One of the best Star Wars games of the last ten years, Jedi: Fallen Order, is getting more attention lately due to rumors of a reveal of the sequel in the coming months. Rumors aren’t the only reason it’s been in the spotlight, though; a former Respawn developer that worked on the lighting for Fallen Order revealed that the team initially wanted a black/female protagonist. The former Respawn dev, Nora Shramek, revealed in a Tweet on May 10th that “a LOT” of devs wanted a black/female lead for the game, but this desire was shut down.
When I worked on SW:JFO a LOT of devs wanted & advocated 4 the main character 2b black &/or a woman. 'Reasons' 4 NO: 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?
— NoraNevaBoreYa 🏳️🌈 (@NoraShramek) May 10, 2022
She then says the request was rejected because there are already “2 black people in the game,” and Rey is a woman in the sequel films. And before you ask, yes, the development team at Respawn is currently being bombarded with letters and inquiries about how they treat people of color and women in general. Sigh. She goes on to lay up the kindling on her former employer by saying in a follow-up Tweet, “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.” Interestingly, she says everyone’s face had dead shock when this racial statement was uttered, implying that most of the team didn’t behave that way, which kind of defeats her initial point, but I digress.
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. Looks at me. 'Right Nora?' Me 'WTF is wrong w/u?'
— NoraNevaBoreYa 🏳️🌈 (@NoraShramek) May 10, 2022
This Twitter thread then spirals into the typical diversity push conversation we’re all too used to at this point, so I’ll spare you the details. I’ll just share this nugget from the former dev.
Lol right? I like Cameron as an actor don't get me wrong, but when the told us who was playing the lead I was like wow that is most white male you could possibly go
— NoraNevaBoreYa 🏳️🌈 (@NoraShramek) May 11, 2022
OK, moving on before we lose any more brain cells. What do you think? Was Cal Kestis a good pick for a protagonist? Despite what many critics at the time parroted about him, Cal has character growth and a deep backstory that fits into age-old Star Wars themes like legacy, loyalty, and temptation. Check out my review of Fallen Order for further opinions on the characters and themes. Sure, his personality isn’t as robust or forceful as his teammates Greez and Cere or the antagonistic Night Sister Merrin, but at least Cal Kestis is no Rey or Finn.
It isn’t just now that Fallen Order has gotten some heat for its protagonist. Game journalists across the industry were ragging on poor Cal because of his look alone back when Fallen Order was first getting previewed and then reviewed. When I listened to previews and podcasts back in the day, most comments about Cal were on his identity as a white male rather than the content of his character or ability, etc. Here are just a few complaints about Cal’s “plain” look from various reviews.
“You are Cal Kestis, a bland-faced scrapper with too-clean hair and an inexplicable love for ponchos.”
“The wider tale isn’t something to hate but it is ultimately quite pedestrian and it isn’t aided by plainer than plain protagonist Cal Kestis.”
“Then there’s the story, the tale of an unremarkable blank slate of a main character in Cal Kestis, a Jedi in hiding in the wake of the Emperor’s purge of the Force-wielding good guys.”
“It doesn’t help that Kestis is such a vanilla character, with little discernible personality.”
These aren’t even the worst remarks on Cal’s skin color or gender; the previews were even harder on Cal. Did these same outlets complain about how plain Rey’s character was in the Disney films? Many vocal Star Wars fans did, but the legacy media praised The Force Awakens to kingdom come. The film has an aggregate 93% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes today, and barely any reviews lambasting Rey’s “vanilla” look or personality.
Well, onward and upward to the future. The good news is that EA doesn’t hold exclusivity rights to the Star Wars license anymore. There are many promising Star Wars games in development currently, like Amy Hennig’s studio‘s project or Quantic Dream’s Star Wars Eclipse.
At the forefront of future Star Wars games is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 2, which has been in development for years now and is rumored to be revealed this summer. What are your hopes for the Fallen Order sequel? Do you want to see Cal continue his journey, or would you prefer a different main protagonist for Fallen Order 2?