Devil’s Advocate

I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t particularly like Kotaku. I’ll visit occasionally when a friend links me to an interesting story, but left to my own devices I don’t visit. Why? Because I find it difficult to find the interesting articles since their redesign, and most of what I end up seeing is game-related cakes. I have Reddit for that, and it works better because the cakes are easier to find, and I can completely bypass them if I want to read better articles. Recently I was sent a link to Kotaku’s take on the Humble THQ Bundle. READ MORE


August 7, 2007

It is not racist for a white man to shoot a black man.

Think on that for a minute. Now, stop calling me a racist and listen.

Capcom recently released a trailer for the sixth main storyline installment of their Resident Evil (BioHazard in Japan) franchise. RE5 takes place in Haiti. Haiti is populated predominantly by black people. Now, if some crazy zombie-virus making company were to “accidentally” create a zombie-virus breakout in Haiti, what would most of the zombies look like? If you said “Haitians” you deserve a gold star. Logic dictates that the zombie population of an area will be primarily composed of the rotting corpses of the old population of an area. To prove this we need to look no further than Resident Evil 4. When Las Plagas (that’s Spanish for “The Plague”) infected an area of Spain, the vast majority (if not all) of the zombies were originally Spanish people. That game wasn’t racist either. It was internally consistent.

Kym Platt, a contributor to the Black Looks blog, thinks that the Resident Evil 5 trailer is racist. The problem with this view is that it is formed from ignorance. The trailer isn’t examined in the proper context – that of the Resident Evil video game series. Regarding the trailer she writes this.

“This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.”

The black people in the trailer, as far as I can tell, aren’t depicted as inhuman savages until they are inhuman savages: zombies infected by the Umbrella Corporation’s zombie-virus. The white man in military clothing she mentions is none other than Chris Redfield – a now-recurring character in the series. Undoubtedly, Capcom took notice of Leon S. Kennedy’s popularity in Resident Evil 4 and sought to recreate their success. See, Leon is also a recurring character in the franchise; RE4 wasn’t his first time encountering the zombie hoards. As a matter of fact, Resident Evil 5 looks like a set and main character change for Resident Evil 4. The combat looks the same, the story (so far) feels similar (RE4: Spain has been turned into zombie country; clean it up! – RE5: Haiti has been turned into zombie country; clean it up!), and it features the same over-the-shoulder viewpoint as its predecessor.

What I really want to talk about, though, is racism in general. I said it at the beginning of this piece, and I’m saying it again now. It is not racist for a white man to shoot a black man. The act only becomes racist when the white man is shooting the black man because that black man is, in fact, black. Viewing the RE5 trailer it is painfully obvious that something isn’t right in that little Haitian village. One man is bleeding from his eyes. A crowd of people seem to be rioting and throwing things at a stage. And a few seconds later everybody is attacking the player character. Common sense says “if the best weapon I have is a rake then I shouldn’t attack the man with a gun,” but that’s exactly what the infected Haitian population is doing to Chirs Redfield. He’s not shooting at them because they’re black. He’s shooting at them because they’re trying to kill him.

Now that that’s out of the way, I have never felt more ashamed of my hobby than when I read the comments directed at Ms. Platt on the Black Looks blog. Disagree with her opinion. I know I do. But there is absolutely no reason to call her a nigger, a bitch, a whore. She is a human being, and she is entitled to her opinion. If you disagree with her then engage her in intelligent conversation. Bring up your points in a calm and rational manner. Race relations are a touchy subject, and getting riled up because somebody else is riled up isn’t going to help anything. Education is what will fix this; not seeing who can yell the loudest over the Internet. Ms. Platt may be wrong, but so are those that left racist comments for her. She may be ignorant of the Resident Evil series of video games, but that’s no reason to throw racial slurs.

I have only one thing left to say:

Ms. Platt, I am deeply sorry for the comments left to you on your blog post. They were inappropriate, racist, hateful, and it makes me sad to think that people would use that kind of language today. I hope that you read this, and I hope that even if you don’t agree with my opinion that you give it a fair shake. We’re not all adolescent punks looking to ruffle one another’s feathers, and you deserve better than to be treated that way.

Let’s assume that you own a PS2. If you don’t, pretend that you do while you read this. Then go down to your local electronics store and pick one up. They’re cheap now, and you won’t be disappointed. If you are disappointed, I don’t want to hear about it because you’re doing it wrong. Let’s also assume that you own a 360 and a copy of Guitar Hero II with a working guitar. I know it’s far-fetched, but work with me. It’ll do your imagination good.

Now, give me $40.00. In return I’ll give you a copy of the PS2 version of Guitar Hero (sans guitar). It comes with 47 songs, head-to-head multiplayer, multiple characters, multiple guitars, and numerous bonus tracks available for purchase with cash earned by shredding with the best of them on the Toxic Tour.

Or, you could give me $93.75. In return I’ll give you all the songs present in the original Guitar Hero. There’s an added bass or rhythm part and you can play co-op with your friends if you pick up an additional wired guitar. As an added bonus, you’ll be tethered to your 360 as your friends point and laugh while wirelessly tearing it up on the PS2 version. Also, they paid $10 less for the base game. They also got 10 fewer songs… wait a minute. That works out to $1.00 per song. Remember that. It’s going to be important later.

Why does it cost more than twice as much to play the songs on your 360? I’m glad you asked. Unfortunately, the answer is greed. You’ll hear a lot about licensing fees and digital distribution, but what it really boils down to is that Microsoft, Activision, and Harmonix like money. They know you’ve got it, and they know that the song list from the first game is generally preferred to that of the sequel.


Before we begin, I’d like to make two things clear. First, I want to see the PlayStation 3 succeed. Diversity and competition are good in any market. I don’t own a PS3 yet, but I have access to one. Second, LOL SONY! Giant enemy crabs! 599 US DOLLARS! There, that feels better, and it’s the last time you’ll see unfounded jabs here. With those things out of the way, here’s what I think Sony did wrong and why I think you should care.

Phil HarrisonPublic Backpedaling
At the 2005 European Game Developers Conference, Phil Harrison said that it was unlikely that Sony would mimic Microsoft’s two SKU strategy for the PlayStation 3 release. He then went on to say that multiple versions of the console would only serve to confuse both customers and retailers. That’s great, and personally, I agree with the statement. Microsoft made a mistake by offering a 360 without a HDD as it means that developers can’t take advantage of it without also coding for the users that don’t have it.

The man’s entitled to his opinion, but why publicly denounce the two SKU strategy and then use it yourself two years later? It makes you look foolish. You can only mislead the public so many times before they become wary of anything that comes out of your mouth.

Throwing a fit when people quote you on the subject doesn’t net you any points either. You said it, Phil. Own it and move on. Apologize for lying to us if you’d like, but don’t berate gaming journalists for publishing the quotes of a Sony employee at an industry event. That’s why we’re there: to figure out what’s going on and inform the public.

Price Point
The PlayStation 3 is expensive. Very expensive. That one piece of home electronics equipment costs more than many people pay in rent every month. And it doesn’t come with a game. To get up and running, you’re looking at a minimum investment of $560.00 plus tax.

Why is it so expensive? The Blu-Ray player. If I wanted a movie player, I’d buy a movie player. I want a game player. A games machine is not the right place to push your new movie format – especially when including it is a contributing factor to driving the PS3’s price up to $200.00 more per SKU than the Xbox 360.

People have psychological monetary limits after which they do some serious thinking about a purchase. For small items, that limit is usually around $50.00. That’s enough that most of us can walk into a Best Buy store and walk out with a game without feeling guilty (because honestly, who thinks about tax until they’re at the register?). Similarly, for larger items, $500.00 is a common limit. Both the Wii and the Xbox 360 – each purchased with an additional game – fall under this barrier. The PS3, depending on which version is purchased, exceeds the limit by $60.00 or $160.00.

The only other console to break the $500.00 barrier in recent memory in the Neo-Geo AES, and we all know how that turned out.

Full HD Gaming
That must mean 1080p, right? I would expect at least 1080i (which is, coincidentally, the maximum resolution that my television and most others I’m familiar with can output). Why then is the PS3 shipped with a set of composite cables? Composite cables are easily the worst way to convey a video signal to an HDTV. I can understand not throwing an HDMI cable in the box as that standard isn’t supported by some older sets, but where are the component cables? Hell, as long as you’re going to throw antiquated A/V technology in the box, where is the S-Video cable? Anything would have been better than composite cables and the choice to ship them with every PS3 is an insult to the very people the PS3 appeals to: the audiovisual enthusiast and the gamer that genuinely cares about graphical quality.

Don’t underestimate your customers; we’re smarter than you seem to think we are.

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March 16, 2007