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Former Respawn Developer Alleges Racism & Misogyny Played a Role in Cal Kestis’ Creation

EA Games has been marred with many, many controversies in recent years, and the handling of their exclusive Star Wars license has been at the forefront.

In 2015, EA released Star Wars Battlefront, a reboot of the classic 2004 series, and despite being a commercial success, Battlefront was rocked with criticism for its lack of content and the use of a season pass model. The controversy continued two years later with the release of Star Wars Battlefront II, which faced widespread criticism for the implementation of loot boxes that players could buy with real money in order to gain a substantial gaming advantage.

EA even decided to keep certain characters like Darth Vader locked out; even if they purchased the $80 Deluxe Edition of the game, players were left with two options.

  • Spend roughly 40 hours to amass the correct amount of in-game credits in order to unlock him for free.
  • Skip the 40 hours grind by purchasing in-game credits with real money.

In response, EA’s community team issued a statement via Reddit defending the inclusion of loot boxes and microtransactions, and with 600,000 down-votes, it became the most down-voted comment in the website’s history.

And so microtransactions were then removed, the amount of time to earn credits were reduced, and EA’s Reddit comment became history – literally because it was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records because of the down-votes.

Things seemed to take a turn for the best in 2019 with the release of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. A single-player action-adventure game set five years after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, such a game had been widely requested by fans for years, but EA seemed hellbent on creating online experiences, no matter how poor and unnaturally unfair they were.

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Developed under EA’s subsidiary Respawn Entertainment, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a smash hit and has arguably paved the way for a slew of new single-player Star Wars games, including a Fallen Order sequel. But EA Games has landed itself into the familiar territory of hot water with a spate of serious allegations from former Respawn Entertainment developer Nora Shramek.

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On May 10th, Shramek, a former lighting artist at Respawn who worked on the game, shared her experiences working on Fallen Order, particularly the pushback from her co-workers regarding the creation of the player character.

Shramek states that a lot of developers pushed for Cal Kestis to be Black and/or a woman. But the reason it was rejected was that they already had two Black people in the game and the idea of having a female protagonist was dismissed because the recent Star Wars movies starred Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

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Shramek also shared an alleged racist experience while working at the studio, in which a co-worker stated: “I think all the Black people need to have more glossy skin because Black people have more oily skin than other people.” A comment that Shramek said was met with “dead shock on everyone’s face.”

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Cal Kestis went on to become a white male character played by Cameron Monaghan (“Gotham”, “Shameless“), whose performance garnered acclaim from fans. Kestis has since become a part of the expanded Star Wars canon with a recent appearance in a new novel, and his lightsabre is available for purchase at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands in Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort.

Respawn Entertainment and EA Games have not released a statement regarding the allegations.

This is the second Star Wars game in the past year to face controversy as Star Wars: Eclipse, an upcoming game from rival studio Quantic Dreams, is facing a boycott. The French studio is currently in the midst of legal battles regarding the alleged harsh working environments as well as the “bigoted culture of harassment” perpetrated by studio founders David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière. Cage would go on to somewhat confirm these allegations after making derogatory statements directed towards women and the LGBTQ+ community, and in all the places to make such lurid statements, Cage decided to say them in court.

Fans have created the hashtag #BlackoutStarWarsEclipse in support of the boycott, in which they share why Cage and de Fondaumière should be removed from the project.