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    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    N’Gai Croal: An Academic Responds

    We’ve never been accused of being the home of reasoned debate, but we received this response to N’Gai Croal’s Racist Evil 5 rant from an Anonymous Knight. It makes us sad to see that the internet’s so full of ignorance that anyone trying to argue that there’s not only another side to the argument, but that the other side doesn’t have to be racist, is instantly vilified. So we’ve put the whole piece here for you to make up your own mind:

    “I never thought I’d live to see the day when the faux-intelligentsia of games journalism declared all out war on the common gamer. By the faux-intelligentsia, I am of course referring to all of those who have sat through a sixth-form philosophy class, or once read a whole book on politics, and like to drop what they remember into any discussion about gaming like bricks into a playpen. The kind of second-rate hack that’s so insecure about the legitimacy of gaming, they have to start flinging in giveaway words like “lifestyle”, “culture”, and “motif” to persuade fellow members of the faux-intelligentsia that the videogame they’re talking about is actually an allegory of a subject that’s of world importance. Dare to question the mutual respect of the faux-intelligentsia, and risk getting shouted down as an unenlightened halfwit.

    So, N’Gai Croal, then. A games journalist of no great relevance nets himself an enormous amount of attention by accusing a large development team of being racist. The trailer in question is for the trashiest of big-name franchises, Resident Evil. The teaser in question is overblown and cheesy, even slightly embarrassing as it depicts the tight-topped Chris Redfield pacing into town and becoming embroiled in a host of clumsy firefights with zombies straight out of any Romero movie, replete with a dopey voice-over.

    Everybody who has half a brain is aware of the world’s shameful history when it comes to matters of slavery, disregard of basic human rights and terrible treatment of black persons, amongst others. In a world where this kind of treatment was both commonplace and not considered at the time to be utterly wrong lends support to the argument that we should be reminded frequently about just how bad this situation used to be in order to avoid it happening again.

    Modern day society has little time for outmoded and flawed theories of the black man being inferior to the white; the positivistic studies which pushed entire nations towards thinking that, in criminological terms, races can be cleansed by the genetically superior super-beings to eradicate the pollution of their own race and discard the criminal element in a Darwinistic fight for the survival of the fittest. Yet Charles Murray, the US right-wing social theorist, still argues that the “underclasses”, particularly black persons, are of lower than average intelligence. Until the 1970s, the state of Virginia was actively sterilising those found to be “feebleminded”. Whilst it’s easy to point the finger at Hitler’s Germany taking ethnic cleansing to tragic levels, it is uncomfortable to recall that Churchill’s pre-war view and social policies took on a lower level support for such theories.

    A thankfully low minority (although any number is still too many) will fail to acknowledge that the historical episodes Croal refers to, amongst many others, were far from the finest hours of the nations involved, whether the United States, the British Empire, or otherwise.

    I wonder, then, how many of this majority – the decent gamer who despises racism – were amongst those who disagreed with Croal’s comments, only to be shouted down in an abusive manner by other commentators. Many of the issues that have been raised by these gamers have been absolutely valid, yet have not been greeted with the courtesy of a reasoned response.

    Croal has made a serious allegation. Whilst it is likely that the development team at Capcom responsible for producing and designing Resident Evil 5 predominantly (if not entirely) consists of Japanese males, one still has to feel sorry for them as the sudden accusation of racism is thrust at them. As far as can be seen from the brief trailer (and that is all that these comments are based upon), Capcom have done no more or no less than any number of developers. Whether pitching the gamer against a glut of Germans, mowing them down indiscriminately without stopping to question their views on the party some have been made to fight for, or even asking the gamer to become the Nazis fighting against the Allied forces – the practice is commonplace.

    Some argue that intention is not a relevant factor, but this is quite simply not true. There wasn’t an eyelid batted when GTA: San Andreas arrived, despite the potential for its black central protagonist to be mistaken for the stereotypical rap-loving, gang-raping, drug-dealing “gangsta” worrying the good multicultural folk going about their daily business. That’s because that character was merely that: a character, placed in a scenario for the purpose of narrative in an open-ended games world, where you could indiscriminately murder any nationality you wish.

    To take a game where the zombies are black and the protagonist is white for reasons of narrative and accuse it of being a racist premise is to do a great many injustices. It cheapens the issue of racism, which is dangerous. It alienates the audience you’re supposed to be writing for, to be supporting, by telling them that their right to enjoy a simple videogame is contested. Any commentator who has pig-ignorantly attacked these people for stating their views on the matter, to question their moral fortitude for simply arguing that they don’t see the game as racist, is beyond contempt.

    And worst of all from Croal’s perspective, he’s shown himself up as a charlatan. By throwing around serious allegations in the same casual manner that MP Keith Vaz wrongly associates videogames with the murder of one of his constituents, and that Jack Thompson wrongly associates videogames with just about everything that’s broken in the world, he’s destroyed his own credibility. The real tragedy is that he’s taken down with him the thin veneer of maturity the games industry has been trying to build up for itself for so long.

    For the sake of some cheap column inches, N’Gai Croal has hurt much of what he purports to love. I hope his new-found notoriety was worth it.”


    1. Anonymous8:51 am

      Couldn't agree more.

    2. Anonymous4:26 pm

      Ummm... did you read Mr. Croal's thoughts Mr. Knight? Maybe I'm wrong, but while he did say that it was obvious that no one working on RE5 was black and implied that those involved in the production and approval of the trailer were insensitive, he never called the development team racists.

      His main point was that the trailer contained racist imagery which is hard to deny. He also never states that the game is intended to have some meaningful cultural significace, in fact he makes it very clear that he is judging the trailer and not prejudging the game. Finally, he states that he is primarily concerned about the reactions of those who are not familiar with gaming.

      How on Earth does an honest, diplomatically worded reaction to obviously racist imagery in a trailer "take down... the thin veneer of maturity the games industry has been trying to build?" Reasonable, thoughtful discussions of gaming help the medium to mature.

      You're right that there are many angry, irrational, unreasonable responses that have been set off by Mr. Croal's remarks. But the large bulk of them are from gamers who are, understandably, defensive about their hobby of choice. You clearly fall into this camp, whether you realize it or not.

      It's time to ask yourself if that "thin veneer" is really what you're really getting so worked up about.

    3. Anonymous5:59 pm

      VIDEO GAMES, PEOPLE. FUCKING VIDEO GAMES. Why does this industry take itself so fucking seriously? I know there's a lot of money involved, but, come on! It's about having fun, and if shooting black people in the face isn't your idea of absolute pure fun, you're a cunt.

    4. Really not seeing the problem this guy is whining about. Most of the comment threads I saw in regards to N'Gai's comments were flooded with anti-N'Gai vitriol that was encouraged and supported. Those comments ranged in levels of anger and intelligence, but the consensus was pretty clearly "N'Gai's full of it". N'Gai himself has never accused his critics of being racists. Why so defensive and ad hominem? Charlatan? Geez louise. And since when is "racist" the new "nigger"? Like it's the worst thing in the world someone could possibly call someone else or something. Capcom can take it. They're big boys. And people keep talking about t his "game" that nobody's played. N'Gai was talking about the trailer, critiquing as a film. If you can watch that trailer and not sorta-kinda see how it plays on racist fears of walking into the wrong neighborhood and getting attacked by a band of angry mindless black people, you seriously got your head up your ass.

    5. Yeah, I don't see how a response that criticizes its target for using "giveaway words" yet itself uses the phrase "faux-intelligentsia" so many times can be seen as anything but hypocritical. Dare I say it's a case of the pot calling the kettle faux-intelligentsia. Calling N'Gai a hack is pretty baseless as well. The basis of this rejoinder is almost completely afield from the actual article and certainly seems to display little understanding of the point N'Gai was raising. Please read the entirety of the column before coming to any conclusions, this being directed at future commenters rather than the OP, who I pray did in fact do that very thing.

    6. How is Resident Evil 5 racist?

      No, seriously. It has some black peeps in it. They become zombies. Is that it?

    7. Anonymous10:33 am

      Jesus, that reads like something Cacky would have written. ie. garbled tosh.

    8. Someone seems to have spent a lot of time and effort criticising N'Gai Croal's comments without actually bothering to read them first. He's not the only one mind, even MCV's headline on the story deliberately implied that Croal had called the Resident Evil 5 trailer racist, WHICH HE HAD NOT. Whoever wrote it is clearly a bit of a dumb motherfucker, and it seems a bit dimwitted to give him or her so much space on this blog. But y'know, maybe the intention was to shit-stir as usual.

    9. This Academic couldn't be bothered to leave his name? That's... interesting. Say what you will about N'Gai Croal, but at least the guy is well-established enough that he doesn't feel the need to hide behind a mask of anonymity.

    10. Anonymous12:27 am

      From N'Gai Croal's Edge column: "I'm a relative newcomer to videogames, having only dedicated myself seriously to the medium - both as a journalist and as a player - since 1999."

      So he jumped on the PS2 bandwagon 9 years ago like the majority of know-nothing journos - why is he taken so seriously? That's not what I'd call well-established.

    11. Guys guys guys. The key issues here is that it should be Resident Evil 6 not 5!
      Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil Code Veronic, Resident Evil 4: Nemesis and umm Resident Evil 5. Then Resident Evil 6. Maybe seven if we retrospectively call zero "1".

      So yes. Wankery bollocks is all good but lets tackle the real issue here.

    12. i thought RE4 was racist, given the sheer number of eastern european villagers you were expected to murder, who weren't even 'zombies' in the western sense, more in the voodoo sense of being mind slaves.

      but the imagery in the video made me feel very uncomfortable - it was too familiar.

    13. I think that he overdid, I don't think that the game is racist. I finished and there are variety of zombies. Also RE4 is in Spain and Spain didn't accuse them for racism