In November, Sony and Quantic Dream released Beyond: Two Souls on PS4. A remaster of the supernatural thriller that was released on PS3 in 2013, the launch was meant to be a chance for fans to play a game they love with better graphics, while others would get the chance to play a game that many called a piece of narrative brilliance.
Unfortunately things haven’t quite gone to plan as although the Beyond: Two Souls remaster has reviewed well and fans have appreciated the remaster’s new features (e.g the ability to play the game in chronological order), it has also caused controversy due to its alleged white-washing of some characters of colour. Now, Quantic Dream’s founder David Cage has responded.
Beyond: Two Souls PS4 White-Washing Controversy
The controversy came after Digital Foundry (which analyses the technical side of video games) compared the visuals in Beyond: Two Souls‘ third level, The Embassy, which takes place in Saudi Arabia. In comparisons of the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, the Saudi Arabian characters have noticeably lighter skin tones in the PS4 versions, prompting some to suggest that Quantic Dream had purposefully made the characters look lighter.
In a lengthy statement to Eurogamer, however, David Cage explains that this was not intentional at all. Cage says that “the lighting has changed as well as the skin shader we use, leading to slightly lighter skins in general (which can also be seen on Jodie’s white skin)” and that “all characters have been upgraded on the PS4 version compared to the PS3, which sometimes led to creating a new face that can be different from the previous one (as well as different clothes or accessories). The skin tone or type of few characters may have changed in the process”.
Moreover, Cage says that the suggestion that the developer white-washed Beyond: Two Souls‘ characters is “upsetting”, and he adds that “Quantic Dream has been actively promoting cultural, gender and racial diversity in all of its past and present games, as well as in our own company. Quantic Dream is a studio in which people from around the globe, of all races and religions work together and share the same passion for crafting meaningful emotional experiences.”
In all fairness, Cage’s statement does sound sincere, the explanation makes sense and he also says that “Quantic Dream will continue to promote racial and gender diversity in games”. At face value, this seems like a completely different case to when Ubisoft blamed a lack of resources for why Assassin’s Creed Unity didn’t feature any playable female characters.
However, it’s hard to blame people for having an issue with this given that the media is constantly white-washing established characters of colour. For example, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movies (in the books she’s a woman of colour), the movie adaptation of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time cast Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role and Pan casting Rooney Mara as Native American character Tiger Lily. Hopefully game developers will tread more carefully in future.