A former developer of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has claimed that pitches for a black or female protagonist were rejected.
The claim comes via Nora Shramek, a former Lighting Artist for Respawn Entertainment who would go on to Riot Games, Unity Technologies, and Lighting Lead. She was also a Lighting Artist for Forza Motorsport 6.
Shramek revealed some of her alleged experiences developing 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on Twitter. “When I worked on SW:JFO a LOT of devs wanted & advocated 4 the main character 2b black &/or a woman.”
“‘Reasons’ 4 NO:”, Shramek claimed, “We already have 2 black people in the game. Rey is a woman & we can’t do that to’ guess what the demographic of the people making those decisions looked like?”
“The worst thing i heard was when someone (not gonna give any info here) said ‘I think all the black people need to have more glossy skin because black people have more oily skin than other people’ dead shock on everyone’s face,” Shramek alleges.
“Looks at me. ‘Right Nora?’,” to which Shramek claims she replied, “Me ‘WTF is wrong w/u?'” The aftermath of that meeting and alleged interaction was not revealed however.
Shramek would respond to a user claiming the interaction was innocent tweeting, “No that specific event was straight up racist for sure. that person and I did not get along at all.”
“But no the greatest industry isn’t systemically Racist, Misogynistic, or Homophobic (Sarcasm),” Shramek lamented.
Later, Shramek revealed she was prompted to discuss her experiences after viewing Captain Astronaut’s “Why No Black People in Video Games??” YouTube video.
“Im NOT blaming, EA, Disney, ect [sic],” Shramek prefaces. “I’m saying that individuals have power in the process.”
“If those individuals have massive privilege and by the nature of thier [sic] life experience shelter them from a full view that means they need to be extra intentional about thier [sic] choices,” Shramek proposes.
“So apparently my tweet about my experience on Jedi sort of blew up,” Shramek tweeted the next day, likely referencing the reports and discussions her tweet generated.
“These are my personal experiences and I hold them to be true. I no longer work at respawn and from my understanding of people who do there have been changes since my departure,” Shramek assured, but noted “Can’t personally verify.”
“Vast majority of that team were awesome amazing people who cared about representation,” Shramek insisted.
“That said I am tired of excuses and want us to do better so I will speak up about my PERSONAL EXPERIENCES with a few people (Will remain unamed [sic]) people who had the opportunity to push change,” Shramek declared.
Shramek continued to assert that the incident was not due to “evil EA, or overly controlling Lucasfilm/ Disney,” and that plenty of developers “voiced concern or desire for someone other than a white guy for the lead,” nor that she had any issues with Cameron Monaghan playing the main character.
“I’m a huge star wars fan girl. It has massively influenced my life and this was my dream project when I was contacted to work on it. My reason for talking about this is we need visibility on this topic,” Shramek explains.
“I promis [sic] the guy who said those thng [sic] didn’t think he was being racist.” As noted above, Shramek did say the comment in question was racist, and admitted to not getting along with the offending developer.
“But it’s still a problem that people in leadership don’t get that, or are afraid there isn’t a market for it,” Shramek implored.
“I’m an intersection minority both from within the industry and without, “Shramek possibly referring to her homosexuality or neurodivergence. “Guess what? There are so many people that fit that in some way that we are becoming majority.”
“That’s a market. That means we want to se [sic] ourselves as the lead,” Shramek promotes, before claiming that market will be growing one way or another.
“Also despite the very loud or disgruntled minority who decries the loss of thier staus [sic] as the default, the protagonist, the norm, most ‘white guys’ I know are chill cool dudes and allies are are fine playing […] Someone who doesn’t look like them. He’ll they even advocate for it as they know it’s good for everyone.”
“Relates thought,” Shramek later mused. “It’s scary to publicly say anything about experiences with anything negative in gamedev especially if you are a women, POC, or queer person.”
“So please understand what it takes to speak about ‘hot button issues’ when the ystem [sic] doesn’t root for you anyway [nervous laughing emoji].”
“Ok the conversation has out-scoped my participation as expected. I’ve locked the threads. I felt it necessary to point out systemic issues and gave my personal experience of an event. I hold to my experience. I know there r and will continue to be takes on what I said.”
“That’s good. I know it won’t matter cause twitter, but try to be civil with each other,” Shramek begged.
“This is everywhere to lesser and greater degrees. My experience is that most people actually get it, but if a few people are not and have power they need to be personally responsible to that.” Shramek later concluded she was done with the topic, and hoped it would ultimately lead to some good.
Back in July 2019, Jedi: Fallen Order game director Stig Asmussen made it clear they went with a male protagonist due to Rey’s prominence in the film trilogy.
He told Game Informer, “Yes, we talked about doing an alien creature. We talked about different gender. We arrived at where we were because at the time, Rey was kind of the thing for Star Wars, and so it made a lot more sense for us to have a male protagonist.”
“Ultimately, we didn’t go with alien race because we felt like, no pun intended, that would alienate a lot of people. We wanted to make sure there was a real human connection to the character we have in the game,” he said.
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