"In many different ways -- it hurts them and it hurts you, because it's not a genuine story."
- Developer of Donut County Ben Esposito on why he decided to shift focus away from Hopi culture
During an interview with Engadget, Donut County creator Ben Esposito discusses his decision to stray from the game's original roots (titled Kachina) which drew from Hopi culture, saying that "I learned this really important and now very obvious lesson, which is, it doesn't pay to tell someone else's story."
Even with the proper care and research, it was difficult to present an authentic vision of the tribe to an audience without coming across as insensitive. Cultural appropriation is a subject game developers are still trying to grapple with.
"I think people are tuned into the cultural implications of the media they consume a lot more now, probably thanks to stuff like Feminist Frequency doing the big, foundational work of showing people, 'Hey, you should think about it," Esposito points out.
Shortly after that, he realized there was no way to create a game about Hopi culture. Because there was no personal attachment to the subject matter, it was time for a change. "It's really painful, and it costs a lot of time and energy, but I have to do it," Esposito explains. "And I felt totally safe doing that. I didn't feel under attack or anything."
According to Esposito, the switch to centering Donut County in L.A. was easy. He already knew the lay of the land and was involved in its scene. "I knew the game was about a place and the people who live there. So I had to make the game about LA. Because I love LA, I'm fascinated by it."
Check out the full interview available at Engadget.