Genshin Impact is a popular gacha game known for its intricate characters, each with their own character and skill set. It is these characters that attract players from all over the world, forcing them to pull wish banners in the hope of acquiring their favorites.
Recently, there have been many leaks related to the Sumeru region and the upcoming version of Genshin Impact 3.0. Most of these leaks concern new Dendro characters that will be revealed after a major update. While many in the Genshin Impact community were excited about the new characters, a significant portion of fans expressed their dissatisfaction with the character design.
Twilight Leaks in Genshin Impact
Over the past few weeks, the leaders have provided a lot of information about Sumeru and the Dendro element in Genshin Impact. Sumeru is a region in Teivat, presumably based on the cultures of the countries of Southwest Asia and North Africa (SVANA). Players learned about this from the trailer of the Genshin Impact storyline from 2020, which featured the character of Tsino with a headdress resembling an Egyptian jackal. This was further confirmed by recent leaks featuring characters with Arabic and Indian names such as Kusanali and Tignari.
It’s important to note that HoYoverse has yet to confirm which real location the Sumeru from Genshin Impact is based on, but it looks like a mix of several nations from the SWANA region. If so, this is a significant departure from the old HoYoverse design philosophy, as past regions were based on one country. Mondstadt was based on Germany, and Liue and Inazuma were inspired by China and Japan, respectively.
Now, assuming that the Sumeru region is based on countries like Egypt and India, many players expected to see dark-skinned characters. However, the leak of information about the Genshin Impact characters disappointed them. The leaked Collay, Dori and Tignari screensaver for Genshin Impact featured light-skinned characters. The Dendro Archon Kusanali character model also has the same pale skin tone. This caused controversy in the Genshin Impact community, resulting in a number of questions about cultural representation.
Whitewashing, Racism and Colorism in Genshin Impact
“Bleaching” is the most common term used to describe recent character leaks. Note that this word has many different meanings, but in this context it implies the creation of supposed colored characters with light skin tones. Among the seven recently leaked Genshin Impact character models, only one character — Dehya—has dark skin, so many in the community swear. Some even call HoYoverse racist.
However, other players defended this design choice, saying that many people from SWANA regions have pale skin. This means that it makes sense for HoYoverse to release a lot of light-skinned Twilight characters, and this is not whitewashing or racism. Some even say that it is ignorant for people to think that everyone from the SWANA regions is black.
Given this, it’s worth looking at the problem from a much broader perspective. Of the 50 available Genshin Impact characters, only two have dark skin: Kaei and Xinyan. Perhaps, then, the problem is not so much in these supposedly bleached characters of Sumeru, but in how HoYoverse decides to represent its characters as a whole. The term “coloristics” comes to mind.
Colorism entails a preference for people with fair skin over people with darker skin tones. In more extreme cases, this can become a biased and discriminatory view of people with dark skin. Given the track record of Genshin Impact game characters (and even general NPC models), it’s not hard to conclude that some colorism is going on. This has been a point of contention for fans of the game around the world who want at least some representation of dark-skinned characters. This is also one of the issues raised during the call for a boycott of Genshin Impact in 2021.
In response to this question, other Genshin Impact players simply shrugged off the problem. According to them, Genshin Impact’s Teiwat is a fictional universe, and HoYoverse can do whatever it wants with it. While this is good, the fact is that there is clearly not enough variety in the list of characters, and this invariably contributes to the flavor that exists in the video game industry.
Finally, there are those who have come to terms with the lack of representation in Genshin Impact, saying: “This is a Chinese company. What do you expect?” Admittedly, HoYoverse’s track record with dark—skinned characters and cultural representations is small – and this applies to his other games, such as Honkai Impact and Tears of Themis.