Chris Holzworth plays a lot of video games. Then he reports on them. Sometimes he bitches about them. Sometimes he lauds them as fantastical. Check out his RPG News Blog, Vanish/Doom, and his gaming blog, New Game +
Perhaps I'm chasing phantoms, here. Perhaps too much Portal is bad for the brain. I'll let you, gentle readers, decide.
I woke this morning and decided I needed some tunes to get me through culling the RSS fields. In a pleasant mood, I opted to listen to some upbeat hip-hop in favor of the discord of metal or hardcore. I've had Busta Rhyme's "Don't Touch Me" single (the first off his upcoming album, Blessed) stuck in my head for days now -- and have watched the video numerous times to scratch that itch. Yet, somehow, I never noticed the subtle nod to Valve's critically acclaimed First-Person Puzzler, Portal, until this morning.
At first glance, it doesn't seem like much. But take a moment and observe the background, the design of the table Busta's resting on. Combined with the blue entrance portal opening up and a member of Flipmode Square spilling out, the scene's Portal influences become very apparent.
I've posted the video below. Try to spot the portal around the 1:00 mark. Then, ask yourself this: is Busta-Bust such a fan of Portal that he requested the scene be put in his music video? Or was the decision the video's director. Regardless, it's awesome to see these kind of references made in mainstream media. I think we've become accustomed to Nintendo and Zelda nods. Twenty years later, seeing a fresh game (that isn't Halo) receive props from a hot star is... well it warms the ol' heart.
MTV Multiplayer's Tracey John sat down with Newsweek editor N'Gai Croal to kick off a week-long series of interviews focusing on "Black Professionals in Games". During the course the interview -- which covered ethnic diversity in video game development, reporting, and playing -- N'Gai Croal was asked to give his thoughts on the Resident Evil 5 trailer. As a result of his comments, Resident Evil 5 has once again been put under a microscope to study its supposed racial overtones. One quote in particular has circulated through the Web:
"Wow, clearly no one black worked on this game."
Well, of course no one "black" is involved with RE5's development. Japan's society is one mired in homogeneity -- only 1.22% of their population is made up of foreign residents. Read: approximately 99% of Japan's population are native Japanese. Should Capcom have hired some sort of "Black Consultant" to assist with Resident Evil 5? Of course not. The very idea is absurd. The issue with Resident Evil 5's trailer isn't the developer's problem, but the audience's.
"It's like when you engage that kind of imagery, you have to be careful with it. It would be like saying you were going to do some sort of zombie movie that appeared to be set in Europe in the 1940's with skinny, emaciated, Hasidic-looking people. If you put up that imagery people would be saying, 'Are you crazy?' Well, that's what this stuff looks like. This imagery has a history."
I'm sorry, but I don't buy that argument. No one would think twice about "skinny, emaciated, Hasidic-looking people" because no one would identify them as "Hasidic-looking". Who even knows what that means? Would a "Hasidic-looking" zombie sport a yarmulke on his "jew-fro"?
There's no denying that dark-skinned people are often ill-represented in the media. But, what exactly is historical about a bunch of dark-skinned people becoming zombified, flipping out, and being shot in defense? Countless movies and television shows have put a white, Americanized male in the lead role and a member of an ethnic minority as the antagonist. Did anyone cry foul when Christian Bale (dressed head to toe in white) schooled Taye Diggs (dressed in black) in Equalibrium?
The real issue with race in gaming isn't how dark-skinned characters are portrayed, but rather the absence of additional dark-skinned characters so that their differences become noticeable. Augustus Cole, A.K.A. "The Cole Train" of Gears of War fame is regularly called out for perpetuating a "black stereotype". The thing is, Cole's showboating college football star personality does exist. Anyone who has gone to college can attest to this. It's not as though all dark-skinned people on Sera act like Cole. That's highly unlikely. Unfortunately, there are no other significant dark-skinned characters to make Cole seem unique and as a result he's relegated to "obligatory black stereotype" status.
There's so much we don't know about Resident Evil 5. Do Resident Evil trailers typically showcase the protagonist's allies? Or do they usually depict a "scary" situation wherein a hero is threatened by hordes of zombies and monsters? So far all gamers have seen is a light-skinned person shooting dark-skinned people. Capcom hasn't confirmed the existence of dark-skinned allies to aid Chris Redfield. This doesn't mean they won't. Reserve judgment on Resident Evil 5 for a more appropriate time.
It would be naive to suggest that racial inequalities in society have been abolished. They haven't. These inequalities are still very much prevalent in society, North America's especially. These inequalities must be challenged, but we must learn to pick our battles. When it comes to racial misrepresentations in video games, there are plenty of causes to take up. Resident Evil 5, at this stage, isn't one of them.
Chris: the fact that anyone drew that parallel in the first place is more than a little disturbing
Chris: about as disturbing as Arcana Hearts A.K.A. Pedophile Bait: The Game
Dylan: ***** is getting it
Chris: I know
Dylan: I lol'd so hard
Chris: I don't like talking to him about it
Chris: it better be a really good fighter
Chris: underneath all that masturbatory fodder