Might Ponygirl mentioned the rising controversy surrounding Resident Evil 5. Apparently, the game trailer is... raising some issues on race. I don't think it should be surprising, when you have a trailer that features a white guy (and, at least in earlier games, a cop) shooting and killing large groups of blacks, that some people are going to stand up and say Hey, this is pretty problematic from a racial standpoint.
Now, I readily believe that Capcom probably didn't intend for this to be controversial. I'd guess that they never even considered the racial implications (at least, I hope). But, ignorance isn't an excuse. I think it's perfectly fair to criticize the content of a game, and all of the social implications of that content. In this case, I think that it's completely fair to point to the game and say "Look, there's nothing wrong with having blacks be zombies in a game, but when you have a game where all of the zombies are black, and the hero is a white guy with a gun killing them, it starts to look a little ugly."
One of the really disappointing, though not surprising, things about all of this controversy, is the way that people have reacted. Rather than taking the words to heart and considering the racial implications and how the game might make people feel, a lot of gamers have gotten really angry about the criticisms and are on the attack. Read through some of the comments in Black Looks post, or at Villiage article. Immediately, people start making accusations of "playing the race card" or how there were "no problems when the 'inhumane savages' are white."
The reaction is just like I desribed before: There's a sense that these people are afraid we're trying to take away their toys, and they're reacting with anger and resentment, instead of engaging the conversation.
A lot of us are gamers. While I prefered Silent Hill to Resident Evil, I love blowing zombies away as much as anyone. I think that Resident Evil did a great job of capturing a sort of action-movie/zombie kind of feel, and I don't really have that many complaints about the games. I don't think that makes them immune from criticism, though.
These criticisms were an excellent opportunity for gamers to engage in some serious dialogue about how race is portrayed in gaming. Video games have a pretty shitty record when it comes to portrayals of race and ethnicity. The only way to improve that is through dialogue, and this was a perfect opportunity. I don't think that there's anything wrong with questioning why most of the heroes in video games are white men, and what that says about gaming culture. I think that it's important to try to move beyond what games have always done. One commenter asked (I'm paraphrasing) "Why should the hero be black?" That's a flawed question: The hero is almost always white. Given that, the real question ought to be, "Why shouldn't the hero ever be black?"
And, ultimately, this is directly related to conversations about privilege. I'd wager that most of the people getting outraged about this as being a non-issue or leveling accusations of this being more politically correct race baiting are white. It's easy to get offended and say things like "Well, why should he be black? Why should this bother you? Why can't zombies be black?" when you don't have to worry about seeing a hero like you, and when the history of violence and oppression that exists wasn't directed against your race.
I love video games, and I really, really want to see them thrive. Video games are a unique form of entertainment media in that they're interactive in ways that no other mass-market media is. As the player, you're directly controlling the way the story unfolds, and that creates potential for really powerful experiences. Unfortunately, video games are facing serious social stigma, precisely because of the ways that people like the commenters in those threads act. It's easy to dismiss games as violent bullshit when people respond to criticism with the kind of disgusting bile that they're spewing there.
It's only when gamers are willing to have serious discussions about the philosophical and social implications of games and gaming that video games are really going to be able to be taken as a serious art form. When the popular voices of gaming and gamers respond to criticism by throwing out racist and sexist insults and refusing to engage in a conversation about the very real, very serious social issues that games bring up, it only serves to further marginalize gaming as a hobby.
Nobody (Well, almost nobody- Jack Thompson be damned) is trying to take away people's right to play video games- what's happening is that people are trying to raise some social awareness about the reality that games reflect. Games don't exist in a void, and there's nothing wrong with raising questions about the situations that they present, or saying "You know, that game has some problematic things happening." These sorts of criticisms are an opportunity to raise your own level of awareness about the lives of other people, and to understand the different realities that people live in. Instead, a lot of people are becoming reactionary and offensive. Someone has said "Wow, there's a troubling racial dynamic happening here, and I don't like it" and people are reacting as though that person said "All video games are evil and should be banned." That comment could have been taken as a chance to engage Kym with why the trailer bothered her, and how the game- indeed, all games- could have been made better. Instead, people got hung up on their personal feelings, and they've ultimately missed the point.