Ex-Sweet Baby Inc. Employee And Current EA’s ‘Marvel’s Black Panther’ Narrative Designer Seen Proudly Bragging That Previous Title ‘ValiDate’ Had “No White People” On Dev Team

Cliffhanger Games' Dani Lalonders recounts her time working on Validate: Struggling Singles in Your Area during the Game Devs of Color Expo 2021

Remember, kids: Blatant and open discrimination based on skin color is a-okay so long as you do it under the auspices of ‘being progressive’.

For an example of this phenomena, look no further than the fact that Dani Lalonders, an associate narrative designer for EA subsidiary and current Marvel’s Black Panther developer Cliffhanger Games, once openly and proudly bragged that she specifically and actively avoided hiring white individuals to work on her previous indie title ValiDate out of fear that their mere presence would create an ‘unsafe’ work environment for its dev team’s non-white members.

The first teaser image for EA and Cliffhanger Games' 'Black Panther'
The first teaser image for EA and Cliffhanger Games’ ‘Black Panther’

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The very definition of a ‘video game developed by Tumblr’, Validate: Struggling Singles in Your Area is a visual novel-slash-dating sim wherein players are tasked with not only choosing who to date amongst a veritable United Colors of Benetton ad of the most stereotypically ‘diverse’ characters one could imagine, but also choosing whether or not to “enable [each character’s] awful behavior and leave a trail of broken hearts behind them, or help them along the path of self-betterment with mixtapes, poetry, and cosplay thrown into the mix.”

ValiDate presents a smorgasbord of relationships to bear witness to,” reads the game’s official synopsis, “but the dating scene is difficult even when you aren’t marginalized in six different ways, so happiness continues to fly just out of reach for these unlucky lovers.”

The cast of ValiDate: Struggling Singles In Your Area (2022), Veritable Joy Studios
The cast of ValiDate: Struggling Singles In Your Area (2022), Veritable Joy Studios (Click to enlarge)

Given the game’s subject matter, it may come as no surprise to learn that it’s 21-member dev team apparently featured zero white individuals.

However, what is eye-brow raising is the fact that this was not a merit-based-hiring coincidence nor the result of white individuals choosing not to apply for the dev team, but rather Lalonders’ specific instruction to not hire them at all.

One Year in the Industry – Entering the industry for the first time. #GDoCExpo 2021

[Time Stamp: 07:07]

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Speaking in reflection of Validate‘s development while hosting a talk titled “One Year in the Industry” at the 2021 Game Devs of Color Expo, Lalonders admitted that the visual novel “has a team of mostly – all – people of color. We have no white people on our team. I did that because I wanted to create a safe environment and I know the best way for an environment to be safe is to be around people who are just like me.”

“And I’m not saying that white people in the industry are creating unsafe environments,” she continued. “I’m not saying that, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that sometimes it is hard to work with white people because they think that something may be okay, but it was really a microaggression, and no one wants to deal with that when they’re trying to make a game that they love.”

Inaya Saifi gets a text in ValiDate: Struggling Singles in Your Area (2022), Veritable Joy Studios
Inaya Saifi gets a text in ValiDate: Struggling Singles in Your Area (2022), Veritable Joy Studios

Of course, this is not to say that LaLonders has since changed her blatantly racist opinions.

In response to the the ongoing discourse surrounding Sweet Baby Inc. – who she previously worked for between 2022-2023 – the dev asserted towards the consultation company’s critics, “I just stopped taking y’all seriously when y’all start running around saying white people can experience racism because I did not suffer through 2020 for y’all to act like you weren’t an #ally to #BLM 4 years later”.

Cliffhanger Games' Dani LaLonders weighs in on the Sweet Baby Inc. discourse
Archive Link Dani LaLonders via Twitter

As noted above, Lalonders is currently employed as an Associate Narrative Designer for Cliffhanger Games, the same dev studio currently hard at work on EA’s Marvel’s Black Panther title.

To this end, given that the game is still in early development, just how much of a hand Lalonders will have in its overall narrative remains to be seen.

NEXT: US Government-Funded Non-Profit ‘Take This’ Responds To Sweet Baby Inc. Backlash By Calling On Video Game Industry “To Clearly And Unequivocally Denounce Gamergate”

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