Catherine Martin writes to thatguys:
Do games have a moral obligation to be politically sensitive? In recent months we have seen a handful of games clumsily attempt a politically savvy narative and blunder into every stereotypical pitfall they could. Now, however, games are about to breach an almost untouched setting: Africa.
Both Far Cry 2 and Resident Evil 5 have chosen this setting as an environment in which to destroy countless hordes of digital natives. More importantly, however, their plots are likely to involve the distribution and flow of medicines in the area. Here I am making a slightly educated guess about the plot of Resident Evil 5, but the evil drug company Umbrella and its infamous T-virus are bound to crop up somewhere. These are controversial and current issues surrounding the African nations as warlords illegally cut supply chains of life-saving vaccinations for a profit. My question is this: if the game designers decide to tackle these issues will they represent a fair and unbiased opportunity for the player to learn something important through the medium of videogames? If they do will they be rewarded?
Secondly, can a mature audience really learn something from what are likely to be two extremely violent games? How many of us wanted to find out more about the plight of the residents of Mogadishu after we watched Black Hawk Down, a film criticised for its exploitative and stereotypical representation of African people? Are games going to continually fall back into politically ignoratn category, or will a games company attemtp to tackle these issues head on and help change mass opinions in the medium's favour?
Dear Catherine, can we call you Jill?
Well Jill, thanks for your letter it was quite long! Almost tl;dr. But I did read it. You make some valid points but I must point out four things:
1) Resident Evil 5 is set in Haiti not Africa because it was racist otherwise! Also, you have to be careful because if you can't tell the difference between Haiti and Africa people will call you racist too! Whoops it almost undermines your whole letter. Don't worry though, just replace Resident Evil 5 with the games Afrika, Exhumed or The Lion King before you send your letter on to EDGE or another excellent gaming culture publication. No one will notice the difference.
2) You've missed the point entirely. Why is Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 5? It should be at least 6 or maybe seven if we renumber zero as one. The issues you raise are valid but I feel this is a burning issue that must be resolved by Capcom sooner rather than later. For all our sakes.
3) Umbrella aren't necessarily evil they just employ idiot Doctors who inject themselves with their own virus the second trouble crops up. I think they need more screening of research scientists before they employ them in the future.
4) Dude(tte), Umbrella was toppled according to the plot RE4... get with the times.
5) Duuuuuuude(tte) T-Virus is sooo 1997, what happened to G-Virus? Veronica Virus? and to a lesser extent the Plaga...
6) Ultimately, I doubt game desingers will provide a fair and unbiased opportunity for players to learn something. Look at the environments traditionally covered in videogames; train stations, warehouses and helicopters. From videogames you would think that every train station and warehouse is occupied by evil goons trying to take poorly aimed potshots from behind explosive barrels! My grandad used to work on the train lines and he never once saw an explodable barrel in his whole life. As for helicopter pilots, some of them do save lives rather than gatling gun people. It's a sad truth but perhaps together Jill we can change things and get game designers to really show people what life is like rather than stereotyping hard working warehousemen and women as goonish. And Africa.