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The Failure of Inclusivity in Sumeru: A Genshin Impact Criticism

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

What is genshin impact?

Back in 2020, a game called Genshin Impact entered the gaming world and took the industry by storm. But what exactly made the game so popular? Genshin immediately gained popularity for its detailed storylines, unique gameplay, and similarities with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, another beloved game. 

The game was developed by Hoyoverse, a Chinese video game company that has a number of other games including Honkai Impact 3rd, Honkai: Star Rail, and Tears of Themis. Genshin, though, reached levels of success none of these games have seen and has become one of the most popular action role-play games in recent history.

Genshin Impact is an action role playing game that allows players to explore a vast and colorful land known as Teyvat. The game gives you the option to play as either Aether or Lumine, a set of twins crucial to the plot of the game.

The nations of Teyvat

Teyvat is made up of 7 nations; Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma, Sumeru, Fontaine, Natlan, and Snezhnaya. Each of these nations is ruled over by an Archon, or god, of the country’s element; Anemo, Geo, Electro, Dendro, Hydro, Pyro, and Cryo respectively.

Each nation is based on a real country. Sumeru, the nation that will be discussed in this article, is considered to be based on “India, Egypt and the Middle East,” meaning that the people in the country should be people of color.

(For more information on Sumeru’s historical background, check out this forum post!)

(Lack of) representation in sumeru

The addition of Sumeru in Genshin Impact was a highly anticipated update by fans who were excited to explore new lands and meet a variety of new characters. Unfortunately for players, the game fell short in representing the real life cultures from which it had gained its inspiration from. This observation could be made clear from the lack of diversity amongst its characters.

Hoyoverse’s failure in representation begins with their lack of dark toned characters. The game appears to reuse the same pale skin tone across all regions, with some minor exceptions. As of version 4.5, there are a total of 79 playable characters (not including Aether and Lumine), and only five of these contain darker skin tones compared to the other characters in the roster. When analyzing this issue, Chinese culture and beauty standards need to be considered, since the game’s developers are Chinese. Historically, having pale skin is a feature desired by many due to cultural beliefs that have been ingrained into the people and culture of China over time. Lighter skin tones were directly associated with aristocracy while darker skin was associated with the working and lower class.

When it comes to other issues of diversity, like facial features, the limitations of Genshin’s character design comes into play. For NPCs, they are all made up of a set of body types and heights, hairstyles, and clothing. While some NPCs are given a bit more detail due to their role in the story, their faces are essentially identical, with differences being seen only in gender and age. This also applies to playable character designs. While their clothes and hair are blatantly more unique and detailed to emphasize their significance, facial features don’t change very much between characters.

With this being said, though, there are elements of Sumeru that do a better job of reflecting its inspiration, such as character names, architecture and the landscape. Some may argue that Genshin is a fantasy game and does not need to accurately portray real life people but many point out that the accuracy in representation in previous regions such as Inazuma, Liyue, and Mondstat gives the impression that the developers don’t care to accurately portray regions with people of color.

Player reactions

Players were anything but thrilled as more Sumeru characters were announced. Here’s a response from one user under the announcement of the character Dori, who is white.

Dori wasn’t the only character who had a pretty harsh response from players. Characters like Dehya, who is a person of color but still is very fair, experienced some of the same backlash.

Tighnari, one of the first characters announced for the region and one of the first you meet when you enter Sumeru, saw plenty of upset fans, once again, due to his skin tone. The below Tweet even mentions that before his release, players were criticizing Tighnari’s skin.

why representation matters

Diversity is a very hot subject in gaming right now, with society placing pressure on platforms to add more minority, LGBTQ+, disabled, and female characters. Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in diverse character designs as developers have started to move away from the standard straight male protagonist.

Representation in video games has always been important because players should be able to see characters that reflect the diversity of our world. It promotes understanding and empathy between players, while also expanding video game appeal to a larger audience.


Overall, the poor representation of the characters within Genshin Impact’s Sumeru shouldn’t be used as a way to discount the stories that take place in this region. Hopefully, Hoyoverse takes the criticism received concerning diversity in Sumeru and does a better job in designing the characters for Natlan, the region that is believed to be based on either Africa or the Philippines.

Brianna is a senior at Hofstra University with majors in public relations and mass media studies and a minor in women's studies. She is interested in relationships, mental health, pop culture and media phenomena.
Nicole Gerena

Hofstra '25

Nicole is a junior at Hofstra University with a major in psychology and minors in cognitive science and journalism. She loves reading, writing, Lana Del Rey and the show Friends!