The hashtag #boycottgenshinimpact is currently trending on Twitter and it appears to be, at least in part, due to questionable depictions of race in the Chinese free-to-play RPG. Now at over 10,000 tweets, the hashtag (and several others including #dobettermihoyo and #boycottgenshin, which have collectively nearly 100,000 tweets) began as a conversation about different criticisms of Genshin Impact's depictions of race, but has more recently devolved into an incoherent mess of different debates.
It's not certain what kickstarted the trending hashtag, but one of the central issues has to do with a post made by Twitter user venluvr who shared a snippet of a video created by MiHoYo late last year that tours its offices in Shanghai, China. In that video, there's a shot of an artist working on one of Genshin Impact's main enemies, called hilichurls, while using reference material of what appears to be dancing indigenous Americans.
Though just a few seconds long, this clip has sparked controversy over how Genshin Impact potentially uses real-world minorities to influence the design of its fantasy races. Hilichurls are humanoid creatures and one of the primary enemy types that players fight throughout the game and are depicted in the story as a kind of indigenous species of Teyvat. They wear stereotypical tribal clothing and conduct tribal dances and ceremonies, and are frequently led by magic-using hilichurl shamans. Genshin Impact's story and dialogue also explicitly says that hilichurls are evil (or manipulated into being evil, depending on how you interpret its complicated lore), unintelligent, and uncultured. Simply put, hilichurls are monsters—ones that appear to be, at least in part, inspired by real-world indigenous peoples. It's an issue that mirrors criticism with how different fantasy franchises, like Dungeons and Dragons, depict certain races like orcs.
"Our culture is not something for you to just take and use Mihoyo," wrote one Twitter user. "It is not okay, it's not funny, and I'm really disappointed. A lot of us are."
As the hashtag began to grow, however, more players began to air grievances about different aspects of Genshin Impact and its treatment of race. Two characters, Xinyan and Kaeya, have become the center of these discussions as players debate whether their depiction is racially insensitive. Xinyan, who has notably darker skin than most of Genshin's roster, has an entire storyline that emphasizes how scary she is to other characters. Some players are noting the connection between Xinyan's darker skin and negative stereotypes about Black people being intimidating. Kaeya, meanwhile, also has darker skin and is referred to by in-game text as "exotic," a loaded term often used to denigrate people based on their perceived foreignness.
There's also a lot of back and forth over an adult NPC named Ulfr who, in his little bit of dialogue, admits to being in love with another character, Flora, who is clearly just a child. Players were concerned over these uncomfortable pedophilic undertones until others pointed out that, in the closed beta, Flora used to be a fully grown woman. For some reason MiHoYo made Flora into a young girl and appears to have overlooked any dialogue referencing her older depiction.
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