So Respawn and EA have finally revealed more of their upcoming Star Wars title, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Some people online are already drawing attention to something with the upcoming Star Wars game which I feel a need to draw attention to as well, and to explain why what people are saying in response is unhelpful.
There is this growing chorus of voices online that wish to see more diversity and unique representation in games, and the gaming industry has managed to do a lot better in recent years by moving away from Generic McGruff-Action and his shooty-bang games. But for some reason, there are people all over the internet who keep falling into a trap of allowing themselves to be whipped into a frenzy over even the slightest hint of regression in this progressive trend of games featuring more interesting characters and stories.
Some outlets are even highlighting this trend for all the wrong reasons in gaming journalism.
At the end of the day it comes down to one reality, the game isn’t out yet. And marketing is a really terrible yard stick to measure the potential sales and perception of any product by. This folly is doubly true for a game that we’ve seen so little of in terms of actual story and gameplay.
And no, I don’t think people are being genuine when they complain about a lack of diversity in the game either, at least not on the surface. Most of the “evidence” presented in discussion on this topic is essentially obvious troll bait and some bad takes from otherwise unknown voices. Deeper examination of the argument being made should be undertaken if you’re to write about something like this, but most people, including journalist outfits, aren’t doing that. Don’t mistake the dismissal of this fake outrage as dismissal of it’s impact. And this is absolutely not a dismissal of genuine critique either.
This kind of bait and intentional gaslighting matters a fair amount to the people it’s targeted at, the gamers and fans who are already predisposed to being angry at outrage, genuine or not. It also says a lot about the integrity of a response when the best evidence they can find for their clickbait is some random hot takes on Twitter. Is this what games journalism is now?
I’m not trying to dismiss people who have genuine criticisms of entertainment and harmful or helpful representations within it, but I just don’t think it’s helpful to feed the fire this early in such a shallow way. So maybe don’t give in to complaining about bait and bad faith criticism just yet.
While it’s true that Cal appears to be a somewhat generic character, appearance isn’t everything, especially in a medium like games where story can trump a lot of our assumptions about a character or their history. And this is doubly true in a rich tapestry of history and lore like the Star Wars material.
There is some genuine insight to be gained in how the little information we’ve seen about the game can inform the viewer on the quality of the writing in comparison to the identifying characteristics and influences on the characters. The race, gender or other signifiers of a character can and often do inform some elements of the narrative structure of a story after all. And the generic setup of the story so far seems to be a character that comes out of hiding to be a hero against the Empire. And assuming this framework to be true, there are genuine questions being raised about whether a character of a different ethnicity or background could make for a more powerful story. But “hot take” reactions that just point to the controversy and whip up negative responses aren’t helping advance that conversation.
If you want to take a deeper look at the topic in question, head over here to ResetEra and see much more in-depth analysis. The essence is this; the Star Wars stories as a whole are complicated struggle against oppression in many forms and from many perspectives, good and bad. Every aspect of Star Wars contains within it political analysis and deeper introspection. Heck, the original Star Wars films drew heavy analogues to US involvement in the Vietnam War, and it would be very easy to draw some connections between the Rebellion to Restore the Republic and the NVA. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and all that. So considering that, there might be some validity to the idea that Cal could be part of a better game if they were more connected to it, both in practice and in the mind of the viewer through realistic representation. But the fact of the matter is that we don’t know yet.
Look, all I’m saying is to give Respawn a chance to actually deliver a good story, and to not let reactionary elements fan themselves into a frenzy over imagined freakouts. We’ve made a lot of progress in games over the last few years, don’t let those seeking to poison the well ruin it. Let’s just hope that all of this has some impact on development, and results in better art overall. These kinds of singleplayer experiences live or die by how good and engaging the story is
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is slated to release on November 15 via the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.