Crispy Gamer is carrying an interview/discussion that Evan Narcisse recently had with Jun Takeuchi, creative lead on Resident Evil 5. If you recall, RE5 shows, right at the start, black Africans hauling off a white woman. There’s some honest stuff in there, as well as some disappointing “it’s just entertainment”.
It’s a hard piece to take just a bit out of. Narcisse says that he finds it difficult to shoot poor black people, even if they are zombies. It’s just a little too personal to him. And recent. Takeuchi, in something that seems a bit of a non-sequitur, says that in recent history Japanese non-combatants had been bombed by Americans. Narcisses suggests that an analogy might be the portrayal of Japanese in WWII games, and the experience that a Japanese player might have playing one of them.
Another interesting tidbit was Takeuchi’s assertion that the objections are coming more from Europe and America than from Africa, which surprised him. I wonder if that’s because Africa doesn’t have the history we do.
However, one thing that isn’t mentioned, that I think is worth calling out is that the problem with the opening scene isn’t just that we are now shooting black people. The black people are threatening a blond, white, woman, and its intimated that they haul her off to kill her.
This trope is so old, and so common I guess it’s hard to see. But how many times in books, films, and games do we get our moral compass from a narrative about violence against women? It’s not that I think violence against women is a good thing. Let’s reimagine the scene to be violence against a black woman, of the same culture as the zombies (we know now that they are zombies, taken over by the disease). Is the implication that I would be less inclined to get involved? And if a man had been their victim, a black man? Were they worried that potential players would think, Man, that’s not my problem. I’m kind of insulted by that thought.
All too often a narrative choice is made to show that the bad guys are bad because they do violence to women. Yes, that’s bad, and yes, that’s something that does happen. It’s what makes this stuff so difficult to pin down.
But here’s the thing: It’s a cliche. We’ve seen this a million times before. Why not spend a little more of the creativity that goes into level design and gameplay on the narrative setup?
Anyway, the interview is very interesting. Go read.
Via TNC, where there is more good discussion.