The Sweet Baby Inc Situation shows how misinformation travels at the speed of light

In the swirling chaos of gaming controversies, there’s one topic that’s been dominating headlines and online discussions: the debate surrounding Sweet Baby Inc. and similar consulting firms. It’s a storm of misinformation and heated arguments, but amidst the chaos, I’m determined to cut through the noise. As I dive into the murky waters of online discourse surrounding Sweet Baby Inc., my goal is clear: to unravel the web of falsehoods and shed light on the truth.

Sweet Baby Inc., a Montreal-based narrative development and consultation studio founded by former Ubisoft developers Kim Belair and Ari MacGillivray, specializes in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within video game narratives. They offer consultation services for games like Sable, God of War Ragnarök, and Alan Wake 2, aiming to create engaging, meaningful, and inclusive stories by amplifying diverse voices.

However, the company has faced online controversy and backlash for allegedly pushing a “woke agenda” and compromising game quality to meet ESG and DEI targets. Comments from CEO Kim Belair and employees have fueled heated debates, with concerns raised about the injection of political ideologies into their work. While some applaud their efforts for inclusivity, others criticize them as unnecessary and problematic. The viral clip that sparked controversy surrounding CEO Kim Belair and Sweet Baby Inc. stemmed from her 2019 GDC Panel titled “Now You See Me: Representation as Innovation.” In the panel, Belair discussed her company’s services and their potential benefits. However, the clip was taken out of context by some right-wing and sensationalist content creators, who portrayed the company as advocating for the forced inclusion of underrepresented groups in games.

Below is the full clip taken from 2019 GDC Panel:

Belair’s actual remarks focused on providing advice and recommendations for working with consultants to ensure that representation in games is respectful and not offensive. She emphasized the importance of proper execution when incorporating diversity into narratives and characters. For instance, she suggested cautioning the marketing team about the potential negative outcomes if representation is mishandled. I’ve written at length about Black representation when developers get it right and when they get it very wrong.

Her intention was to offer guidance on how AAA studios could engage with her company or similar ones to ensure authentic and well-researched representation. At no point did she advocate for “forced diversity.” Instead, her aim was to encourage studios to approach representation with care, intention, and thorough research to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or causing harm to marginalized communities. The gaming community’s response to CEO Kim Belair’s 2019 GDC Panel, “Now You See Me: Representation as Innovation,” was based on incomplete information, sparking significant backlash. This led to the creation of “The Sweet Baby Inc. Detector” on Steam Curator, which tracks games associated with Sweet Baby Inc., providing insights into the company’s involvement in various gaming projects. Despite its intent to inform consumers, such initiatives risk exacerbating the controversy surrounding Sweet Baby Inc. and its perceived impact on game narratives. It has also become an incubator for bigoted gamers to congregate online. Does bigotry need a safe space online?

The Steam Curator “The Sweet Baby Inc. Detector” has amassed over 260K followers, unfortunately leading to boycotts and targeted harassment against games associated with Sweet Baby Inc. One employee attempted to rally support for mass reporting the group for breaking Steam guidelines, but encountered resistance. Subsequently, the employee faced harassment and bullying, prompting them to make their Twitter page private. Upon re-emerging, the employee tweeted about the late Akira Toriyama, stating that while he created some of the best and worst Black characters, sparking controversy over the timing of the critique.

However, many argue that critiquing Toriyama’s work is acceptable, whether he was alive or had recently passed, as art is meant to be discussed and critiqued.

Notably, figures in the video game industry, including Alan Wake 2 Game Director Kyle Rowley, have come to Sweet Baby Inc.’s defense.

Kyle Rowley’s response to a tweet about Saga Anderson

It’s surprising that God of War creator David Jaffe, known for his controversial opinions, has defended Sweet Baby Inc. in a recent YouTube video on his channel. This unexpected support from someone with a history of questionable takes adds an interesting dimension to the ongoing discourse surrounding Sweet Baby Inc. and its role in the gaming industry.

One of David Jaffe’s videos defending Sweet Baby Inc.

The emergence of copycat lists like “Is It Woke?” underscores the divisive nature of discussions around representation and inclusion in gaming. This particular list targets games from Japanese developers, labeling them as “woke” and suggesting they should be avoided due to perceived censorship, localization choices, westernization, and involvement in identity politics. Games listed as “woke” include titles such as Granblue Fantasy Re:Link, Street Fighter 6, Sonic x Shadow Generations, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III.

It’s disheartening to see organizations like Black Girl Gamers unjustly targeted and subjected to online harassment and cyberbullying due to misinformation. Black Girl Gamers is a vibrant and inclusive online gaming community of over 9,000 black women, advocating for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the gaming industry. Led by CEO and Founder Jay-Ann Lopez, the organization collaborates with various partners and brands, including Netflix, Google, Meta, Twitter, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Twitch, Samsung, and more, to promote representation and support Black women in gaming.

Curated List of Sweet Baby Inc-like Companies/Organizations

Despite their positive contributions to the gaming community, Black Girl Gamers and similar organizations are wrongly included on lists used to boycott games associated with consultant companies. This misrepresentation not only undermines the important work of these communities but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes and discrimination. It’s crucial to combat misinformation and stand in solidarity with organizations like Black Girl Gamers to ensure a more inclusive and respectful gaming environment for all.

It’s indeed troubling that some gamers view the use of consultants as a red flag, despite it being a responsible practice that has been common in the industry for years. Figures like Tekken Director Harada and studios like Double Helix have demonstrated a commitment to respectful representation by extensively researching and consulting when introducing characters from diverse backgrounds. Capcom’s recent success with Kimberly in Street Fighter 6 further highlights the positive impact of thoughtful representation.

Creators who genuinely care about their projects invest extra effort to ensure representation is tasteful, respectful, and purposeful, rather than merely checking a DEI box. While individuals have the right to decide how they spend their money and may choose not to support games associated with Sweet Baby Inc. or similar companies, it’s crucial for information about these organizations to be factual and accurate. Armed with all the facts, consumers can make informed decisions about which games to support, expressing their stance with their wallets. Ultimately, fostering an environment of accurate information and respectful dialogue is essential to combating bigotry and promoting inclusivity within the gaming community.

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2 thoughts on “The Sweet Baby Inc Situation shows how misinformation travels at the speed of light

  1. I didn’t used to be racist because I didn’t feel I had to be, everything felt like it had a natural balance and order to it and we all got along fairly well (within reason). But that’s changed, far too much race and sex politics have seeped into the culture I used to enjoy, and so I have changed in order to adapt to that and embraced a stance more in line with the right wing.

  2. An article about misinformation full of misinformation. The good thing is, only idiots trust these woke agenda pusher websites. Good luck with future articles, Mr “I support SBI because my personality is that I’m black and gay”

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