Last week, a Houston Chronicle writer referenced Left 4 Dead 2's setting choice - New Orleans - in an opinion piece lamenting the perceived insensitivity of several games. Valve has responded.
Chet Faliszek, the Valve writer on Left 4 Dead, got very candid with Destructoid when asked about the implied accusation that New Orleans, because of Katrina, was "too soon" territory.
There are mixed races of zombies, there are all different races of zombies that you shoot, and since we placed it in New Orleans, that makes it racist? I honestly re-read the paragraph about five times... but when two of the characters in your game are African-American, it's a weird thing to be accused of. We're like, 'how does this work'?
Further, any connection to Katrina is only the perception of others, not Valve's intent, Faliszek says. "This is a videogame, those are real people's lives, we are not trying to make a statement with that," he said. "It's a place we love, it's dear to our hearts. We would not cheapen it. It's not a brick-for-brick representation of New Orleans; it's a fictional version, and I love that city."
Destructoid's take is felt by a lot of people - "you can't do anything involving black people these days without some moron (usually a guilty white person) screaming about racism." I leave that to others to argue.
The finer point I'd put on it is, if every time the ethnicity of a video game foe is going to be wrought into a charge of racism, institutional or otherwise, you're going to have either all-white casts of characters, or gratuitously diverse protagonists that conspicuously interfere with the story being told. That's chilling effect 101. Here's hoping it isn't felt.
Valve Responds to Left 4 Dead 2 Racism Accusations [Destructoid via Blue's News]