Recent leaks from Genshin Impact\’s 3.0 update have revealed that most of Sumeru\’s playable characters will be light-skinned, despite the Dendro region and its characters drawing inspiration from South Asia and the Middle East. Though all of the Sumeru NPCs already present in Genshin Impact are light-skinned, some Genshin Impact players pointed out that there are several POC NPCs arriving with Sumeru. However, the inclusion of these NPCs can\’t make up for Genshin Impact\’s apparent whitewashing of Sumeru\’s playable characters, whose attire and names feel like cultural appropriation when paired with their light skin tones.
This isn\’t the first time Genshin Impact has been embroiled in a whitewashing controversy. Out of Genshin Impact\’s fifty playable characters, only two have darker skin. Kaeya, one of these two characters, has appeared whitewashed in-game and in promotional materials for Genshin Impact. A description of Kaeya in Genshin Impact referring to his \”somewhat exotic appearance\” was patched out of the game after drawing criticism. The lack of BIPOC representation in the popular game has often been excused by the current explorable regions being based on European and Southeast Asian countries. Unintentionally, this excuse highlights how Genshin Impact fails to represent the multitude of various groups in China and Japan, on which Liyue and Inazuma are based.
Related: Sumeru Could Be Genshin Impact\’s Largest Region Yet
All but one of Sumeru\’s leaked playable characters are light-skinned, including the Dendro nation\’s Archon, Kusanali, whose fairy-like appearance bears an uncanny resemblance to the Traveler\’s companion in Genshin Impact, Paimon. Dehya, an allegedly upcoming 4-star Pyro character, appears to be the only darker-skinned character arriving with Sumeru. Many Genshin Impact players expressed their disappointment at HoYoverse\’s decision to make Sumeru\’s characters light-skinned.
Others were quick to defend HoYoverse, arguing that while Sumeru is influenced by real-world cultures, that doesn\’t make its characters canonically dark-skinned. Though fictional, Genshin Impact has clearly garnered inspiration from a range of Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its Sumeru characters\’ designs and names. The region\’s name itself is likely a nod to Sumer, one of the world\’s oldest civilizations, which was located in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq and Kuwait.
Genshin Impact\’s Sumeru Characters Whitewashing Controversy Explained
One character in particular who has been met with criticism is Dori, a 4-star Electro character in Genshin Impact hailing from Sumeru. Dori, a traveling merchant, appears to be inspired by the story of Aladdin, accompanied by a genie in a magic lamp. Various adaptations of Aladdin have been set in Middle Eastern countries like Jordan and Iraq, with Disney\’s fictional setting of Agrabah described as bordering the River Jordan. Dori\’s pants resemble shalwar, loose pants cuffed at the ankles that are commonly worn throughout South and Central Asia. The character\’s full name, Dori Sangemah Bay, takes words from Urdu and Hindi. Despite the obvious influences that went into Dori\’s character, HoYoverse opted to give her a very pale skin tone.
The hodgepodge of cultures used in Dori\’s character model demonstrates how Sumeru deviates from Genshin Impact\’s previous approach of each region being inspired by a single country. Despite drawing abundant inspiration from numerous South Asian, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures, Genshin Impact opted to give the majority of its Sumeru playable characters pale skin. Though several darker-skinned Sumeru NPCs exist, this can\’t make up for the majority of Sumeru\’s playable characters having light skin, nor Genshin Impact\’s track record of whitewashing controversies. Hopefully, HoYoverse will hear its players\’ concerns and disappointment and take steps to diversify Genshin Impact\’s roster of playable characters in future updates.
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