A former Respawn Entertainment developer has claimed that requests from team members to make the protagonist of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order female and/or Black were shut down. The response allegedly centered around the fact that the Star Wars franchise had a female lead after the movies’ Rey, and the game already had 2 prominent Black characters.
Nora Shramek, a lighting artist at Respawn who worked on Fallen Order, tweeted (below) that multiple employees pushed for a Black and/or female protagonist during development, before the game launched in 2019, but were rejected because the game and wider franchise already represented those communities.
“When I worked on [Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order], a lot of devs wanted and advocated for the main character to be Black and/or a woman,” Shramek said in a tweet spotted by GamesRadar. The reasons apparently given for not going in that direction were because “we already have two Black people in the game” and “Rey is a woman and we can’t do that too.”
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
Fallen Order was eventiually released with a white, male lead, Cal Kestis – who has since become an established part of the Star Wars business and canon.
Following up on her previous tweets, Shramek added that these decisions were made at the Respawn level and were not the result of an “evil EA” or “overly controlling Lucasfilm/Disney.”
“It was our team’s game and yes, a few of the people with decision making power made choices,” she said. The issue isn’t with Cal or his actor, but “about opportunity lost”.
Shramek clarified that these were her personal experiences with “a few people who had the opportunity to push change,” and added that “I no longer work at Respawn and, from my understanding of people who do, there have been changes since my departure.”
Shramek also shared an alleged experience of racist commentary at the studio, saying that someone once commented: “I think all the Black people need to have more glossy skin because Black people have more oily skin than other people.” The comment was met with “dead shock on everyone’s face”, Shramek said.
We’ve contacted Respawn for comment. Shramek declined to comment further to IGN.
Alongside Fallen Order and Apex Legends, Respawn is also known for the Titanfall franchise and is currently working on three new Star Wars games, including a sequel to Fallen Order.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.