VideoGamer.com played through the first three levels of Capcom's latest with one of the UK's top experts on racism to get the final word - is Resident Evil 5 racist?
Rather than simply forming an opinion on the Resident Evil 5 racism controversy from watching trailers, Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kent, actually got to play through the first three levels of the game with the folks at VideoGamer.com, thus enabling him to deliver a much more measured and informed opinion than he would have been able to otherwise. His opinion of the alleged racism? "I don't think it's racist. I think people are looking too quickly to be able to jam that label onto it."
Bowman covers all the bases in the post-game interview, going into great detail on topics from the African setting:
It is about using Africa as threat, but they've got to use somewhere as threat, and as far as I know from what you've told me the last game used rural Spain as threat. Basically if you want to make a frightening scene you take whatever characteristics of that scene are salient and turn them align. So you get viscous Spaniards who I suspect are running around with knives or whatever. Here you get infected Africans. Maybe they'll make the next game happen in Finland and you'll have a whole series of Inuits and the like being really scary and running around with Walrus heads on. I think it's silly to call it racist.
To the inclusion of tribal imagry:
There's a familiarity to what we call mythemes in anthropology. One of the mythemes in anthropology is clearly the legacy of colonialism which is that darkest Africa is full of weird masks and witch doctors and all sorts of things. So if you want to take Africa and you want to make Africa frightening, what you do is you bring that stuff up. In fact, my sense is that probably, although I can see why they're doing it, there's more racism in the scene of the guys beating the person in the sack, which is very much contemporary modern black Africans. More racism in there than there is in this funny kind of mythological stuff where you've suddenly got everybody running around dressed like witch doctors and the like.
To the anti-colonial themes thread throughout the game:
The blacks here are clearly being set up as victims, alterity, frightening. Yes there are themes you can say might be somewhat racist but you know that's also about making you scared.
All in all, it's the first valid opinion I've read on the subject, coming from an expert in the field of racism who has actually spent time at least watching the game be played.
UPDATE: Turns out Glen Bowman isn't an expert on race relations at all. In fact, his areas of expertise are Palestine, and former Yugoslavia, which is very nice but has nothing to do with race relations. Read the whole sordid story over at Acid For Blood.
Expert delivers verdict on Resi 5 racism row [VideoGamer.com]