[“Why We Play” is a weekly column by NYC freelance writer Chris Plante that discusses how videogames benefit us when we are away from them, in the real world, and what brings us back. This week, he elaborates on some adjacent thoughts expressed by GSW's Chris Dahlen earlier this year to suggest a new video game genre: world games.]
Remember that big Resident Evil 5 controversy, that one where the gamer community felt serious growing pains in the racial tolerance department?
Wait, wait, wait! Please don’t stop reading! This is not another column about race in video games, so calmly move your mouse away from the back button. This week I just want more games, more free games. RE5’s slip up is an opportunity to discuss a missing game genre: “world games.”
And while the RE5 case has shown many commentators don’t like to dwell on tough subjects--look at GamePolitics.com’s continual coverage—this topic of world games should be universally welcomed. After all, this column is not intended to slap gamers on the wrist, or preserve games as art, or even call for a revolution in how we comment and interact online.
This is a column by a gamer who wants more games, varied games, as many games as he can get from the world over. And I think everyone will agree, more games with unique perspective will not only be great for us as players, but will undoubtedly evolve the industry’s creative backbone.
Look, some of us said things we shouldn’t have said, some of us were quick to reprimand rather than to educate, and some of us just sat helpless on the sideline. But, to our chagrin, most of us (read: me) were quick to congratulate our goofy group.
We’re growing, I thought; we’ll get new views, new perspectives from this debacle. We’ll discuss them. And best of all, we’ll give a voice to those gamers and creators that rarely have one.
Resident Evil 5 takes place in Africa, so who better to comment than Africans? Or who better to make a game about the continent’s economic and agricultural devastation—equally, which better to discuss their own voodoo folklore—than Africans themselves? As Virgil Thompson said of Porgy and Bess, "Folk lore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself.
But these questions never came to fruition in our conversation, which instead devolved into a debate over who’s more racist: those players who shoot black zombies, or those analysts who spread racism like it’s Beetlejuice--simply repeating its name conjures the hateful monster. I can’t say either side has played nicely. And, sadly, this clusterfuck will rage on forums until the game’s release.
As I promised, let’s leave the flames for the forums, and make lemonade from this sour situation. Here are my big questions: What do we get as gamers by encouraging and purchasing foreign games? Where are the video games from Africa—specifically South Africa and Nigeria, which have developed relatively sizable video game markets? And, most importantly for us, where are “World Games?”
Where are games wholly un-American, un-white, and unprivileged? Because it appears one of our greatest prejudices, as gamers, may not be against other peoples, but their games.