I'm trying to love Genshin Impact, but its earsplitting toddler fairy won't let me

Paimon - Genshin Imact
(Image credit: miHoYo)
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(Image credit: MiHoYo)

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I understand that videogame designers need to account for players of all experience levels, especially if it's a huge honkin' game like Genshin Impact. Imagine the daunting task of teaching players everything they need to know about your massive open world game. Teaching them about the deep mythos, the complex character-switching combat reminiscent of tapping the number row to change weapons in an arena FPS, and all about the deep chemistry embedded in the world where elements interact for combat and exploration purposes. And then, to wrap, how it's all propped up by convoluted free-to-play gacha systems. 

Genshin Impact is a lot to take in despite what its big, bright cartoon suit says. But I hate its primary teacher, Paimon. 

Paimon is a shrill toddler fairy, a consistently stupefied echo rattling around in a porcelain doll, the funny guy your friend knows whose idea of comedy is light bullying but with wings and a voice pitched so high it genuinely hurts to listen to sometimes. This is entirely possible: there are certain tones I will never hear again because I voluntarily watched an infantilized fairy scream about food, delicious food. Keep Genshin at a low volume and skip Paimon's dialogue as quickly as possible to dodge the pain. 

I'm not sure why Genshin Impact takes up the failed tradition so many games still practice in this post Ocarina of Time world. When big 3D worlds were new, having a little fairy to pop in and let you know what the hell Z-targeting is or to remind you about the basic concept of looking up was the rude band-aid accounting for potentially confused players.

Grabbing players by the chin to violently crane their neck all over reads as an extremely inelegant way to tutorialize and reinforce information nowadays. No one likes being told what they already know, anyway, so baking it into the design and giving it a face is like giving the player a punching bag they'll never ever touch. 

Paimon is holding me prisoner, yipping and shrieking and quipping and everything I see and hear back to me. It's especially odd, because Genshin Impact is so readily compared to Breath of the Wild, a game that has significantly less forceful tutorializing and almost no invasive commentary. Breath of the Wild hands the keys to the player, not a trickster demon in sight, and says go. 

Seriously, the shrill, baby-talking anime character trope needs to die. A whole new world of games would open up to so many people. It took two seconds of listening to Charlotte in Trial of Mana for me to instantly and assuredly decide I'll neve play it. It is no longer in the realm of possibility. 

Kill the trope. Kill Paimon. Nothing will be lost. 

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN (Image credit: miHoYo)

Eventually, Paimon eases off the camera control takeovers, but worse somehow, they trade it in to become a conduit for the main protagonist you start the game with. They hijack your goddamned window into the world as if to say, 'Look at me. Paimon is the hero now.' Even though the player-character has voiced lines, both in the beginning of the game and as part of the strange dialogue unlockables in the character menu, Paimon has so far done most of the talking for me. How dare a cartoon steal my identity and take credit for my agency? Genshin Impact has humiliated me and worsened my tinnitus.

Genshin Impact's Paimon doesn't care. Paimon refers to themselves in the third person. Paimon is the idea of referring to yourself in third person, given corporeal form. 

What I've been told is a rad open world action game has so far been chunked up and framed by a growing pain in my temples that flares up whenever Paimon speaks. You could make a groundbreaking systems-driven open world game that offers up total player freedom in every regard, but it would hit like watching wildlife activists repeatedly free and tranquilize a silverback gorilla over and over again if Paimon had to point out or comment on every grain of sand. Maybe Paimon's overbearing presence melts away the deeper you get into Genshin, but I might melt away first. 

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.