Houston Chronicle: Video Game Racism "The New Norm"?

No, not that guy. Norm, as in, status quo. As in, we've masticated the shooting-black-people argument in Resident Evil 5, now let's pile on Call of Juarez and an unreleased game for good measure.

It's a blog post that's a bit too sensitive and an argument that's a bit too convenient and dramatic for my taste, but the Houston Chronicle's Game Hacks blog tees up the Big R in a color-by-numbers mainstream look at something - which is, more or less, that any three can make a trend. In this case, the writer takes controller-dropping offense at participating in a story as a Confederate sympathizer (Juarez).

The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft's "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood." The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer, working to save his brother, Thomas, who's pinned down by Union soldiers. I nearly dropped the controller. I have so much respect for President Lincoln — he wanted to preserve the Union and ended up freeing the slaves — and have just as much respect for the Union Army.

This guy may legitimately feel that way. Fine. I think if Call of Juarez was overtly sympathetic to Confederate aims of slavery, instead of just framing the story of two mean-ass brothers in the context of soldiers of a failed cause, we'd have a different discussion. Similarly, it'd be a big problem if Left 4 Dead 2 was explicitly about Katrina and the institutional racism that fueled such a listless response and collective shrug at a disaster we thought only could happen in the third world.

But this sort of rumination seems to me to be picking a fight where none exists. And it points up the difference between sensitivity and tolerance. Not everything has to provide a teachable moment or avoid an uncomfortable subject altogether. Look at film.

Racism in Video Games: The New Norm? [Houston Chronicle via Trueslant]