The much-anticipated martial arts game ‘Sifu’ has launched its two-day early-access period for those who pre-ordered it and, while many are praising the game’s exciting combat and gameplay, a slew of journalists are accusing it of cultural appropriation, given the game’s Chinese setting and the fact it was developed by a group of caucasians in France.
The game lets players control a Chinese martial artist as he embarks on a journey of revenge, and every time he dies he gets reborn. However, there’s a catch: every time he resurrects he gets older, and the older the avatar gets, the harder it is for him to take on tougher opponents. Players must race to finish the quest before their avatar grows weak and frail.
While the game’s launch was somewhat marred by technical issues, most of the people who have managed to play it have been giving it fairly positive reviews. The story doesn’t seem to be anything new, a typical kung-fu revenge plot, but reviewers seem to praise the game’s combat mechanics, unique revival and progression system, and challenging difficulty.
However, a slew of journalists couldn’t help but wonder about the skin color of the developers behind the Asian-themed action flick and, after finding out it was developed by a group of white people in France, some are calling the game “culturally tone-deaf.”
One reviewer for Fanbyte called the game “a sharp, but uncomfortable action movie,” saying they were “unimpressed with its setting and aesthetic” after finding out the development team at Sloclap is “almost entirely white and has no connection to the cultures they’ve dedicated their whole game to.” The reviewer added that while they were not Asian themselves, they felt it was “cringy” that white people “rip other cultures as wallpaper for their creations,” suggesting that if Sloclap wanted to tell a story based in China, they should’ve hired Chinese staffers to create the whole project.
Another review by Paste blasted the game for deploying a “particularly alien lens” during the construction of the game, suggesting the developers at Sloclap robbed Chinese people of their place, history and art by not including them in the production process. Some reviewers even blasted the game for having characters speak English instead of Chinese, once again blaming the “mostly white developers” for not doing enough.
Many of the reviewers criticizing the game’s supposed cultural transgression all point to an article by Khee Hoon Chan for The Gamer, titled “Sifu’s Kungfu Brawling is made by a studio full of white developers.” Notably, the article is written by the same person who said in a now-deleted tweet that they openly hate white people and white privilege.