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Capcom: We're Never Going To Have Another  RE5  Controversy
Capcom: We're Never Going To Have Another RE5 Controversy Exclusive
August 24, 2010 | By Staff

August 24, 2010 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

A new Gamasutra feature reveals that the Japanese gaming giant has put measures in place to stop controversies like the race flap that dogged Resident Evil 5 from occurring again.

When Capcom showed its first trailers of Japan-developed Resident Evil 5, the company was accused of racism in its depiction of primarily black African zombies fighting a white American protagonist. The company later took steps in both further development of the game's content and via its public relations to smooth over these problems before its eventual, highly successful, release.

It turns out that the Osaka-headquartered company has put forward a formal process for dealing with international cultural issues.

"Since the RE5 controversy, we have become much more aware of how important it is that we are part of the asset creation process early on so that we are able to have a say in the end product," says Capcom senior PR manager Melody Pfeiffer.

"We are also designing a lot of our own assets from this side of the pond, so that we are able to make strategic pieces of content that make sense for our market," she says.

"We are working really closely with our producers in Japan to construct these materials for the West and they are open more then ever to hearing our thoughts and ideas for assets."

The full feature, 'Games With The Power To Offend: Surviving And Stoking Controversy', goes into depth on dealing with gaming controversies and developer and PR response, and is live now on Gamasutra.

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Justin Kwok
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People are going to be offended by anything. It's sad that because some people wrongly judged a game based on 2 minutes of footage, the game gets to be designed by the PR department.

We always argue that games are a form of speech but the second we don't like something, we turn on it. Having freedom of speech means protecting ALL speech. That (especially) includes speech you don't agree with.

Kevin Cardoza
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They could have made the bad guys like all the zombies in Resident Evil. Or they could have made them like the enemies in Resident Evil 4.

Instead, they made it so that their eyes bug out and their lips get puffy. Then they made a trailer focusing on that fact as they drag away innocent white, blond females.

People are not going to be offended by "anything". Another game called Far Cry 2 was released the exact same year, and featured a white protagonist shooting a ton of black people in Africa, but the controversy was pretty much non-existent because there wasn't anything offensive about it.

If that trailer wasn't deliberately racially insensitive, it was completely stupid of them, and they deserve to have the PR department looking over them for that ridiculousness.

I'll make a different assertion. We always argue that games aren't accepted as a valid art form and are treated like mindless garbage for children, but the second they are treated as a mature medium and criticized as such, everyone bitches about how it's just a game and we shouldn't be offended by anything in it or looking too deep.

Chris Day
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"Having freedom of speech means protecting ALL speech."

I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone claimed that RE5 should have been banned. They just said that it looked insensitive to colonial history.

Free speech just means that everyone should be free to say what they want, it does NOT mean that when someone has said what they want you have to agree.

Whether you think the criticisms of RE5 were valid or not, it had nothing to do with free speech.

Chris Rigopulos
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Oh Justin, why must you join the legions that fundamentally misunderstand the concept of freedom of speech. This is not a freedom of speech issue. Capcom (or anyone else in America) can express their views and opinions.

But we are also all responsible for the consequences of our expressed views and opinions, including the inevitable response by other people who interpret and possibly assail our views, whether fair or not, as guaranteed by THEIR freedom of expression.

Put differently, we do not and never have protected the content of all speech, we only protect the right of someone to say it.

Justin Kwok
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My apologies. I brought up freedom of speech in the wrong context. I admit my mistake.

My main point (which totally got lost) is that because of the "outrage", it gives more credence to the idea that PR should design a game. Which stifles the original creators intent and to a certain degree can be analogous to self censorship.

@Kevin: "They could have made the bad guys like all the zombies in Resident Evil. "

Well, they COULD also make the enemies all robots and then likely no one would be offended. Now if PR gets a say in the matter... to reduce the likelyhood of anyone being offended they just might (hyperbole, yes. But you get my point).

And when I said that people will be offended by anything, I just mean that anyone looking for a reason can and will be offended. Again, the fact that PR gets to dictate what is and isn't in the game (even more than they already do) is what I find abhorrent.

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Unfortunately, this will mean less game with black people in any kind of situation. The RE5 made me excited as a caraibean, because it was a first time we were kind of massively represented despite the awkward cliché. We can see after-wise that sheeva disappeared in favor of the more acceptable Claire redfield.

Bye bye africa, we won't know any more cool character and setting out of you

Frank Diaz
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I haven't gotten far into the game, but the Caribbean is represented?? I thought they were in Africa.. Initially I thought it was going to be based on Haitian voodoo, but everything I've read has implied it was set in Africa, not the Caribbean.

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We are not but we are assimilate to the broad (misleading) terms of black, so there is some shred of a tears that permeate our culture when this kind of topic is brought.

Gamin Geek
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Ridiculous! This world has become far too PC for it's own good. Anyone who cries racism in this game has obviously never played it!

Rodney Brett
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Remember the days of old when books were burned and the written word caused public contoversy.. Of course, the general herd-like masses don't care about that anymore and you can write as controverial of a book as you want and no one will cry foul.. Even films now don't get this kind of treatment anymore.. Why the picking on games? Is it the interactive element? Capcom "chose" to make adjustments to RE5 and PR statement, they were not forced to. I believe that fact needs to be mentioned, no it's not a "Freedom of Speech" issue. It's a public pressure one. I doubt they'd lose much sales of the game if they didn't change the content.

Brian Dreyer
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"Since the RE5 controversy..." What a spineless, gutless thing to do/say. There is no controversy other then the one created by Capcom and now prolonged by this PR Troll. I'd fire this person today.

If asked about the "RE5 controversy..." I'd say, what controversy? There is no controversy. When you do a game in Africa, one tends to find people of Africans."

Aaron Truehitt
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It's just a bunch of silliness. Just overzealous groups is all they are.

Brian Dreyer
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Well, we can't accept this sort of stupidity... Video Games is one of the last places to be destroyed in America by the never clearly defined PC ideology.

Can a player play as a Terrorist? Yes.

Can a game use the "N-word"? Yes.

Can a game demoralize ant group of people? Yes.

This months Edge Magazine, two articles, one praising a game about Global Warmi... I mean 'Climate Change' and the other about the need for positive Gay characters in games... that chicks with big boobs is bore-ish... Ok, Brits... but still WTF!! "Sorry, go away..."

Thanks for listening to the rant....!

Kevin Patterson
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There will always be controversy, as when there isn't one, groups and individuals will make one.

The reason is that groups and individuals gain power by creating controversy, it's in the best interest to do so for their personal gain.

Aaron Tabak
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"I'll make a different assertion. We always argue that games aren't accepted as a valid art form and are treated like mindless garbage for children, but the second they are treated as a mature medium and criticized as such, everyone bitches about how it's just a game and we shouldn't be offended by anything in it or looking too deep."

Yup. The RE5 controversy was a lot of the usual "games are art, but don't judge them as art" whining. Any film or TV show containing the images in those early trailers would have received just as much controversy.

Isiac DaGraca
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I think people still have multiple views of games in society.

Some say games are an art and their stories should be taken seriously. Others say games are just entertainment, and take it as seriously as the common tv show or movie.

Some movies are really deep, moving, and though provoking. other movies may not be that way, compare Independence Day to district 9, both in a way are aliens vs humans but one is more about the conflict, the other feeds you the philosophy of the conflict both good movies but different experience. In one "Defeat the aliens!" in the other "How could we do that to them!"

Then compare Metal gear solid to Bad Company 2. MW2 focuses on the world events and even some philosophy behind it. while bad company is more about the group, and their troubles.

in one "the philosophy of nuclear war! peace! global war control! Genetics and nano machines!" the other " Keep our asses alive, take risks to triumph, and get on with our lives..."

Both cases are great games / movies, but different intent. perhaps to some one justifies the action (killing per se), the other makes it wrong...

Brett Williams
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A person is a person, regardless of race or gender and it has long been considered that way (for my generation, at least). I honestly can say that not once in seeing anything like this do I feel it is a shot at race. It never really crosses my mind. I see a person go through an anguishing ordeal that results in them being a zombie, and another person who is attacked by zombies, fighting for their life.

If the story was about a man travelling to Japan, I would expect to see Japanese people. If it were about a man traveling to the Antarctic I would expect to see penguins. I do not believe this to be racist, I see it as a setting. When an American travels to a small village in Africa, there will be African people there. I don't see this as a surprise, or a shot at any one person or group.

The overzealous pursuit of a group for equality is often times what defines the line that makes it mandatory to differentiate them. This simply perpetuates the problem. We are all people. We are made from a finite set of parts.

Aaron Tabak
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Since I see the usual oversimplifications are alive and well, here's a good summary of the issue(s) with the game from elsewhere:

'I feel you're oversimplifying it and losing some of the nuances. Sure, your partner is black, but she also happens to be several shades paler than the enemies, in keeping with traditional associations linked to darkness of skin in black people. Sure, the people you're shooting are zombies, but the african villagers are depicted as savage and menacing even before the zombie infection - the very first scene in the game involves you walking in on a bunch of villagers savagely beating an unidentified figure, with no communication coming from them. The game also throws complete gratuitous "tribal" zombies, decked out in war paint, and throws in flavour text saying that Las Plagas has devolved the africans to their "primal" state. The geography of the game was also kind of all over the place, and made me feel like they were just going from one "African" setting to another, without regard for actual geography or culture.

I don't think the developers can be given a pass for making an "authentic" game - the setting doesn't match up, the depictions of the villagers are charged with racial codesigns, both pre- and post-infection, and I distinctly remember Jun Takeuchi being pressed on what part or parts of Africa he based the setting on (and what research was involved) and giving a complete blank as an answer.'

And the image of a muscular white man mowing down African savages has loaded context and connotations, regardless of the narrative in which it occurs. There isn't a cultural vacuum.

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You forget the high number of main black character in video games. Which bring the problem of representation. Who is reduce to cannon fodder?

David Tarris
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I like how you make it sound like this was an intentional play to slant Africans and those of African descent -- by developers, who are Japanese. This game would never have been made in America for obvious reasons. This is our culture we're talking about, and the topics with which we are uniquely sensitive towards. Perhaps also some other western cultures as well, but mostly American, I'd say.

Now, Japan has no history of racial tension between Japanese and Africans beyond the racial clashes between "Japanese and Everyone Else" during their isolationist period. So why would they have an agenda to specifically target blacks to begin with?

The important thing to note about this overblown "controversy" is that we can't expect every other culture to build their games (and other entertainment) with a cultural filter satisfying every society on Earth. Just as no one would be shocked if American developers forgot to pretend people don't eat beef in the United States for Indian consumers, I don't think it's absurd to think Capcom merely overlooked the racial sensitivity with this issue.

So was the decision to put the game in Africa with limited understanding of the culture and setting in poor taste? Maybe, not for me, but it's your right to not buy the game if it offends you. However, if you're saying the developers were actively practicing "racism" in this instance, I'd say your full of it.

Brandon Shorter
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Actually the Japanese have a long history of racism and Xenophobia particular despising anyone with darker skin (usually darker skin was a symbol of poverty and people worked out in the fields )But that been expanded to includes Africans ,3rd world countries and darker skin Asian minority that live native in Japan such as Okinawans groups that where conquered by invading Samurai. ,Along with hatred of other Asian group Korean and Chinese there far from innocent, Ignorant maybe, but far from innocent victims.. Also adopted many racial stereotype from Western Racial Stereotypes into there own media and many racial interpretation from interaction with European Colonialism that intermixed with there own local caste racism. .

And Japanese Racism is peculiar in that they consider themselves Asian but Whiter or More Aryan than other Asian groups .

heath willmann
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i did not even know there was an re5 contraversy and i never had a problem with the game. yea the main group of people in the game where black , but i wasn't shooting black people per say i was still shooting people who had been infected with the virus. you dont start out walking into town and shooting them. also the person being dragged off in the begining is another black man not a white blonde woman.

i was going to write more but honestly if you want to be offended than be my guest.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Alvaro Gonzalez
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Casual Game industry take specially care on not offend the audience including any stereotypes or themes that brings controversy. They know that their audience pay attention on this things and making a mistake like this could make a franchise fall apart. Maybe is time for Hardcore Developers to look at Casual and think more serious about it. As a hardcore player would be good fill that they take care of us.

In the other hand is true that the word "controversy" is a powerful weapon for Media and Corps. They use it to make tricky commercial moves and use us saying that they represent the voice of the audience and that is unfair and most of the time not true.

Josh Foreman
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I think it's sad that a company is going to be adding more filters to there development process because western cultures are still on the other side of the pendulum swing away from overt racism. Just as in RE4, we are not killing anyone of a particular race, we are killing zombies, for love of John! As game developers we have just started scratching the surface of the continent of Africa as a theme or setting. Such a shame that could be getting shut down now out of some silly concern for P.R.