When Capcom first showed Resident Evil 5 at E3 2007, there was a collective sense that what we'd just seen was going to stir the pot, as a big brawny white guy had just done his share of laying waste to an angry mob of Africans. Sure enough, Capcom of Japan received more than its share of criticism from those inside and outside of the gaming press. The first to lobby a notable complaint was blog Black Looks, writing that RE5 was "problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages."
Newsweek's general editor of tech N'Gai Croal later levied a similar but more measured assessment, saying that much of what was shown in the initial trailer "dovetailed with classic racist imagery," leaving him with the impression that "Clearly no one black worked on this game."
We were curious, in light of new media that seems to show a more racially diverse set of enemies and a noticeably less WASP-y new partner for Chris Redfield, if the team had taken that criticism to heart and altered some of their design decisions
Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi told us "No, not really." He said via his translator that cries of racism "didn't have any effect on the game design."
On the subject of Chris Redfield's new sidekick, one who appears to lean toward ethnically ambiguous, Takeuchi said "We wanted Chris to have a partner who was familiar with the environment. She's been in there since pretty much the beginning."
"In terms of the reaction, we're in the business of entertainment," Takeuchi said. "We didn't set out to make a racist game or a political statement. We did feel there was a misunderstanding about the initial trailer."
The Resident Evil 5 producer said they'd sent a team of Capcom staffers to Africa to do research in the area, stressing that they had decided to include Arab and Caucasian peoples based on what they'd seen while on location. We found it odd that there was virtually no non-Black representation in RE5's debut trailer, but Takeuchi was adamant that the current product is in line with their experiences.
Whether the inclusion of a supporting character who isn't of the white guy persuasion and a more ethnically diverse cast of slaughtering victims will in any way address concerns of racism or insensitivity remains to be seen. What we do hope is that, regardless of the changes to this marquee title, the discussion continues about the topics it seems to unintentionally address.