'Jedi: Fallen Order' Arrived At White Guy Default Because Rey Exists

In the upcoming Star Wars game Jedi: Fallen Order, players take on the role of Cal Kestis, a Force-wielding former Padawan who survived the newly christened Emperor Palpatine's Order 66, which lead to the slaughter of the Jedi Order, setting up the galaxy's grim condition at the beginning of the original Star Wars. Kestis is a new character created specifically for Fallen Order, and, like so many video game protagonists, a white guy. In a recent interview, the game's director Stig Asmussen gave some insight into just how a white guy protagonist so easily becomes the default position for developers.

Cal Kestis in "Jedi: Fallen Order." Respawn / EA

"We talked about doing an alien creature. We talked about different gender," Asmussen said in an interview with Game Informer. "We arrived at where we were because at the time, Rey was kind of the thing for Star Wars and it made a lot more sense for us to have a male protagonist. Ultimately, we didn't go with an alien race, because, no pun intended, we thought that would alienate a lot of people."

Asmussen's answer seems to suggest a woman protagonist in movies like The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens makes a male protagonist a way to balance the scales, or as if the woman lead slot was already filled, though its logic unlikely to apply in the opposite direction. White protagonists throughout the Star Wars Original and Prequel Trilogies didn't preclude the creation of Star Wars video game protagonists like Kyle Katarn (Jedi Knight series), Dash Rendar (Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire) or Galen Marek (Star Wars: The Force Unleashed). EA's previous Star Wars game, Star Wars Battlefront II, did feature a female lead: turncoat Imperial Inferno Squad commando Iden Versio (Janina Gavankar).

While hard numbers on the race and gender of video game protagonists are hard to come by, all evidence points to an overwhelming plurality of white and male leads. A 2009 survey found that fully 90 percent of primary video game characters were male, and 85 percent white. The numbers were even more stark in a survey of games showcased at the E3 conference in 2016.

Asked for clarification into the decision-making process behind Kestis, a PR representative for developer Respawn Entertainment and publisher EA described the character as emerging most from the vocal performance of Kestis voice actor Cameron Monaghan (Gotham).

"When Respawn was creating Cal they started with a very broad template, and they worked very closely with Lucasfilm to create a realistic, authentic Star Wars character. They knew he was a young man, a former padawan who escaped Order 66, but beyond that the character was mostly a blank slate," the EA representative said. "A lot of Cal's look and personality comes from Cam's portrayal of the character, and we're very much looking forward to Star Wars fans getting to know the newest Jedi."

After escaping Order 66, Kestis hid as a laborer in an Imperial scrapyard on the newly-created planet Bracca, until his Force abilities were detected and he was forced to go on the run from Imperial Inquisitors. In Jedi: Fallen Order, Kestis teams up with Jedi Knights newly created for the game, like Cere Junda (Debra Wilson) and familiar characters, like Saw Gerrera of The Clone Wars and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. More of Kestis' ultimate destiny will be revealed when Jedi: Fallen Order comes out for PC, Xbox and PS4 on November 15.