By Joshua Waddles
21 April 2021
Western social media users are calling for a boycott of Genshin Impact, a free-to-play RPG by miHoYo Co., Ltd, which is based in Shanghai, China. Earlier in April, “Boycott Genshin Impact” trended on Twitter, with calls for the boycott centering mostly around allegations of racism. These allegations stem from three specific characters in the game in addition to a video which appears to show a digital artist using a video of Native Americans as a reference for some of the game’s monsters.
The game’s Adventurer Handbook refers to the HiliChurls as “Primitive humanoid monsters that can be found all across Teyvat.” The game Archive further elaborates, “They look very similar to humanity but seem to have lost both their intellect and spirituality. Their presence on the continent has been recorded for over a thousand years, and yet they have neither history nor civilization.”
They Hilichurls are further described as Goblin-like creatures and they’re one of the earliest forms of enemies the player will encounter in the game. But the allegations of racism began after miHoYo released a video giving a tour of the company. During the video, the camera shows one of the digital artists animating the Hilichurls in-game dance, and this video appears to show the designer using a video of Native Americans dancing as a reference while she animated the dance Hilichurls perform in battle. This portion of the video can be found at the 1:30 mark.
Xinyan and Kaeya
Genshin Impact includes over 30 playable characters. Almost all of these characters have very light skin. Twitter took issue with the depiction of two characters with dark skin, Xinyan and Kaeya.
Kaeya is a cavalry captain with the Knights of Favonius. Players are able to add him to their playable characters during the “Prologue Act I: The Outlander Who Caught the Wind” during the “Crash Course” quest. The official website describes Kaeya as a charming knight with hidden secrets, but Twitter takes issue with his in-game description: “A thinker in the Knights of Favonius with a somewhat exotic appearance.”
Several users jumped to defend miHoYo on this issue, however.
The character Xinjan, on the other hand, is described as “scary” to the other characters. According to her character story, “If she so much as accidentally locks eyes with some little child, they will run crying behind their parents.” Her story goes on to say “While Xinyan did not care how people saw her, she did think that scaring others and making trouble for them wasn’t good, either, and thus constantly looked for ways to make a change.”
Players of Genshin Impact counter that her “scary” appearance has nothing at all to do with the color of her skin, but with the fierceness of her eyes. Her character story elaborates on the sort of “change” she attempted to make.
“Every day when she woke up in the morning, she would look at herself in the mirror and massage her face with her fingers to stretch and relax her eyes a little.”
Eula, from the Lawrence Clan
One of the newest characters, Eula, is an outcast from most of the society of Genshin Impact. The reason for that is because she is a descendant of the Lawrence Clan, a once aristocratic family which became corrupt. According to the game’s lore, the Lawrence Clan was once involved in slavery, having enslaved Vennessa’s clan.
The character Eula will be released with the 1.5 update, which will be released on April 28 (about a week before the time of this writing), so there is some uncertainty on Twitter about how this character will be depicted.
Taiwan and Hong Kong
This last issue has more to do with China’s political climate and the world-famous Chinese censorship. As a game based in Shanghai, miHoYo adheres to the government’s strict policies, and users on Reddit noticed that they are unable to type key words in chat which refer to two of China’s political controversies: its treatment of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
When players attempted to type the words in the game’s chat, the game returns an error message saying the comment cannot be posted because it contains “illegal characters.”
miHoYo, to date, has not responded to any of these criticisms.