God of War: Ragnarok Narrative Director Responds to Backlash Over Character Design
By Jack O'Dwyer
Matt Sophos, the narrative director for the upcoming God of War game, Ragnarok, has responded to backlash over the released design of Angrboda.
Players expressed ire over the fact that Angrboda, the jotunn wife of Loki and mother of Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel will be depicted as "a young black woman" in-game. They cited a variety of reasons—most of which, unsurprisingly, were hackneyed talking points developers have heard before. From "disrespect" of ancient Norse mythology to "forced diversity," "sjw" agendas, and the ever-frightening "politics in video games," it appears the aggression toward the design was enough to provoke one staff member to speak out.
"Whew. Mute button got a workout this weekend—granted, of my own doing." Sophos began, "You probably know what this is about. And if you don't, bless you."
God of War: Ragnarok Narrative Director Responds to Backlash
"The vast, vast majority of players are thrilled and think she looks incredible...But a tiny, vocal sliver of the internet was offended at this notion." He wrote, noting that he would be addressing some of the biggest "topics of outrage" individually.
According to Sophos, the team had no "outside pressure" to include the design--stating that they had received no more than two narrative notes for the 2018 release and Ragnarok, combined. Angrboda's design "was not one of them." Nor was it a political move, he explained. Obviously, including a person of color in the cast isn't a political choice, but Sophos pointed out the irony of this concern in a single reply.
"You bring pieces of yourself to stories and your opinions shine through. So writing is *always* political—it's just usually only called that if the politics aren't agreed with." He wrote.
His final argument took on the idea that adding Angrboda as she was "doesn't respect the culture" of the Norse or their myths. Setting aside the fact that the group most refer to as "Norse"—or, colloquially, "Vikings"—were global traders who met with several different groups of people worldwide, Sophos pointed out just how many characters in the franchise went "against the myths."
It's obvious that God of War has never been a "by-the-Eddas" retelling of the stories, Sophos proposes. Loki is a "half-Giant, quarter human, quarter Greek-demigod" with his father having a direct tie to Kratos, himself. The team took Mimir and made him Scottish with a tie-in to the works of William Shakespeare.
Some say not even the Eddas, themselves, are infallible as they were not recorded until ~1500 during an age in which Christianity had been the religion of Iceland for over two centuries. A considerable amount of practicing pagans acknowledge that the stories are rife with the influence of the time—namely, Christianity—rather than pure retellings. A few have even gone so far as to analyze the Eddas to pick out examples.
"We've consistently taken mythological characters and given them our own spin. So if the color of Angrboda’s skin is where you draw the line at how respectful we’ve been, it's probably worth some self-examination." Sophos concluded, "Thanks for listening."