this game will in any way cause them, or their friends, to become desensitized to racism.

That's complete bullshit, they just don't realize it yet.

Speaking as a long-time gamer, and internet user, both have drastically desensitized me to violence (and TV, and movies). I've seen and done things in all those types of media that would give my mom or grandmother nightmares. I'm not more likely to commit violence, but I have been affected by it.

The racism in RE5 is subtle. It's not smacking you in the face with it, but it's there. Capcom is worried about it, obviously, or they wouldn't have changed their fictional African nation to include a wide variety of random ethnicities.
posted by graventy at 2:09 PM on March 12, 2009


Capcom is worried about it, obviously, or they wouldn't have changed their fictional African nation to include a wide variety of random ethnicities.

You're confusing "worried about racism" with "worried about people complaining about racism."
posted by Amanojaku at 10:28 PM on March 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I played for a few hours today. Racist, no. Xenophobic, well pretty much yes. Capcom love to have a dig at America and like to use the Zombie genre to do it. Dead Rising was brilliant because it turned the consumers in the mall into consumers of human flesh in the mall. Each boss and psycho was a cliche of American brainless greed and insanity - from the journalist through the fast food clown to the Cult leader.

However, in RE5 the zombies are victims of America's power and greed. Humans turned to Zombies - weapons created through the exploitation of the weak by pharmaceutical companies that have created their own security companies to protect their interests from 'terrorists' (the terrorists are also white).

The 'charged imagery' mentioned above is that look of rage of a black villager after he's been turned into a biological weapon and is tearing after his aggressor, the white American, to rip him to shreds. This is Capcom's criticism of American foreign policy and business practice - not extremely deep but it is just a bloody game - interesting that people condemn the imagery and not its context.
posted by Elmore at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]




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