August 4th, 2009

I have had in my drafts folder for months now, all the way since this March’s GDC, a follow-up piece on race in Resident Evil 5, and how it has shifted from speakable to unspeakable. Back in the late summer of 2007, when I first breached the topic with “White Man Shoots Black Zombies” at VillageVoice.com, the majority of hate mail I received — and trust me, there was a lot of it — focused on how I shouldn’t have even talked about something as serious as race relations when it comes to video games. The blogs that picked up the piece, and the resulting controversy, seemed to agree that the real problem wasn’t the racial implications of Resident Evil, but that somebody had opened the flood gates on the conversation.

So needless to say I was pleased to see, in early 2009, a wave of comments coming from respectable sources, like Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Wallstreet Journal. Then a number of the big gaming blogs, who had declared the issue absurd, starting posting about the continued debate, adding their two cents. Did everyone agree with me? No. In many ways, the conversation continued to be a frustrating one (I still have regular and heated fights with friend and ex-IGNer Michael Thomsen about the very merit of discussing race in games), which helps explain why it’s taken me half a year to bring up the topic again.

Whatever the opinion being expressed, however, I’m glad that the issue is on the table, that it’s no longer unspeakable — as appropriate as that would be for a gothic genre like zombies. Speaking of which, there might just be an excellent essay in reflecting back on the race in RE5 controversy, then comparing Edith Wharton’s famous quote about the paranormal in gothic fiction standing in for the unspeakable and the gaming community fighting for that unspeakability, upholding the simple “zombiness” of the genre. Like a good academic, I am quietly plotting…

Tags: controversy, race, survival horror games

One Response to “Race in ‘Resident Evil’ no longer unspeakable?”

  1. Corvus Says:

    I just want to take this opportunity to say we’re really going to miss your presence on the Murder, Sex, & Drugs panel at PAX.

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