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9:07 PM on 03.15.2009

Resident Evil 5, Racism and Warfare

Sure we've all had our fill of the RE5 racism merry-go-round, and all I really have to offer is that if a random person watches (not plays up to) a random point in the first four levels of RE5 I can see how they might find Arbitrary White Guy blowing away Arbitrary Black Population with Arbitrary Sweet Weapon a tad off-color.

Contextually we, the game-players know that all the people we blow away have been transformed against their wills and can never be saved. They're no different than a barrel full of anthrax. We know the story, we know what they're capable of and we know they are enemies. Blasting them to pieces in the absolute universe that is a video game is a nonissue to the player.

Viewers who see the game uninformed can, I would say understandably, come away with a different impression.

But whatever. Other people can take that torch and run. (and run and run...)

What I've found interesting as I've laid waste to an entire native (zombie) population in levels 3 and 4 is that when I'm playing the game I don't think about their skin color or even the fact that they are (were) human. They're just objects whose heads I'd like to make explode. Any way I can accomplish that will do. The goal is to make the music change back to calm music (which it does when you eliminate all the immediate threats). When I'm not playing I've thought about that population that I've laid to waste and thought "that's kind of fucked up."

You're a member of a small tribe in Africa. Dude comes to town, armed to the teeth. His motivations are unknown, but it's obvious he's going to steal all your treasures and go where he wants. Your buddy gets in his way and your buddy dies. Plagas or no, I see where all these tribesmen might be a tad upset with Chris Redfield. I wouldn't call Chris a racist for killing an entire tribe or two, but he is (i am) certainly an asshole and possibly psychotic.

So as Chris uncovers the obvious conspiracy to abuse the people of Africa to develop bio-weapons, the player runs a mini-parallel to the corruption going on. Chris, like the bad guys, has zero care for anything (other than Jill apparently) and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants/needs.

Getting into the thick of the racism argument's tricky and I don't have much interest in parsing it out, but I've been really pleased with how much Resident Evil 5 has made me think about my role as a player, the roles of the enemies and the general reality of games.   read

3:15 PM on 02.23.2009

DLC pricing and unlockables

Street Fighter 4 is (or will be?) selling costume packs for around a buck per character. While I appreciate the option to unlock new costumes, paying for things that a game used to give out for free is utter nonsense.

In Dead or Alive 1 through 3 you have to play through the game again and again on higher and higher difficulties to unlock different costumes for characters. In Tekken 5 you play through the game to earn game-money which you can use to spend on unlockable costumes. In Virtua Fighter items are unlocked in a somewhat similar manner, with some being paid for and others being won via matches.

I like the old system. I don't want to be forced to pay for new content. This is especially true for fighting games where the gameplay is rather thin outside of having friends over. Sure there's online play, but I've never found it terribly satisfying. Unlocking goofy hats is pretty much my only reason to play 1p fighters. I'm good enough at the ones I feel like getting good at, and playing the computer's never been very much help in that regard anyway.

My only problem with this old system is that it gets to be a huge pain. Beating DOA 3 on some super high difficulty is next to impossible for me, and while I can fight all day in Tekken 5, the money you earn is middling at best. I get bored of unlocking stuff. At that point, I become completely okay with paying real, actual cash to have all the costumes and customizations unlocked in my game. My time becomes worth more than my money.

What I'd like to see is a hybrid of the two systems. Allow me, should I so choose, to unlock everything without paying money. Let me slog through as much of the game as I want. When I get bored of that however, let me pay to unlock everything.

This would be a great system for every game. I don't have the patience anymore to unlock everything in most games anymore, but I would like to feel like I'm purchasing a whole game. Adding $5 downloads onto a game shortly after it comes out only serves to give the impression of nickel-and-diming the consumer.

"Here's your 'Street Fighter 4 Basic' game, please pay another Twenty Bucks to get 'Street Fighter 4 Complete'."

I think most people will still end up paying for DLC, but no one would feel taken advantage of. I know if I could pay another $5 or $10 to unlock all the things I haven't in my copy of Tekken 5:DR, I would do that. I wouldn't have done that the day I bought the game, but now I've had it long enough that spending more money on it isn't offensive to me, and I just don't have the desire to fight enough matches to unlock all the hairstyles for the characters I don't play.   read

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