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Mortal Kombat gets woke.
On the surface, you’d think Mortal Kombat 11 would be the quintessential gamer bro’s game. While the series’ 11th installment has somewhat toned down the sexualization, its bloody and gory violence has only been revved up. You can punch a man’s skull through his butthole, after all. Despite the macho leanings, internet commenters are incensed over the end of slavery in one of Mortal Kombat 11’s Tower Mode endings.
A series mainstay since Mortal Kombat 2, Jax Briggs is the leader of the Outerworld Investigation Agency, a cybernetically enhanced brawler, and most importantly for this story, an African-American man. Mortal Kombat 11 sees him fighting against his daughter, thunder god Raiden, and a younger version of himself (thanks to complicated time travel shenanigans) while in the service of villain Kronika. But he eventually comes back around to fight for good.
In Mortal Kombat’s Tower Mode, each character goes through a set number of fights before seeing a non-canonical ending depicting what would happen if they won the Shaolin Tournament.
Granted the power to control time, Jax’s ending shows him resolving to right his personal life’s shortcomings—and historical shortcomings in general.
“I’ve been lucky,” Jax monologues. “My family and I have lived the American dream. But most people who look like me haven’t had that chance. I owe it to them to put things right. I’m not waiting centuries for people to get woke when I’ve got the power to speed things up.”
As Jax continues, players see a shot of Africans being rounded up and put on colonial ships by slavers. Then the image morphs to white Europeans kindly greeting African men.
It would have been simple enough for Mortal Kombat 11 developer NetherRealm to end it there, but to its credit, Jax admits that he doesn’t get it right on his first, second, or even third attempt. So the old man hops back and forth between time periods trying to iron out the kinks of institutionalized racism. Eventually, he seems to figure things out for good. He gets his wife and daughter back, and Earth appears to be a place where people of all races are able to live in harmony.
This scenario is idealistic, and it’s a perfectly puerile way to end a small part of a Mortal Kombat tale. But some folks are reading it to mean that developer NetherRealm is promoting “white genocide,” or reverse racism against white people.
This is the absolute dumbest, most buck wild take in response to how dope Jax’s MK11 ending is. Trying to hide one’s blatant racism under Peterson-like wordplay just doesn’t work. pic.twitter.com/OrlkAXg9og— Cole Henry (@colehenry19) April 23, 2019
“The guy goes back in time to end slavery of Black people, but in MK universe, Shao Khan has been enslaving people of all skin colors for about a thousand years, but Jax only cares about freeing black people?” one Redditor wrote on r/KotakuInAction.
So Jax an “all American” character stopped slavery of Black Africans and he remained African? Even though he probably had some white American ancestry. This is a good ending because All Africans stayed in Africa? This is some fourth dimensional Racist 💩.— Alain Palmer (@alainpalmer06) April 21, 2019
...I've spent on this series and spin-offs over the years. Making Jax a black nationalist just b/c he's black is not only out of character, it is racist. Someone at @NetherRealm copy and pasted #WakandaForever into the game and unironically used the term "woke." Disgusting. pic.twitter.com/9RRKpWtJ1w— Constantly Pondering (@ConstantPonder) April 24, 2019
But there isn’t any indication that NetherRealm is advocating for “white genocide,” like this one YouTuber states. And it’s pretty difficult to make the case that it’s racist to imagine a world where the slavery of Black people didn’t exist.
It’s a ridiculous reaction to an already ridiculous story—and something tells me Mortal Kombat wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not even the only “controversy” stemming from the release of Mortal Kombat 11. In any case, the game has been receiving generally positive reviews. And there are plenty of tweets dunking on all the angry gamers to lift your spirits.
Jax's MK11 ending. Warning: Spoilers pic.twitter.com/5vd4tqUIH3— Blakiyama Jun (@jevanshistory) April 23, 2019
Angry Dudebros: THE FEMALE CHARACTERS ARE UGLY!!! I WANT A HARD-ON WHILE I PLAY!!! AND OH MY GOD, JAX UNDID SLAVERY?!?!?! HOW RACIST!!! NetherRealm NEEDS TO UNDO THIS!!— . (@CamerynColt) April 23, 2019
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Joseph Knoop is a gaming writer for Daily Dot, a native Chicagoan, and a slave to all things Overwatch. He co-founded the college geek culture outlet ByteBSU, then interned at Game Informer, and now writes for a bunch websites his parents have never heard of.