Talking Racism In ‘Resident Evil 5’ With USA Today

By Stephen Totilo

I didn’t think that the first time I’d be quoted in USA Today would be for a conversation about racism, but it’s racism as it relates to video games — that kind of fits. For years, I’ve been MTV News’ video game guy.

So on Sunday night, after wrapping up a mini-marathon with a pre-release version of “Resident Evil 5,” and right before I got started with the “Prince of Persia” expansion (thank goodness for my patient wife!), I got on the phone with Mike Snider, a reporter for USA Today. He was writing a piece that would be published in today’s paper.

For well over a year, there has been passionate conversation across the Internet about the imagery first used to hype the coming of “Resident Evil 5.” At our gaming blog, MTV Multiplayer, we published articles and interviews about it, exploring the issue and triggering hundreds of comments. The trigger for all this was the game’s first trailer, which showed an impoverished Africa where white hero Chris Redfield would be sent to fend off a virus infestation that was turning regular Africans into zombified mutants.

Some readers wanted to talk about this game and their passionate feelings about the first images. Others just wanted us to wait until the game was out or even simply shut up. They felt that anyone who saw anything racially questionable in the trailer was essentially providing fodder to the many know-nothing critics of games, who vilify a great form of entertainment without ever having tried it for themselves. (A good reason to be patient, they pointed out, was because we now know that Chris spends his entire adventure fighting alongside black allies, undoing the initial white-vs.-black imagery of the trailer.)

You can find an index of what we wrote about the trailer, what people said about our pieces and what USA Today eventually published at our Multiplayer blog.

We haven’t had the last word on this yet. That won’t come until the end of the week, when “Resident Evil 5” reviews can run. But today, at least, readers of the biggest newspaper in the country — more than 2 million readers — are getting a taste of what’s been going on here. I hope they’re gamers, and I hope they make time to play and to think about a world where race in video games matters.

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