So, for anyone that hasn’t seen the Resident Evil 5 trailer from E3, here’s another chance to see it. However, rather than merely regurgitate opinions about old video clips as original thought, you may also be aware of the controversy that said trailer has caused recently, namely with Kym Platt over at blacklooks.org, a blog focusing on African feminism.
The primary bone of contention with regards to the trailer is the game’s depiction of the white protagonist attacking hordes of black zombies in an African village setting. This seems, within the context of the Resident Evil series, as likely as any a situation to find yourself in, should some apocalyptic event render your once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Africa an exercise in survival horror. Unless you won the vacation in a raffle sponsored by the Umbrella Corporation of course, in which case you should probably expect ravenous legions of the walking dead to get up early and take all the sun-loungers before you drag your sorry, hungover ass out of bed.
However, Platt’s comments seem to be somewhat extreme. Rather than focus on the originality of the decision to set the game in Africa, she chooses instead to focus on the depiction of the African zombies – yes, the walking dead with an appetite for human flesh – as “inhuman savages”, and the implied political statement of the protagonist being white, male and a member of a military organization. Personally, any behavior that involves eating the flesh of recently-killed victims strikes me as somewhat ’savage’, and I don’t really think that the inhumanity of said zombies can be called into question. However, the real question is this; if Platt’s comments are to be taken seriously, then what are the implications of such standards on the rest of the games in the series?
A prime example of my point would be Resident Evil 2. Strong female lead, that Claire Redfield. That’s a good thing in contemporary video games, right? Since they’re aimed, according to Platt, at children and young adults? All obvious issues relating to the video game ratings system aside, of course. So let’s take that one step further – the majority of the zombie enemies that players fight in RE:2 are male. Does this mean that Capcom’s developers are all secretive chauvinists and misogynists? Or take the fact that, in several scenarios in the game, Claire has to be rescued by the male protagonist Leon – is this Capcom’s way of telling young, female gamers that they’re inherently weak and therefore ‘need’ a big, strong man to ’save’ them from the perils of modern society? Of course not.
What if RE:5 wasn’t set in Africa, but the main protagonist was black? Would that also imply racism and white oppression by the black character being set upon by hordes of white zombies? Or if the protagonist was black – would this signify a political statement on black-on-black crime? The potential for political soapboxing in this regard is almost endless. Perhaps the only legitimate complaint that could be leveled against Capcom is that of a lack of imagination with regards to their character design; it’s such a shame that in contrast to the originality of the game’s geographical setting, that Capcom again favor the tired, familiar and generally uninspiring character design that is so prevalent in the Resident Evil series.