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'Resident Evil: Extinction' Flick Based on Racist Video Game Series

As they pack into theaters to watch <i>Resident Evil: Extinction</i> this weekend, moviegoers may first want to play one of the many blockbuster video games on which the film is based, which display nakedly racist overtones.
 
 
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As they pack into theaters to watch the blockbuster Resident Evil: Extinction this weekend, moviegoers may first want to play one of the many blockbuster video games on which the film is based. Those that do will likely enter a world little-known beyond the expensive and expansive universe of gaming, a world increasingly populated with very dangerous depictions of nonwhites.

The most recent Resident Evil movie is based on extremely popular video games like last year's smash-hit Resident Evil 4 , which places players in the position of fighting parasitically controlled Spaniards (called "Los Ganados" or "the cattle") with stereotypical Mexican accents.

But, unlike moviegoers, the gamers don't just sit and watch the accented villains; they get to become the white heroes who blow them to smithereens at an average of about 900 enemies per gaming session or "playthrough." And, in what looks like it could be a training video for a white supremacist race war or another U.S. military adventure in one of the increasing numbers of deserts on the planet, players of the soon-to-be-released Resident Evil 5 video game are placed in what could be an African country or Haiti as they blow up armies of black zombies.

Also unlike moviegoers, gamers get to play in the privacy of their homes as well as on their phones and other devices in the rapidly growing mobile market, a market where nonwhites are the fastest-growing consumer group. This means that more and more black, Latino and Asian youth and adults will get to take part in killing more and more black, Latino and Asian zombies and other virtual bad guys in sci-fi and more contemporary and realistic settings.

Players of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City , this year's most popular video game, will not just see images of drug dealers; they become characters in the virtual world who mouth such statements as "I hate these Haitians" and "Stinking nest of Haitians, we gonna kill 'em all!" Gamesters also get to lead heavily militarized members of a vice squad team while yelling, "Take my boys over there, and then we'll take these Haitians down!" Previous and other versions of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto franchise also include Mexican and Cuban immigrant bad guys in need of restorative violence, which also gets players points for each kill.

Like many of the most popular games, including Kung Fu , Warcraft 3 and Shadow Warrior which depicts Asian and black immigrant bad guys, most video games deny humanity to the nonwhite, especially Latinos. A comprehensive content-analysis study of video games conducted by Children Now, found that while 56 percent of all human characters in the games were white, only 22 percent of all human characters were African American and only 2 percent were Latino.

Yet, while there is a major trend towards video games and other major media deploying anti-immigrant themes for profit, there are also those who are riding the anti-immigrant video moment to combat these same trends. ICED! I Can End Deportation , a new video game being released this month by Breakthrough, a New York-based nonprofit, attempts to do just that. The 3-D downloadable game aims to teach players about what its developers call the "unjust nature of U.S. immigration policy and the harsh 1996 laws, which affect legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, students and undocumented people."

"We've been tracking this (video game racism) for some time" says Breakthrough's director, Mallika Dutt, adding "and we saw how effective games are for getting someone into the skin of someone experiencing something. Unfortunately, we also found that many of the most popular games give players the opportunity to experience what it's like to be a bigot." So, rather than targeting immigrants for extermination as in Resident Evil and other games, ICED! actually turns players into undocumented immigrants and has them face such things as separation from family, immigration raids and other aspects of immigrant life. The bad guys in the video are not the immigrants but the federal immigration agents who pursue them.

"Millions of people play these games. This is a huge issue," says Dutt, who will be releasing ICED! in November. "The issues around video games are just one example of how very important it is to understand gaming and other new media," she said. "There are so many games that promote hate and prejudice. So, we decided to do something different."

Roberto Lovato, a frequent Nation contributor, is a New York-based writer with New America Media.

 
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