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Things are off to a bad start for Little Devil Inside

Little Devil Inside is an upcoming exploration survival game and the flagship title of Neostream, a multimedia company turned game studio. Sony's Future of Gaming event included a trailer for Little Devil Inside, and many viewers enjoyed the cartoonish art style and goofy music. The indie title was somewhat overshadowed by huge names like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon: Forbidden West, but it still seemed like a really charming little game that a lot of people would have been excited to try out.

Unfortunately, there was one detail the internet took issue with. A clip from the trailer shows the main character being chased through the woods by several blowgun-wielding enemies. These enemies have dark brown skin, dreadlocks, and their masks feature large, bright-red lips. According to Neostream, they are the defenders of a mystical area with a heavy emphasis on nature. Taken all together, many saw these enemies as caricatures of an African tribe, and the developers faced almost immediate backlash.

It wasn't a good look for a new studio taking its first major steps into the gaming world, especially with the current worldwide vigilance about race and racism. To make things worse, the brief clip showed no evidence that these enemies are intelligent or cultured in any way. All you see are three of the beings chasing the protagonist, shouting gibberish and shooting blowguns in a scene that wouldn't have looked out of place in some old cartoon from the 1960s. As the final nail in the coffin, some netizens thought the blowguns were actually joints.

Some staunchly defended Neostream's right to create whatever enemies it wants, and accused those criticizing the design of censorship and stifling the designers' creative expression. However, many agreed this particular enemy was tone-deaf at best and intentionally racist at worst, and Neostream listened to them.

The company quickly apologized for the design in a statement on Facebook. The statement asserted the Little Devil Inside team had researched masks from various cultures around the world for inspiration, and were not aware of the stereotypical connotations of the design they settled on. It also notes that no one had commented about the characters before, though admitted this was the first time those designs had been shown to the public.

The developers have promised to make the following corrections:

  1. Remove the dreadlocks
  2. Change the bold lips
  3. Change skin tone
  4. Tweak the blowgun so it looks less like a joint

The swift response, including specific actions the team will take to fix the problem, appears to have satisfied some of Neostream's fiercest critics. @LordBalvin, who wrote the Tweet linked earlier, replied to his own comment with a Kotaku article about Neostream's response and a "100" emoji that seems to show he approves of the steps being taken. Many joined in lauding the team for accepting the criticism and working to fix its mistakes.

Others continued to attack those who took issue with design, accusing them of being too sensitive and trampling the designers' "artistic freedom." Certain individuals took this a step further, vowing to never purchase a Neostream game as punishment for bowing to those offended by the enemy depictions.

Little Devil Inside will launch on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC. No release date has been announced yet.