I’ve been sitting this on a while, but figure that with Sunday being RPS’ slow day, today’s the day. If you’re part of the pan-format gaming internet, you’ll aware that last month there was a bit of a furore over the Resident Evil 5 trailer with some wondering whether a video filled with sinister black folk being gunned down by a square-jawed white fella might be a little – y’know – racist. Without going it to deeply – while Res4 turned up on the PC, in a gutted state, it’s not exactly our territory – the basic schism is between gamers who think that when viewed in the context of the Resident Evil games, the trailer is clearly fine and anyone who thinks otherwise is dumb, and those who are looking at the trailer as a cultural object in and of itself. Resident Evil’s history simply doesn’t matter, really.
But that’s not what I’m posting about. Following the debates, I wandered into the more activist portions of the gaming blogosphere for the first time in ages and found this critical dissection of Fahrenheit (aka The Indigo Prophecy) from the end of the last year, which I hadn’t seen linked anywhere else. In two parts, the first about the eventual lead and the second about the eventual supporting cast.
“Playing through bad video games is hardly a novel experience for me. In this respect, Indigo Prophecy shined; it’s the first time I’ve played a game that is so badly written that it ends up being a tale of white male supremacy. While all of the characters were no doubt written the way they were to try and tell a story of real people doing amazing things, it ended up being a story of a lone straight white man singlehandedly saving the world pretty much by virtue of the fact that he’s a straight white man.”
I’d argue Pat Miller – who’s done some interesting stuff for the Escapist, randomly – hits quite a few off notes (I’m not convinced that his reading of Carla as latino is right. As a commentator says, I thought she was Italian). Not that it really matters – the problem isn’t really her presentation as a woman of colour rather than her presentation as a woman. Putting that side, much of what he talks about is entirely correct. There’s some core issues which undermine a lot of Fahrenheit, (Which I liked on its release). My main worry is… well, how I missed it. Or rather, I noticed it, but didn’t process it. When watching films, I notoriously pick up on this stuff. To choose an ageing pop-culture example, being rendered so angry by Blade 2’s lazy plotting (initial scene: Lady fights blade to stand-still. Final scene: Woman is dragged over place screaming for help) I channeled my disgust into the basis for a new comic pitch. Or, more recently, blinking at 28 Weeks Later which seems to argue that you have to obey genocidal orders from your governments or the terrorists will win. So why didn’t Fahrenheit press buttons?
There’s an accusation that gamers give too much leeway to developers when they attempt to present any story. It’s the singing dog. We’re so amazed the dog is singing at that we’re not even thinking about whether it’s in tune or not. In the case of the often formally brilliant narrative tricks of Fahrenheit, I suspect I may have just been clapping at a dog trick. I suspect I’ll have to replay the thing to really find out.