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A Critique on the Redefining of Identity Through Resident Evil 5 Gameplay              By Cody Schmitt

Caucasian Americans have been encouraged to adopt and embrace an equality between themselves and individuals of any background.  Since the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ethnic equality has been encouraged as a culture norm in an attempt to establish a country without racism over the last 45 years.  However, this ethical code was threatened in 2009 through the cyborg medium of video gaming, as it allows a skewed perception of African American civil rights through the gameplay of Resident Evil 5.

A screenshot of Resident Evil 5 gameplay.

A screenshot of Resident Evil 5 gameplay.

Players are confined to the role of a male Caucasian digital double, who’s mission is to fight the hordes of infected Africans that threaten to destroy the world.  This practice of cyborgism presents an inaccurate symbolism for Caucasians and African Americans.  According to Alex Pham of the LA Times, the game depicts “Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing… fearing, hating, and destroying black people” (Pham).  The games creators argue that there was no intention of discriminating against individuals of African American descent.  With Resident Evil 4 taking place in Spain, it can be argued that the targeted sub-group of Spaniards was directly dependent on the predetermined storyline of the franchise.  In other words, the Spanish zombies were a consequence of the game’s storyline and pre-anticipated environmental features.  The slaughter of the Spanish horde was not the foundation that dictated every additional feature of the game.  This same framework can be directly correlated to the intentions of Resident Evil 5.  However, there remains the question of whether or not we can establish a complete disregard for ethnic inequality when there remains an unauthentic presentation of culture through modern video games.  The African female protagonist Sheva Alomar plays as a devil’s advocate in the expected racist intentions of the game.  However, her inaccurate representation of an African makes this possibility questionable.  According to Lake Desire of the Borderhouse Blog, it is implied that the “character designers seem to have gone out of their way to make her look less African than the rest of the black characters in the game” (Desire).  Even though Sheva’s presence may help ease feelings of inequality, her features have a potentially negative impact on the perspectives of Caucasion player’s regardless of their gender.  This establishes a considerable struggle in the assimilation of players to the intended norms of modern society.  In the end, does the gameplay encourage Caucasian players to feel a sense of dominance over African Americans through participation, or does the suggested initiatives of Capcom challenge this reading?

List of References:

Desire, Lake. “Racism & Resident Evil 5 Part Two: Sheva Alomar.” Borderhouseblog.com. N.p., 24 Jan. 2010. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Pham, Alex. “Technology.” Racism in Resident Evil 5? Capcom, Two Black Actors Respond. LA Times, 12 Feb. 2009. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

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