In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
Brad Garrison is a DHS agent who is highly adaptable to any given situation, trained to deal with numerous threats under tight deadlines and can suck up a gunshot wound like an 80’s action movie hero. Yet, even under that cold and tough demeanour, he’s always thinking about everybody’s welfare over his own. To top it all, he even dresses like Danny Glover in Predator 2.
In summary, he’s the ultimate badass.
Sadly, Brad is also black.
I’m not racist, so let me reiterate here. He’s a black guy in a Japanese zombie game.
It doesn’t end well.
While Dead Rising is famous for the massive hordes of the walking dead, the real strength always lied in the surviving characters. Most usually dismiss the plot because of the flaming hoops you’re forced to jump through to progress, but if you actually stick with it, you’re treated to a surprisingly sharp attempt at satire through an exotic lens.
Dead Rising isn’t really a game about zombies. It’s really about Fat America and the selfishness that arises from it. Yet, none of this would actually work if it wasn’t for the supporting cast. That’s right, the supporting cast and not the main hero.
Frank West is a self-serving, arrogant (albeit highly likable) freelance photo-journalist who doesn’t actually care about anything beyond his Pulitzer Prize-baiting scoop. Between the lines of the story, the player can choose to rescue survivors and whether or not they survive on their way back to the Security Room is a moot point; they’re ultimately a diversifying interactive element and expendable to the plot. When the player isn’t in control, Frank doesn’t even give these people a second glance in the cut-scenes. He’s always seen chasing after the next clue for that elusive ‘once in a lifetime’ photograph.
The real face and cost of what’s happening is found in people orbiting around his world. While the psychopaths that roam the mall are cartoonish and offbeat, like the chainsaw wielding clown, Frank’s allies are portrayed as real people in unreal circumstances. Brad and his partner, Jessie, fit the bill of good people getting a bad deal over something another branch of their own Government did.
As the player, you’re put in the shoes of a maverick reporter and the first person to save your life turns out to work for Homeland Security. From the off, you’re being told to hate Brad because you’re in George W. Bush’s Glorious Second Term and he’s tight lipped about the situation.
The guy acts like your dad.
He’s cramping your style and shit.
All you want to do is go out in the Food Court and perform wrestling moves on zombies. Every time you do, he’s there in the Security Room doing his best Carl Weathers’ mad eyed stare and telling you to straighten up.
Later on, there’s a scene where Frank smarmily tells Brad and Jessie that he has a helicopter coming to pick him up in three days. Brad is immediately counting off a list of survival items. He even goes out of his way to collect canned foods and blankets while you’re out. For a brief moment, his game of cat and mouse with the terrorist takes a back seat.
What does our main protagonist, nay hero, actually do while all of this happening?
Frank couldn’t give a toss as long as long as he gets the next lead. The only way he kills time is by finding new ways to prune body parts with garden shears. Rescuing a survivor or two just means he’s wasted an hour of waiting around.
There’s eventually a mutual trust between the agents and Frank, as the latter learns that his fellow survivors are as much in the dark as he is. It goes without saying that not everybody in the Civil Service is a sociopath wanting a New World Order.
As someone who’s worked in the Welsh Assembly, this writer can tell you nobody in local government knows how to order train tickets, let alone plan 9/11.
Of course, things go from bad to worse and Brad makes the mistake of chasing the main antagonist down a zombie-packed maintenance tunnel; still, he’s only doing his job. For a moment, you think he might succeed since he’s already been shot in the leg earlier (which he miraculously recovers from) and the helicopter will arrive in just a few hours.
Alas, it just isn’t to be.
Throughout Dead Rising, Brad is a man who deals in heroics on a regular basis. When he’s not in the Security Room reluctantly giving the decision to solder the door shut for everyone’s safety (except those on the ‘wrong’ side), he’s usually diving around, barking orders and capping zombies in that slow, calm efficiency that Samuel L Jackson always does when he needs a few minutes more screen time.
His final scene is the complete opposite of the spectrum. He sounds absolutely terrified despite his acceptance of the situation. Brad eventually trusts Frank enough to allow him the killing blow and it’s truly sad when Frank realises that this is the first of his newfound friends to die. If you’re eagle-eyed enough, you might even notice that Brad wears a wedding ring.
Way to put you on a guilt trip, huh?
The population of Willamette had nothing to do with the zombie outbreak at Santa Cabeza, but as the viewer, you don’t really feel for any of them as you rev up a lawnmower and go to town on their shuffling feet. When Brad dies however, it just goes to show you that collateral damage is hard hitting when you’re not passively viewing it through a camera lens.
Still, why does the good black guy have to die first anyway?
In videogames, you can only have two things happen to you depending on the colour of your skin; be a tightrope walking stereotype that doles out comic relief or be a serious, fleshed out character that has to die because that blessing is also a story development curse.
If you’re not Louis from Left 4 Dead, who is quite clearly insane to be that optimistic while wearing a tie in a zombie apocalypse, then you’re usually Zach Hammond from Dead Space and if you’re the latter, then you better kiss your limbs goodbye.
Of course, this piece isn’t about Brad Garrison being the first black character ever to be portrayed in the right light (there’s been others, trust me). He’s just one of those supporting characters where part of you feels like you want to play that guy instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with Frank West. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Brad would be generic as videogame protagonist and the aspects that make him special as supporting character would be rendered redundant as a result. His onscreen actions are awesome because they’re scripted that way, along with his antagonistic foil towards the anti-hero. Frank has a personality that allows the player to both mess around and stay somewhat in character; especially with the photography element. Therefore, you get all the fun of the fair with Frank instead of Brad.
Still, there’ll always be love for this guy and to die unsung would really bring him down. Oh, see what I did there?