Hi friends, Zainabb here! I’m flaring up badly so tell me why I thought it was time for another instalment of race- and racism-related news in gaming? I’m keeping this intro short so I can finally nap and maybe play some Baldur’s Gate 3 with my dwindling spare time. Please drink some water (or similarly hydrating beverage) and take care of yourself.

Before we dive into the news, your regular reminder from me to please support Palestinian people however you can, now and always. The Palestine Academy offers education and a list of resources here. The Palestinian Feminist Collective have an incredible action toolkit too. If you’re able, please donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians or Crips for eSims for Gaza.

Tomb Raider 1–3 Remastered Adds a Racism Warning, Does Nothing About Racism in the Series

Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered released this month with updated graphics, smoother controls, and some new features, like a photo mode. Importantly, the game now also features a warning when loaded, which acknowledges the games’ “offensive depictions of people and cultures rooted in racial and ethnic prejudices,” such as Tomb Raider 3‘s stereotypical representation of indigenous people. In the warning, developer Crystal Dynamics explains, “we have chosen to present it here in its original form, unaltered, in the hopes that we may acknowledge its harmful impact and learn from it.”

While it’s always good to acknowledge racism and other harmful representations in media, especially when revisiting older titles, I feel underwhelmed by the inclusion of a warning here. Making changes to “remastered” media is a complex issue—many have a preference to retaining as much of the original as possible, in a sort of archiving, but others argue that it is sometimes more appropriate to make changes, for example to prevent further harm caused by racist depictions of characters. In the case of Tomb Raider 3, Crystal Dynamics had the opportunity to update the “offensive depictions” their warning refers to without impacting gameplay or narrative. Instead, they opted for a warning, hoping that keeping these “harmful, inexcusable” depictions will be a teaching moment.

But a teaching moment for who? An acknowledgement of “its harmful impact” for who? People who are directly impacted by this sort of representation already know it’s harmful. People who’ve made the effort to educate themselves about racism and orientalism already know it’s harmful. Crystal Dynamics states that these depictions “do not align with [their] values,” insinuating that the racism on display in the first three Tomb Raider games is a relic of the title’s original developer, Core Design, putting distance between Crystal Dynamics and the harmful imagery in these games.

But Crystal Dynamics actively decided not to make changes for the benefit of folks not impacted by the racism on display. And Crystal Dynamics does not include in its warning an acknowledgement of the orientalism that is foundational to the Tomb Raider series—orientalism that Crystal Dynamics very much continues in their rebooted titles, alongside racism that, while less overt than that seen in Tomb Raider 3, is just as harmful and even more insidious. What is the purpose of this warning, then, when those who are harmed (and do not need to “learn from” the series’ racism) continue to be harmed by these same folks’ contemporary work?

In comparison, Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada has asked Native American fans for their feedback on the character designs of Michelle and Julia, long-serving characters in the fighting game series who are Native and Chinese. Indigenous fans have previously criticised these characters for reinforcing stereotypes, such as through their war bonnet-inspired designs and their unnamed Arizona tribe. Harada acknowledges the unique difficulty of character design in fighting games, where the lack of lengthy narrative means each character’s personality (and potentially some backstory) must be conveyed immediately. This difficulty was only compounded in the first few Tekken games, where the narrative was told through extremely short, speech-less cutscenes.

Nonetheless, Harada is now reaching out to the folks directly impacted by Michelle and Julia’s character designs in order to inform any future designs of Native American characters. Ideally, a Native consultant (or several!) could be included during the design and development of future titles in the series, but Harada’s seemingly genuine concern for improving this representation goes so much further than Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider warning. It actually acknowledges the impact of racist stereotypes on real-life people and takes into account what those people might actually want from their video games, and understands that game creators have a choice in the types of narrative, imagery, design and mechanics they employ.

Anyway, I also heard that there might be an Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune remake at some point too. I’m just exhausted by coloniser simulators, so I’m just going to hope that doesn’t happen. Go play the existing titles if you really want. All I want is for companies and institutions to stop constantly sinking money into perpetuating racism.

In other news…

The team creating Palestine Skating Game has launched a fundraiser to support their programmer Doaa Ghandour and her family in Gaza. Many members of Ghandour’s family have been killed by an Israeli airstrike that destroyed their home and injured Ghandour’s sister. Please donate what you can and share the fundraiser widely.

Game Devs of Color Expo will be held online this year from September 18 to 21. Applications for speakers are open until April 19, and folks who are invited to speak or showcase their game will be eligible for grants to support their work. Subsidised tickets are also available.

The Sims 4 has included new vitiligo skin details in a recent free update. Model Winnie Harlow worked with the Sims team on the sizable range of new details, which are available for Sims of all ages.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for discrimination by James Reid Venable, a former senior executive at the company, who believes he was made redundant because he’s “old and white.” In his complaint, Venable accuses the company of promoting “less experienced” employees of colour, and alleges that his redundancy was in “retaliation” to an HR complaint against a female employee who commented on Venable’s “white male privilege”—which Venable argues was discriminatory. While the rampant layoffs in the games industry are awful, and many large companies should be criticised for their handling of redundancies, Venable’s allegations sound like some old-fashioned, anti-DEI racism and misogyny to me. You can read Venable’s full complaint here.

Speaking of old-fashioned racism (and ableism!), a remaster of Until Dawn has been confirmed by Sony, with an expected 2025 release. This news comes after a live-action film adaptation was announced, with David F. Sandberg to direct. There are few details about the adaptation at this point but I desperately hope the film avoids replicating the game’s racist depictions of Cree and other Indigenous people. Ideally, the adaptation will also remove the hugely ableist tropes too but this is horror (and Sony) so I’m not hopeful.

Sony has removed upcoming Team Ninja title, Rise of the Ronin, from its Korean Store and all Korean promotional material, including its recent State of Play video on YouTube. Sony has insisted that the game was never meant to be released in South Korea, but the move to remove all promotional content comes after comments made by game director Fumuhiko Yasuda apparently glorifying influential Japanese scholar Shōin Yoshida. Yoshida and his students advocated for the invasion and occupation of Korea; although this only occurred after Yoshida’s lifetime, the trauma of the Japanese colonisation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 has made Yoshida (and his philosophies) unpopular in South Korea.

A British Army recruitment event has been removed from Fortnite, after being pulled by Epic Games for moderation. Epic Games does not allow commercial content that promotes military enrolment—and thank fuck, because militaries should not be able to encourage children and young people to sign up for imperialism.

Nightmare Forge Games has changed the name of upcoming Steamboat Willie horror title, Infestation: Origins (originally titled Infestation 88), due to the association of the number with neo-Nazis. The studio has apologised and stated that it chose the number for stylisation in the game’s logo, and was unaware of any connotations the number has.