Genshin Impact’s Sumeru update is based on stereotypes, mixing cultures

Food stalls full of spicy, bubbly Hot pot adorn the streets of The Genshin effectLiyue Port. Colorful koi swim in the tranquil lotus ponds on the rooftops above the meticulously constructed city. If players want, they can participate in the Sichuanese-inspired game boiled fish at a restaurant where the player’s character Xiangling cooks. As the sun sets over the mountains overlooking the city, a slow duet of erhu and harp enlivens the landscape. Through design and musical compositions, the developers at Hoyoverse have painted a fantasy replica of Guangdong, Xiamen or the port cities of China’s southern provinces.

For all the efforts that Chinese state propaganda put into showcasing traditional Chinese landscapes, the travel agencies could have been overlooked by a video game. Now entering its third year, the open world adventure game’s attention to detail has captivated fans – and their wallets – into the gacha system. The world and its story remain free to explore, showcasing the ambitious visual achievements of landscapes inspired by real-world locations. However, this attention to detail is not universal. Inazuma, a pseudo-Japanese shogunate, and Sumeru, blend Middle Eastern and South Asian cultural references, art direction, and language allusions that place the game close to tense political and racial issues straight in the real world. As Hoyoverse directors and writers break away from the tried-and-true fantasy role-playing game environments inspired by Europe and East Asia, they reveal the narrative limitations of over-reliance on stereotypes. and impatient use of real-life history.

The blonde haired protagonist called Traveler stands in Genshin Impact's Liyue city

Image: Hoyoverse via Rui Zhong

For each major update of the game, GenshinDevelopers will capture the main content preview streams. On these occasions, the leadership at Hoyoverse borrowed mics from the game’s voice actors and announced update details between the standard six-week patches. Major patch announcements like regional launches were made by Hoyoverse founder Liu Wei, who interviewed various team leaders under the pseudonym Da Wei. Liu is cheerful and enthusiastic interview along with his colleagues, implemented in complex sets based on in-game locations, provide insights into the new game mechanics with the staff who made those changes.

Introducing Sumeru in Genshin’s Update 3.0Liu started by chatting with Genshin writes Xiao Luohao’s narration, asks questions like a colleague drinking coffee, uses the term “classmate” to refer to his subordinates. He then allowed show time on the broadcast to the developers, who incorporated issues related to the update. Combat designers discussed new enemy mechanics. Environment team members explained puzzles and interactive elements, like grappling points accompanied by vines shooting sounds. It’s a clever, ingenious method of marketing. As a result, the studio’s relationship with players is much more intimate than the high phased announcements that AAA game companies typically use for previews.

When The Genshin effect team discussion a character based on Liyue they put a special effort into, such as opera singer Yun Jin, they describe the culture-specific research and culture that went into development. But when describing Sumeru’s respective in-game areas, comparisons with real-world similarities are not included in the developer’s comments. The design of Sumeru characters with pictures presenter for Amazigh, Nubian and Persian textiles and accessories. But the preview commentary largely doesn’t address these cultural influences, instead injecting such character descriptions into the game’s combat and story roles. Nor is it clear that the decision-making processes for integration are for regions other than Liyue.

Hoyoverse’s world-building for The Genshin effectboth in game and in development reverse business, has spared no expense in providing a rich experience for fans across Asia and global servers. Company changed its name to international branch from Mihoyo to Hoyoverse in February, and has since partnered with brands from fast food chains like KFC China to Cadillac. An Ufotable coming soon anime the partnership will likely draw even more fans to the game. And Genshin‘s live concert, a series of in-house, real-world projects featuring artists from the real-life regions that inspired Yu-Peng Cheng’s tracks. Music videos feature The London Symphony Orchestra and folk musicians perform in a Sumeru-like forest. Similar musicals cooperation Filled with traditional music artists that have held for the region before, Inazuma takes inspiration from Japan.

Unlike other metaverse projects with dead fish look by Meta Mark Zuckerberg, the bright color palette and anime design found in Hoyoverse games allow fans to find favorite characters in a growing, colorful cast. In Genshin In particular, the player and non-player characters have clothing and facial features with detailed rendering, not to mention the lush landscape that includes the game’s exploratory segments. The character work has also emphasized the favor of the player and then investment into the gacha system. The more the character inspires enthusiasm and intrigue, the more money players are willing to spend.

As this global audience grows, Hoyoverse and Genshin face political questions in their game world and beyond. Upon the release of Sumeru, fans criticized the colorful character design, especially when the 3.0 character is leaked. In addition to skin tones, the female character designs of the Sumeru player characters favor bare backs and belly dance costume inspiration. Candace, Dehyaand Nilou all wear harem costume – and here are all the characters Genshin players have called “collectable”Waifus. The god of the region, the petite and pale-skinned Kusanali, also bears little resemblance to the people of the South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures her land details on.

When the street stalls in the area sell Pani puri and tandoori chickenand meticulously composed sitar tubes through cities and jungles, such character designs and stereotypes write of minorities is even more conspicuous. Nilou and Kusanali live in a city of refined scholars, while Candace and Dehya come from desert tribes. nomads who doubles as the enemy of the crowd. For some people of the Sumeru capital, they describe are “true lucky soldiers who would do anything for money.”

Genshin Impact 3.0 main art, featuring Kusanali surrounded by powerful characters like Dehya and Nilou

The main art features Genshin Impact’s Sumeru area characters.
Image: Hoyoverse

Sumeru exemplifies the problems when paying for a game about traveling around the world is politically neutral and the risks that developers take when venturing beyond what is familiar. belong to them. The team’s uneven attention span becomes more apparent when reviewing previous behind-the-scenes videos of Hoyoverse shared on YouTube. When working with the Han Chinese culture that developers share, everything from architectural details to team debates about movement of a Beijing opera-inspired character is planned down to the last pixel. Games can be great, but when developers want to, they can copy the cultural inspirations they want to get.

The increase in studio culture sensitivity and in-game inclusion comes at a time when the electronic entertainment business is experiencing challenging growth overall. In the West, major corporations like Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard and Wizards of the Coast are publicly facing backlash from employees and fans over the cases. squealing sound, workplace harassmentand write racist characters, corresponding. Dungeons & Dragons in particular is trying to do away with “good” and “evil” archetypes for its various races, most recently eliminate Racist depictions of Hadozee identical to primitive humans. Meanwhile, the past Genshin Controversy over the grounds monster’s movement about The Indigenous was largely caught up in the fan drama. However, the developers have remained silent about the design issues of the characters and monsters in the game, while continuing to pair optical food with skin choices that blend South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures without rhyme or reason. Fans pointed out that movement Dancer Nilou’s performance was meticulously researched, but her belly-dance outfit was not suitable for her Persian-style performances.

The game’s issues of race and real-life inspiration remain unresolved in the Teyvat continent, even if the game deals with politics in its text elsewhere. While Genshin thrives on cultural depictions of Han Chinese culture in its Liyue region, which is the Electro-Elemental region closest to real-life political history. On the Japanese-inspired Inazuma Islands, where outside travel is forbidden by their shogun ruler, individuals bearing symbols of gods are hunted down and stripped of their ambitions. Military-led heresy investigations and war with Ryukyu-like Watatsumi Island are so far similarities division in Okinawa. Further south of the ocean lies Tsurumi Island, barren and shrouded in mist, but with ghosts and places named after Ainu. language. In these details, GenshinThe developers and writers draw the line between inspiration and direct mention of real-life ethnic tensions, political strife, and historical wounds. That’s why any developer, much less a developer has made $3.7 billion in iOS and Google turnovershould step in carefully.

Inazuma’s online politics and the birth of Sumeru represent a turning point for the game’s protagonist, Traveler. But through Paimon, the companion who had been following them since the beginning, The Genshin effect allows the player to remove the weight of the stories the player is currently telling. When she followed the player through Sumeru, Paimon complain about the difficult to pronounce names and the vegetarian way of the new land. The conceptions of these “strange” customs of foreign countries GenshinThe Asian and European regions highlight other cultures and focus on the views of the ethnic majority not only of the players but also of the developers. Even though the game is designed for role-playing, the question of which gamers are immersed and which are alienated will likely be one that minority gamers continue to ask.

Travel and tourism stories are not and cannot be politically neutral, especially in pop culture productions that have powerful illusions ingrained in their design and writing. In the context of The Genshin effectThe first two years, the protagonist served as a sword-wielding errant knight who saved the people of three of the seven regions of Teyvat. What can save GenshinThe future of and providing for a more inclusive community may rest not on the swordsmanship of their heroes, but on inclusive engagement and more honest relationships with key fans.


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