“Kingdom Come: Deliverance” released last week, and the role-playing game has amassed quite a bit of buzz for more than one reason.
First of all, it’s quite popular. It instantly became a top-seller and sold enough copies to be profitable only two days after release. For a largely independent game, that’s enough to warrant some discussion.
But there’s another reason a game I’ve never played keeps showing up in my feed: Outraged people claim “Kingdom Come” is racist because it features only white characters.
It’s a ridiculous notion and, judging by the game’s success, I’m not the only one who feels this way. But let’s break down why this claim is wrong anyway, shall we?
“Kingdom Come” is developed by Warhorse Studios, located in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. The game features players in the region during the Holy Roman Empire, and it strives for realism.
The player character, Henry, needs to eat, sleep and even bathe and change clothes. That alone is more than most role-playing games achieve when it comes to immersing players into a virtual world. It should tell you all you need to know about Warhorse’s goal to make “Kingdom Come” as realistic—including historically—as possible.
I’m no history buff, but based on the time period and region in which the game takes place, it makes perfect sense that “Kingdom Come,” which is set in a small area in Bohemia, features only white characters.
That’s not good enough for some who care only that some imaginary diversity quota be filled. These critics want to see other races represented, even when their inclusion would break immersion and amount to nothing more than tokenism, which I’ve critiqued before as being a less-than-noble goal.
Website Waypoint released a podcast on which editors discussed why they haven’t covered “Kingdom Come.” Their reasoning basically boils down to the game’s creative director has “made highly questionable statements about the game’s ‘historical’ accuracy regarding representing people of color,” wrote editor Patrick Klepek.
Ironically, by dedicating a podcast to discussing why a website isn’t covering a particular game, Waypoint did cover it and gave it more publicity, but I digress.
Some argue that, with it being a video game, “Kingdom Come’s” developers could have taken creative liberties and included minorities, even at the expense historical accuracy. That’s true, but Warhorse wasn’t trying to make a typical fantasy role-playing game; the goal was to create a historically accurate and realistic experience, and the region’s race plays a big role in that objective.
I don’t see people complaining that Peter Jackson or J.R.R. Tolkien are racist because “Lord of the Rings” didn’t include anything but white people. No one is saying the recently released, critically acclaimed movie “Black Panther” is “problematic” because it focuses on Wakanda, a black nation that zealously guards its borders.
Both of these works are fictional with no historical basis and are arguably more appropriate venues to bend the “race rule” a little bit. But no one’s asking for that because it’s ridiculous. It’s equally ridiculous to expect something similar from “Kingdom Come.”
And that brings me to my next point, which I’ve made before: Let creators, including game developers, create what they want without smearing them for it.
You want to make a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction game that includes almost every race imaginable and includes lore to explain it, like “Horizon Zero Dawn”? Go for it. At the same time, if you want to make a game in medieval Europe with only white people in the pursuit of historical accuracy, be my guest. Neither are racist or wrong.
What some seem to forget when labeling things “racist” is intent, so ask yourself: Was Warhorse Studios deliberately trying to exclude minorities from this game because the developers view whites as superior, or was it attempting to make a game that accurately reflects the history of their culture?
If you have any integrity, you know the answer.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.