While the video game press appears to have reached a consensus that Resident Evil 5 is not racist in its portrayal of blacks, non-gaming media outlets do not seem quite so sure.
Lou Kesten, for example, who covers games for the Associated Press, straddles the line between games and the mainstream. In a syndicated column which will be reprinted across North America, Kesten clearly is uncomfortable with RE5's racial vibe:
Even longtime fans of the horror franchise may find themselves wondering: Is this game racist?...
Yes, the vast majority of monsters in "RE5" are infected black men. Does that make it racist? I believe producer Jun Takeuchi's claim that the story led naturally to Africa, and it's obvious that a zombie-creating virus unleashed there would lead to hordes of African zombies.
Still, there were plenty of moments where I felt uneasy after shotgunning a path through a crowd of feral Africans. Even though "RE5" makes some points about colonialism and capitalism... the racial imagery is more loaded than its creators probably realized.
Judged purely as a game, "RE5" is undeniably entertaining. But many players are going to find it disturbing for the wrong reasons.
At left-leaning political blog Huffington Post, commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson pulls no punches. For Hutchinson, RE5 is clearly an exercise in racism:
The well-worn script reads like this. A protest group blasts a video game manufacturer... for dumping a game on the market loaded with racially insulting and demeaning stereotypes. The video game team yelps that the game is pure entertainment, has some blacks or Latinos in on the design and production, and gets high marks from the industry...
So it was no surprise that Jun Takeuchi yanked out that script to defend his video game brainchild Resident Evil 5 from the charge that it's racist. But what else could one call it? It features a white male (modern day Bawana) mowing down a pack of poor, primitive disease challenged Africans... . The racist game reinforces the worst of the worst ancient stereotypes against and about Africans...
GP: When video game controversies flare, there is typically lag time between the gaming press's more immediate coverage and the issue's crossover to the mainstream media. Now that RE5 has been released, it's likely that the racism issue will be receiving a new round of attention from mainstream outlets in coming weeks.