The Return of Fear Effect and Fears About Its Effect
Fear Effect is coming back. Have you heard? After the heartbreak of Inferno’s cancellation, and a 15 year wait with no new game in sight, French indie studio Sushee Games is creating Fear Effect: Sedna. To say that I “literally screamed”, might actually be literal. I mean, look. There has been a 15 year vacuum that no other game has been able to fill. For fans of Fear Effect, this is huge news, so I can only hope that Sushee is successful, and that they are able to be true to the spirit of the franchise.
Check out the video below, and support their Kickstarter campaign here.
As I followed the campaign, being who I am, I couldn’t help but notice some things. 15 years ago, when Retro Helix was released, I had no awareness of cultural appropriation, and probably even a knee-jerk resistance to any discussion of the matter. Now, with the game industry’s slow realization that representation matters, reflecting an even longer-time-in-coming realization by mass media in general, creators are being held accountable for how they “borrow” — let’s go ahead and say appropriate — cultures not their own.
What I noticed with Fear Effect: Sedna, was their proposed use of Inuit culture and a native character. Alarm bells went off in my head, first about my impression that the character, Iluak, pretty much looks like a white man as currently designed.
So I tweeted to Sushee Games about it.
Iluak has very European features. In jeans/t-shirt he’d be white. Please tell me he’s not the “more relatable” “half-Native”. @FearEffect
— Kermit O (@KermitO) April 16, 2016
I was delighted that Sushee bothered to respond, as this is something they could’ve easily shrugged off, with me being a nobody on Twitter, and representing a small and easily recoverable amount towards their Kickstarter goal.
@KermitO He has changed yet from the concept till the artwork, especially for this reason. We keep an eye on this, and for others too!
— Fear Effect (@FearEffect) April 16, 2016
As I continued thinking about cultural appropriation, I decided to contact Sushee Games again, with more in-depth concerns about how they would handle the use of Inuit aesthetic, cultural stories and history. I sent them a message through Kickstarter, which I’m publishing here as an open letter, so that as the game’s production moves forward, it can be known that at least one person brought this issue to their attention.
This is part of the reason I love Kickstarter, as a platform, and as a new standard for interactions between creators and consumers. Will my message make a difference? Maybe. Which is more than I could say for my impact on the production of a mainstream title produced by a major company. I will continue to update the post if and as Sushee Games responds to my letter.