Aye hold up, I know you read the title and you already probably have words for me but hear me out first! There’s an ongoing discussion about the creation of Sloclap’s recent game, Sifu, the beat ’em up action-adventure video game that recently had a rather shaky early release. And well, I have words of my own.
In the title, I asked two questions, is the creation of Sifu inherently racist, and should white creators be allowed to create games outside their race and culture? What spurred this line of questioning was the number of blogs, tweets, and videos that sprung up during the game’s release. So I wanted to answer these questions in my own way.
For the latter question, it’s a simple yes! Yes, despite your race, you CAN create a game or media based on another race’s culture! To say that a group of White men (and women) from France are unable to create a game based on Chinese culture is ridiculous. How else are we gonna learn to appreciate one another if we’re purposely divided ourselves? Look I get that no matter what if art is coming from the source, there’s always a level of care that can often be neglected by outsiders, but that is why it’s all the more reason why we shouldn’t bar people from making art but instead send criticism to where they may have gone wrong. I mean take a look at Ghost of Tsushima, it was praised because the creators (mostly white) paid homage and most importantly, showed respect to their craft. They consulted with people who knew those lands to be accurate.
There’s a certain point in wanting to be accurate and politically correct in the creation of any media or art before it becomes insanity! So long as the creators are doing their due diligence, have consulted experts in that said culture, and are respectful of the culture they want to represent, then I don’t see why not. Once the art is created, it then falls on the people who are represented and the public at large to determine whether the piece of art is accurate, faithful, and respectful to the culture, or whether it should be chastised for its laziness.
That being said, the former question is where things get a bit hazy! Sifu is a game based on the typical Chinese martial arts movie tropes, which already isn’t really realistic in itself. A lot of those movies already exaggerate many of the Chinese martial art stereotypes, but not in a disrespectful way as far as I’m concerned. Though, Sloclap enlisted the help of Benjamin Colussi, a French-born Pak Mei master who studied Pak (or Bak) Mei in China in order to help ground a lot of the fight choreography in the game. The due diligence is there. Despite that, they also had an issue with the press kit that was sent out too. From what I saw, they sent some generic teapot, chopsticks, and beads, things that you would usually see in a Chinese martial art movie. To be honest, most people saw that and thought “oh cool” and moved on. Nothing screamed racism from what I could tell.
Then there’s the accusation that if you take the Chinese vibe away from Sifu, it then becomes another Jon Wick art, a soulless caricature of racist traits. They may have “some” points there to be fair but nothing that I would say the Chinese people wouldn’t be able to overlook, but I ain’t Chinese so that’s not for me to say.
Look, when you boil it down, from what I can tell, it’s white people, getting mad at white people for “appropriating” Chinese culture. I have yet to see a massive outcry from the Chinese community. And oftentimes, if there is an outcry from Chinese people, it’s never about the people who made the game, but what was portrayed in the game. The people who reviewed the games have every right to voice these concerns, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always correct.