During our discussions of Resident Evil 3 remake on this week's Waypoint Radio, we take a look back at the response to N'Gai Croals critique of Resident Evil 5's announcement trailer, and the backlash it received. The conversation reminds us that hiring people from marginalized backgrounds isn't the end of a discussion, but the start of new ones. It's important for marginalized people to be allowed to speak to their history and be taken seriously. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.
Patrick: RE:5 I know has its defenders despite it being a patently racist video game. I know that some people do defend that game's co-op, if you look at it as an action game with exceptional co op, apparently it's good. It's just I tried to play it as a single player game and didn't like it. Can you imagine what the [response would've been now?] N'Gai, the only person who raised those comments about that game–
Austin: I know, dude –
Patrick: And how controversial they were at the time. How that would [play out today?] Well, I don't think that game would get made now, probably.
Austin: No. N'Gai making those comments was like such a big part of me [getting into games crit.] Really the backlash to those comments. There was a Newsweek blog post basically, at the time, probably some tweets, but I think it was before I was even on twitter.
Patrick: He was also on 1UPYours, [which] was really big at that time. And I remember that–
Austin: That was a pool side pod. That was–
Patrick: One of the E3 ones.
Austin: Yeah, at The Fig. He went in on on some of the visual language of that initial trailer, which was very much wielding blackness as a club, wielding Africa as a weapon to produce a sense of terror and fear. Explicitly presenting white protagonists, white women in danger from black men as the way to stoke the viewer or the player's sense of terror. N'Gai was 100% on point.
Patrick: "But Austin! It was made in Japan."
Rob: Remember how generous N'Gai was with that critique? Now the whole thing boiled down to "Is N'Gai Croal saying this game is racist?" And he was saying "No, these images have a history." That was the phrase he kept coming back to was these portrayals, these images, have a history that is connected with racism.
And that was a really generous interpretation, but nevertheless, like was a real grim foreshadowing of how this discussion would always go where critique of a pretty obvious aesthetic direction and influence and subtext gets boiled down to, "oh, this game is racist." And it may not even have like a racist pedagogical purpose, it's just is swimming in a really tainted pool at this point, and that's always how this discussion has gone ever since then.
Austin: Yeah. And it was the pushback on that, the complete refusal to engage with the argument in the way that you're talking about Rob, the way in which a very particular argument was being deployed, and it was immediately turned into "he said Capcom was racist," was a huge motivator for me to want to get into this space. It became increasingly clear that it was not just "Hey, no one's hired anyone black before at one of these major sites. Hey, there's only like three black people I know who have salary jobs in this industry."
It was also "oh, and it turns out once you get that job, you are expected to stay out of those sorts of conversations." You should not have any expectation of having your particular experiences trusted, or your perspectives and expertise be allowed to be brought to bear in situations like this. And it was like so infuriating at the time. Shout outs to N'Gai Croal has always been very nice.
Patrick: His voice is missed in all this stuff.
Austin: Yeah, I was gonna say, [this is] one of those very selfish moments of " man, what do the 2010s look like if N'Gai stays in game crit," you know? And the answer is the 2010s look like the 2010s but I get to read from someone else I respect a great deal. Shout outs to N'Gai.
Rob : That's when bloggers wrote essays.
Austin: Yeah, "the good old days."
This transcript was edited for clarity and length. Discussed: Animal Crossing: New Horizons 16:32, Resident Evil 3 25:21, Control 56:52, Vampyr 59:29, Gordian Quest 1:08:05, Deep Sky Derelicts 1:10:23, The Room VR 1:14:05, Ori and the Will of the Wisps 1:21:49
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