The Sumeru update is one of the most anticipated versions of Genshin Impact yet. Ever since its announcement back in 2020 in a trailer, it has been at the back of everyone’s minds. As is always the case with anticipation, comes a lot of responsibility to get things right. HoYoverse seems to have messed up this time and is facing backlash, as Genshin Impact fans are expressing distress and criticism over the fact that the developers have been whitewashing the characters.
HoYoverse is facing backlash for not sticking to the original representation of Southwest Asia and SWANA culture
It is believed that Sumeru is inspired by the cultures of Southwest Asia and North Africa a.k.a SWANA. This is fairly evident by one of the character’s Egyptian jackal-like looks that seems to have taken inspiration from Anubis. NPCs from that region also have Sanskrit or Arabic names (Hosseini and Kusanali for example).
The community was expectant of some more dark-skinned representation in the game as the only ones now seem to be Kaeya and Xinyan. Being inspired by SWANA, the devs should have added some representation in character design, especially skin tones and build features.
Now fans are irked that none of it can be seen, and most of Genshin Impact’s cast remains light-skinned. These leaks aren’t the final designs but seeing how close the Sumeru launch is, it is quite likely these are the actual looks of these characters.
HoYoverse had faced criticism on similar issues back in 2021
Genshin Impact’s developer has faced similar situations in the past over this same issue of representation. Back in 2021, fans were disappointed when Kaeya was described as being “exotic”. Exotic is a term that people of color find to be highly insensitive. The developers fixed this soon after in an upcoming patch.
What makes this time important is that the Sumeru update will have content for the entire year and no proper representation makes people feel left out. These leaks have also created a rift in the community. Players who want accurate representation have started to be alienated by the rest of the community.
Lots of racist comments are been thrown around and things are quite muddy right now. Even though Genshin Impact is a world of fiction, seeing how the developers have taken inspiration from real-life history and culture, there should be an accurate representation through to the end.