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A game designer explains why she doesn't hire white people

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In the USA there is excitement about the new superhero video game “Black Panther” from Electronic Arts. A video clip is being hotly discussed on Reddit and Twitch. Streamer Amsongold is once again at the forefront of the protest. The context in which the developer speaks is distorted.

What is this clip?

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  • Danielle Lalonders speaks in the clip. She is currently an Associate Narrative Designer for Cliffhanger Games. The studio is working on “Black Panther” for Electronic Arts.
  • In the clip she doesn't talk about “Black Panther”, but about the game “ValiDate: Struggling Singles in your Area”, which was released on Steam in September 2022.
  • She works as lead producer for the studio “Veritabel Joy Studios” – in this role she speaks in the clip.

Black Panther is a Marvel movie from 2018. In summer 2023, EA and Marvel announced a new single-player game for Black Panther (via GamePro):

German trailer for Black Panther

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This is what the designer says:

“I have a team of 21 people at ValiDate. That's a pretty big team. For an indie team, it's a crazy big team. But who is on our team? ValiDate has a team that is mostly – that is made up entirely of people of color. We have no white people on our team.

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I decided to do this because I wanted to create a safe environment and I know that the best way to make the environment safe is to work with people who are just like me. I'm not saying that white people in the gaming industry create an unsafe environment. I'm not saying that. I’m saying that sometimes it’s hard to work with white people because they think something is okay, but it’s a microaggression.”

Nobody wants to have to deal with such difficulties when developing a game that they love.

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Statement is presented as “EA lead developer says”.

What is important to know? This statement is presented on social networks and media reports (via dailymail) as “This is what the lead developer of EA’s new game “Black Panther” says”.

However, the statement does not refer to this game. She did not make this statement in her capacity as an EA employee, but in a different context and in relation to a different team.

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“ValiDate” is an indie game with deliberately “diverse stories” – and not “Black Panther”, a game aimed at the mass market.

In “Black Panther” the designer is not a “lead designer”, but rather an “associate narrative designer” – “associate” are usually jobs at a “slightly better than entry-level” level. It can therefore be assumed that she is in no position to make personnel decisions.

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Discussion is heated

How is this discussed? As you can imagine, the video is being discussed very critically in the video game Reddit embedded above.

One user said: “So if the game flops, they blame it on racism?”

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Another user says: You shouldn't make a mistake here. The woman only speaks for herself and not for all black people.

Twitch streamer Asmongold has once again taken the lead in the “I’m outraged” movement, who also captioned the clip “EA developer explains why she doesn’t hire white people.”

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He says it's clearly racist. You just have to imagine black people being so categorically excluded from hiring. He explains that this is probably illegal and the designer’s behavior is “just crazy”.

His video for the clip already has 540,000 views. In a second video, Asmongold's editor restricts that it was “mistakenly” stated that the developer was the lead designer for Black Panther. In reality she is just a narrative designer. But they call the developer a “racist piece of shit” and basically see themselves as being in the right.

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In a critical Reddit thread addressed by the editor, Asmongold is accused of engaging in “ignorant ragebaiting.” One user suggests that YouTube needs “community notes” like Twitter.

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This is what lies behind it: It was clear that the developer's statement would provoke such a reaction in the current heated climate. But in her actual context, as a producer of an indie game, the statement would probably never have made such waves.

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In her role as an EA employee, the designer would probably never have said something like that because the situation is different and EA's PR machine would probably have exploded.

The debate is part of the current “Sweet Baby Inc” story, spearheaded by Asmongold, which criticizes a consulting firm for artificially making video games “woke” and then turning against a Steam group , which criticizes this behavior.

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Due to this heated climate, stories like “Indie developer makes tiny game on Steam that is supposed to be emphatically diverse and doesn't hire white people for it” are becoming such a story.

“Black Panther”, a game that focuses on a black superhero, is particularly suitable for such a debate:

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Consulting firm under fire: This is what lies behind the allegations that Sweet Baby Inc makes games “woke”

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