The Situationist

Resident Evil 5 and Racism in Video Games

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 13, 2009

resident-evil-5-imageHilary Goldstein of IGN has an interesting piece on possible evidence of racism in the upcoming video game Resident Evil 5, which will be sold for the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 and is expected to be one of the most popular games of the year.

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What’s drawing the ire of many outside the industry (and raising the eyebrows of some within it) is who you kill in Resident Evil 5 (“RE5”).

Set in Africa, your primary targets are native Africans. With the release of the first full RE5 trailer in 2007, numerous journalists and social commentators raised concern that RE5 depicted Africa as a nation of savages and that the game itself would reinforce unhealthy stereotypes. When Resident Evil 5 releases this March, those concerns won’t subside.

I’ve played the first half of RE5 and through those three chapters gamers spend a good majority of time shooting people with dark skin. There are moments that some will never connect with racism, but that others will see as clear use of racist iconography.

The game begins with Chris Redfield walking through an African village that appears uninfected. He sees some men kicking something in a sack. The implication is that even before the infection, these are bad people. If RE5 were set on another continent and these characters had white skin, no one would give it a second thought. Typical “village full of bad guys” gaming clich?. But these characters are black. And as such the imagery resident-evil-5can be perceived to have racist undertones. Later, there is a cutscene depicting a white woman being dragged into a house by an infected black man. In its recent hands-on, Eurogamer criticized this moment in particular for playing into traditional racist fear-mongering. To propagate fear of blacks from the time of slavery and through the Civil Rights movement in the United States, white society was warned that big black men are coming for your daughters.

Do these images and the fact that the core gameplay has you shooting black men and women make RE5 racist? The answer is going to vary greatly from one person to the next and, perhaps more significantly, from one region to the next. In Japan, for example, it’s unlikely that the events depicted in Resident Evil 5 will be viewed as racist in any way. Japan and other Asian nations never experienced centuries of racist oppression against blacks. In Europe and America, where racism continues to be an issue to this day, and where, less than two centuries ago, slavery was legal, the imagery will likely resonate more substantially.

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The storyline, which has non-native white men experimenting on the African populace, is not much of a stretch. From 1932 to 1975, 400 African-Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama were unwillingly participants in a government study on the affects of syphilis. A 2005 Fortune Magazine article revealed that “Pfizer administered doses of its experimental drug Trovan to children [in Africa] without their parents’ consent.” There are numerous other documented incidents of pharmaceutical companies setting up shop in the poorest areas of Africa to conduct low-cost experiments. Is it racist for Resident Evil 5 to create a similar, fictionalized account?

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For the rest of the article, click here.   For related Situationist posts, see “Encourage Your Daughters To Play Violent Video Games?,” “The Situation of First-Person Shooters,” “Suing the Suer: Video Game Company Sues Jack Thompson,” and Michael McCann’s “The Intersection between Tort Law and Social Psychology in Video Games.”


49 Responses to “Resident Evil 5 and Racism in Video Games”

  1. ‘If RE5 were set on another continent and these characters had white skin, no one would give it a second thought.’

    You are more right than you know. Does anyone pay any attention to the ‘5’ in the title of this game? There have already been four Resident Evil games, and all of them involved shooting hundreds of white people. Nobody had any complaints.

    We will never be an enlightened society until we care more about the act of violence than the target of violence.

  2. Sgt. J. Cole said

    There is not a race in the world that has not experienced slavery. Not one race is more than the other. When in RE 1 and up killing white people wasd ok, but when it is any other “dear God its racist”. I agree that it will be different from person to person. Just play the game and enjoy.

    [-We will never be an enlightened society until we care more about the act of violence than the target of violence.-] -Richard Burns. This is so true Richard, its the violence not the color. We all bleed red, and that is enough for me.

    Maybe we should make all enemies green in video games, maybe this will go better. Well, atleast until the aliens protest.

  3. xTACMANx said

    Ohhh but it was fine all these years killing the white zombies right? Its not racist it takes place there.

  4. ophiuchusrising said

    I think anyone who thinks this game is racist has there head up their ass. If you ever played Resident Evil 4 you would be shooting white people. No one makes a big deal about that. All the sudden people of a different color comes into the picture, and you’re all in an uproar. What message are you sending. That it’s all right to shoot white people, but not anybody of a different color. That sounds an awful lot like racism to me. Maybe if the good guys were black it wouldn’t raise so many questions.

  5. justin said

    well if u put it this way just because the story takes place in Africa DOES NOT MEAN ITS RACIST if u do think its racist then u might be very slow and your brain cant comprehend well if u had read the resident evil story’s well then u might know dipshit so get your facts right before u can call the game racist

  6. Justin said

    Articles like this and the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are the reason racism will never die in this country.

  7. Zach said

    OK… first of all there is no way that your going to be able to prove that it is racist. If anyone remembers right the story to the resident evil franchise was stated ” SET IN AFRICA ” that is where the virus originated so don’t go using your race as an excuse to have power over something. Yes you shoot some native africans and yes by all means there black. Does anyone really think that it is nessicary to say such words as” racist ” seroously grow up and learn a little. No matter what RESIDENT EVIL 5 IS NOT RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I believe i have many people to back up my argument. I conclude my statement.

  8. jake brooker said

    Im getting sick to death as everything being classes as racism. Let me tell you this if this was set in a town full of white people no1 would care or give a second thought. But if you chuck in a few black people and shoot em its racism.

    Whoever said this is racist is a fucking idiot in my eyes and im totally sick to death of everyone classing everything as racist, its fucking ridiculus.

  9. James Winduss said

    Resident evil 4 was based on killing Spaniards. Did anyone care then? how about all the other resident evils? by saying a survival horror game set in Africa should not depict Africans being shot is discrimination. Saying that fictional people cannot be displayed in their country of origin is like saying, were going to base this game in china but were not going to have any Chinese in the game because we don’t want to be racist. NEW FLASH! that is racist. separating someone because of their color skin is racist. saying you can’t have a game were black people are bad because that is racist is separating them from the rest of us thus making racism present. You shoot white people in this game, they are just not as frequent as blacks because it’s AFRICA! Grow up children and relies that making a big deal of nothing all the time isn’t helping the world become one, in fact it’s doing the exact opposite.

  10. Scat said

    Think about it. When you kill white guys there’s no problem. But when you kill (in this case) black guys there is? Who is discriminating here? Stop condescending other races, you as*holes.

  11. 23Reaper07 said

    everything that involves black people these days is racist isn’t it. NO it FUCking isn’t. a story set in africa is going to have africans in it isn’t it (Resident Evil 5). a game set in europe is going to have some form of europeans, hmm Spanish for instant. (redsident evil 4) a game set in America is going to have fucking white people (resident evil 1, 2 & 3). resident evil have basically travelled to every country in the world and has depicted the race of that country being killed. is it racist? no it isn’t. over the years Capcom has shared equality of horrors throughout different races. lets put another topic up; it was a white man killing white zombies in resident evil 1, 2, and 3. it was a white man killing spanish infectees in resident evil 4. and in both those cases NO ONE SAID SHIT!!! now that capcom and the resident evil company have taken it to africa, they are suddenly the worlds most racist company, now why don’t people realise the facts ITS A GAME!!! THERE IS NO MEANING BEHIND IT, IT HAS A STORY JUST LIKE NORMAL BOOKS!!! SIT DOWN SHUT UP AND FUCKING PLAY IT!!!!

    thankyou <3

  12. kris said

    When you play the game you will understand that no matter what color the zombie is that you must shoot it or it is gonna kill you. You wont have time to think about racism when you are running from a zombie weilding a chainsaw.

  13. Freeman said

    This is the biggest amount of bullshit i have ever heard, the game is a game there is nothing rasist about it, you can’t say its rasist because you kill black people mostly throughout the game, implying that the game designers would do such a thing is rediculous, its people like you who take rasism to far. In a game where you kill white people often, do i call it rasism no, its just a game, people like you are the reason children can’t sing bah bah black sheep anymore. Fucking rediculous i tell you.

  14. Sgt. WW Lc said

    i’m from indonesia..
    the real, i haven’t know what is re5 looks like..
    i played resident evil since i was child, re 1, 2, 3, n 4..
    n i’ll be waiting re 5 to came to indonesia..
    n don’t forget to make pc version..
    it’s more great played by mouse than gamepad..
    in indonesian i can say ‘cpet dikirim ya, cepat dirilis versi pcnya’

  15. Lambert said

    You become ridiculous when you see racism everywhere, this game talks about people infected, and in RE5 the place is in Africa. Personnally I had never thought about racism before i read this article, I think people who maked this article are the most racist because they think about that.
    ps: sorry for my english, this is not my first language

  16. Incie said

    Currently playing RE5 Now and i have to say there are more Black people to shoot but there is still plenty of white thrown in there too, the game is set in africa so it is just portraying the realism of the nation you are situated in, not to mention that your ingame partner Sheva is african but she seems to be more mixed race. playing the game i feel no racism is there, its just another misunderstood game with themes that some people may disagree with. Racism no! Bloody good YES! Res evil will always be awesome, they say this is the last in this story line using the las plagas and ourboros, wonder if they’ll go back to the zombie roots but have them running instead like a new super T-Virus!

  17. h4x0r said

    wow… whoever posted this is a complete and utter moron… ok if we remove the black people from africa we are seperating them, segregating them if you will, that is what racism truely is.

  18. kyle said

    chris’s partner sheva is black…

  19. sk8rmichael said

    ok first off i dont get how as soon as black people come into the picture its considred racsisem when re4 had like zillions of whight people but yea that isnt racist and i saw quite a few whight zombies such as the whight chick thaat has the first snake head you see and ther are ones that are whight guys as well and as far as the guy they beat up in a bag i always thought it was an infected or a animal or some thing and you vant judge a game if you havnt played it all the way thrugh it is just about the best game ive played so far and it has been one of the better resident evils but 4 would have to be the best but as far as the black people go i didnt think racist of it its just like the zombies in resident evil 4 thanks for hearin me out

  20. Dave said

    This is such bullshit
    Just because its about black people its bluddy racist, wtf?
    If it was white people is it racist? NO!
    I’ve just purchased the game and no way is it racist in anyway shape or form.
    So shut the fuck up and your facts right!

  21. L. Calboutin said

    I think most comments here are all pretty much expressing the same reactions.
    And tbh, i agree with them all. This game is far from racist, the antagonists arent black people, they’re infected people. No-body raised much of a hoo-har about Resi 4… but suddenly because the antagonists happen to be black its racist? i think capcom have (consciously or unconsciously) raised a pretty relevant point. black people have just the same ability to be “evil” as white people… as do any race, and tbh – to cry prejudice simple because of the colour of the (zombies-but-not-zombies) is just as bad, sticking up for people because you think they need it, and in all fairness when they dont, i think Resi 5 is CRACKING… not as gud as Resi 1 or Resi 3… but still fantastic.

  22. Masquerade said

    This game is “Racist” yet in RE4 you can shoot mexicans and they dont say a word about it, yet here you shoot Blacks and it all of a sudden becomes racist? Stereotypical assholes my ass its a video game if you cant depict reality from fantasy than you dont need to be playing games. And I am sure all gamers will agree with me.

  23. Harlequin said

    This argument is retarded, this game isn’t racist! It’s set in Africa, now what majority of people live in Africa? Oh, gee it must be white people. WRONG! Black people live in Africa, it only makes sense they’re the ones there. In RE4 it was a bunch of Spaniards, where was the uproar then?

  24. Black Man said

    I really loved the game, I hope it was was not intentionnally racist.

    I have to disagree with every one on this… killing zombies is normal for a resident evil game but some of them are indigenous people in this game.

    Its racist to depict black people still living in huts, fighting with spears, painting their bodies and shooting bow and arrows.

    Just that one chapter that I think is retarded.

  25. Bryan said

    In response to Black Man’s comment…some of the infected are Native Africans in that one chapter, so it isn’t racist, it is merely depicting the image of the native africans so that i disagree is not racist. Resident evil 4 was not so called considered racist when it was completely based in spain when u are killing spaniards….but now its racist when it is based in Africa, shooting africans!!! So why dont i read this article talking about racist it was depicting the spanish midget in that clothing. Resident Evil 5 is not racist…IT’S JUST A GAME!!!!!!

  26. dzee said

    All of the past resident evil games were made up of white zombies getting their brains blown out up until re4 spaniards were getting there heads shot off and no1 mention racism so why now cause its placed in africa and it involves dark skinned zomies getting massacred its racist I think it be racist if it took place in africa and only had white zombies like the past r.e. Games so for those who are calling re5 racist is only holding society back get over it its just a game you don’t like it go make a game that kills a race you prefer watching getting slaughtered shit I wouldn’t care ITS JUST A GAME get a fucking life haters!!!!!

  27. LoboBolt said

    Its not the fact that you are a white guy killing black zombies it is just you never see a black protagonist killing white antagonist. I know it is a killed or be killed situation it is just you do not see it with the shoe on the other foot. Suppose Resident Evil 6 your character was a black guy in England shooting up white people. I’m pretty sure being a white person playing the game would make you feel uncomfortable.

  28. El Negro said

    There are alot of strong emotions in the previous posts. I am a black guy. Do I think the game was racist no not particlarly. But lets think about how much joy those who are racist will get from shooting black people & how that will spread like wildfire through their groups.. “Oh man you gotta get this game cause all you do is shoot at n****** all day long!” & as far as I am concerned I can’t remember shooting at one black zombie in the previous incarnations sowhat’s up with that I’m just mad it took this long for blacks to be able to be zombies what’s up with that?

  29. Silverfox said

    Okay, this game takes place in Africa, a place where the clear majority of the people have black skin which is a result of evolution and adaptation to the strong sun exposure in the land. Why should there be anything else than the people in Africa in a game that takes place in Africa?

    Certain groups of people need to cool down, every other group gets killed in a game every now and then :)

  30. hrmhrm said

    Dude, in RE4 you’re in Spain. You’re shooting Spaniards. Learn your games before asking for agreement.

  31. Toby said

    Why is it any different to real life anyway? lol

  32. Toby said

    Seen Far Cry 2 yet? Exact same concept but its based on real circumstances, completely obliterating any black man that moves. but because RE5 isn’t based on real facts, its considered racism.

  33. Rick said

    I don’t believe the accusation of this game being racist has any validity. In the first few games the zombies were undead with pale skin. Were they “white” (or caucasian)? Who’s to say because they were depicted as the more traditional zombies with no allegiance to any particular race. They were simply white with decaying skin, eyes that were whited out and a hunger for flesh. However, some of the other characters that you battled (villains who injected themselves with the virus then became a monster) were in fact white. In Resident Evil 4, while the “zombies” had light skin, they were from South America, so one could argue that they were latin, or hispanic, rather than white.

    In the last 2 Resident Evil games (4 and 5) the storyline has taken a much more realistic approach. Instead of the virus turning them into Hollywood zombies it has turned them into savage shells of their former selves (the zombies have an almost rabies-like quality to them).

    If people would pay attention to the details of the story this virus has turned those affected into savages. Those who haven’t been affected are on-edge and don’t take kindly to strangers and rightfully so if you put yourself in that position.

    Plus, if you’ve ever watched the movie “Resident Evil: Degeneration” (which is a prequel to RE5) you’d see a lot of caucasian people turning into zombies, being killed and trying to kill others.

    So why is it now that because the game features African people being turned into zombies, killing and being killed it’s “racist”? Do your homework before playing “the race card”. I’d think people would be more concerned with franchises like Grand Theft Auto (in which the main characters have been both black AND white and have killed other people in the game of all races). While the games are fun, the killing is much more unjustified than in Resident Evil. Get over yourselves people and play the game for what it is – a story about surviving and trying to contain a virus outbreak.

  34. rich said

    in the past they killed whight people

  35. plyktopy said

    dude your so right man ! i hate people who thinks that the game is racism.. why are they allowed to shoot white people??

  36. bboycadu said

    sou negro e só tenho uma coisa a dizer , nao tem racismo nenhum neste jogo. nos outros resident evil só se matava zumbis brancos e porque estavam nos eua ou espanha ou lugares parecidos agora algum tipo de praga ou algo se manifestou la na africa entao é la que tem que ir os personagens para livrarem a civilizaçao de tal , racismo kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk nada disso!

  37. lolwtevr said

    Oh, no… one out of 5 resident evil games features black zombies.

    Take your race card and shove it up your ass.

  38. free rights said

    if anything this game shows the effects that something could have on an unstable country, doesnt mean to say africa is unstable, just means that if ure not carefull then the shit will hit the fan… history aside coz its in the past now so get over it! if u want to change the world why not get5 the fuck out there and do it yourself.

  39. Ljb said

    Completely agree with the majority of the posts I see here. This game is not at all racist; you only fire at the African locals because they are infected. Hey, article writer,if you were ever in this situation in RL tell me you wouldn’t shoot the infected people. “Hey guys, I know you’re going to eat me, but shooting you is racist so I can’t stop it.”

    Not to mention the fact that in all the other Resident Evils people of other races were being shot. But that’s ok right? Apparently so because people didn’t cry like you did.

    The only racism I see here is the article writer singling out Africans in the game. This is a story about surviving a virus outbreak, set in Africa, so expect Africans to be involved and get over yourself.

  40. y? said

    You think your comment is a laughing matter?

  41. Dylan Pogust said

    i must admit, you are kind of right. but at the same time, the other 4 games didn’t take place in anywhere specific. and even though it does take place in africa, why not have mixed races? they do it in left 4 dead

  42. Dylan Pogust said

    i think all 4 games are SOMEWHAT (qualifier) racist, in every other zombie game i’ve played (house of the dead, left 4 dead) they have mixed up the races of who you’re shooting. in protoype it’s the same deal. but in these games there are no other races in the games.

  43. Dylan Pogust said


  44. Dylan Pogust said

    being from spain is not a race, those people were white, which makes race not a playable card in this game

  45. Dylan Pogust said

    native Africans where t shirts, and drive cars (if they have one). just because they are native, it doesn’t mean they need to be stereotypes

  46. Ricardo said


  47. Ahomlandisher said

    this is wrong, RE5 is NOT RACIST, whoever thinks it RE5 is, is actually racist himself. Why on earth did anybody NOT complain about shooting white zombies, the only difference in RE5 is that this time its in Africa, generally an area of black people, white zombies are as bad to kill as a black zombie would, start thinking more racists!

  48. LaTavia said


  49. Thank from Gayla Hanten

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