New region, old problems. Genshin Impact takes inspiration from real-world cultures, and the game’s credibly rumored next region, Sumeru, is rumored to be based on the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And if Sumeru is anything like Mondstadt, Liyue, and Inazuma, it’ll faithfully represent countless aspects of the cultures that inspired it — except for skin color.
Leaked splash arts — the art for when a character is pulled from a banner — for Dendro five-star character Tighnari and 4-star characters Collei and Dori recently popped up on social media. Those kinds of leaks are nothing new when it comes to soon-to-launch Genshin characters. But fans couldn’t help but notice something amiss — none of these characters looked Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian.
It isn’t the first time Genshin Impact fans have questioned HoYoverse’s character design choices. The developer barely acknowledged a boycott in back in April 2021, which was partly due to the game’s conspicuous lack of dark-skinned characters and a viral video that appears to show hillichurl designs were based on indigenous people. (So far, Genshin only has two playable brown characters: Kaeya and Xinyan.)
There are light-skinned people in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but it’s a bit sus that there are so many pale characters in Sumeru. HoYoverse takes inspiration from other countries pretty studiously, but without depicting the people themselves, it starts to feel more like cultural appropriation than representation.
Some disappointed fans have redesigned the characters, depicting them with darker skin. While some praised the change, others found it disrespectful.
“I get people want dark-skinned characters but don’t change a characters race like that,” one disgruntled fan wrote in response to a redesign.
One could argue that it’s a HoYoverse marketing tactic. Maybe the company thinks players will spend more on light-skinned characters. Even if it isn’t the company’s intention, it enables the harmful notion that light skin is beautiful and dark skin is not.
HoYoverse probably won’t talk about Sumeru in any official capacity for several weeks or even months, since Genshin Impact 2.8 isn’t even out yet. Rumor has it that the new region will come in version 3.0. So we might need to wait a while, but we will hear about Genshin Impact 2.8 on Saturday, July 2.