Gender Wars and Gendered Slurs

TW: Gendered slurs.

Please note, I have not played Dead Island, and have no immediate plans to do such. From what I have heard, there is much to be discussed in the game as regards stereotypes surrounding the playable characters, but I cannot speak to that, and this post will not delve into that beyond a specific instance outlined below.

This morning I came across a RTed message from the account of @deadendthrills, which stated the following (as with many forums, the comments may be best avoided):

“Rush-releasing an unfinished game can have unexpected hazards – like leaving the ‘Feminist Whore’ skill in. #deadisland

Purna, a seeming woman of color, in a purple dress which comes across her thighs diagonally. She wears combat boots, wields a machete in her right hand, and rests her left hand on her hip. The text is the bio quoted to the left.

Purna, a seeming woman of color, in a purple dress which comes across her thighs diagonally. She wears combat boots, wields a machete in her right hand, and rests her left hand on her hip. The text is the bio quoted to the left.

Prior to this morning I only knew there were skill trees in the game and that they were divided by which character you chose to play. The particular character in question is Purna, who appears to be an Australian WOC with the following descriptor in the Dead Island Wiki:

Purna is a former officer of the Sydney Police department. After losing her career when she killed a child molester who could not be touched legally because of his wealth and connections, Purna then turned to working as a bodyguard for VIPs in dangerous places all over the world. She is hired not just for her skills but her looks as wealthy men did not mind showing up with Purna on their arm.

She is painted as an avenger, though the VIPs for whom she works are clearly men. The skill in the Tweet above that started the thread was part of code not removed fully, though never utilized publically in the game itself: feminist whore. As the string in the thread illustrates (and as the poster indicates, the * is provided because of the forum’s method of dealing with the word, it is fully spelled out otherwise):

sub Skills_Purna(){

As to what the skill became (if it was not just wholly removed)? The most likely candidate to me would be ‘Gender Wars’. Looking through this guide on Dead Island skill trees, the ‘Gender Wars’ skill appears to grant the following:

Gender Wars (3 ranks) - Increases damage when killing a zombie of the opposite sex
Rank 1 = +5% damage | Rank 2 = +10% damage | Rank 3 = +15% damage”

The concept is not entirely new, and has been seen in other games. From what I could see, unlike other games in which I have seen such, the same manner of survival skill is not available to male characters (if it is, please let me know). I will also note there are two female characters, both WOC, though the other does not have a specific skill as such.

Again, the code and skill are not in the game. So far as I know, Purna does not go about invoking a feminist whore skill specifically named such. At the same time, it is puzzling why this would have been included in the first place, and may well say something about how Purna is perceived.

I also do not know the makeup of Techland’s development team, so cannot speak to it. However, when we discuss hostile environments for women in the workplace (for the instance of this blog, particularly the tech and videogame-related fields), these types of instances are a reminder of how not to make some women feel particularly welcome. Again, I cannot speak as to whether anyone on Techland’s team felt such, but surely someone saw this at some point and decided it may be best not to include it in a public release of the game itself.

Update (18:21 GMT+1): Tracey John reached out to Deep Silver, the publisher for the game, who gave the following response, “”These unfortunate actions were of one individual at developer company Techland and do not in any way represent the views of publishing company Deep Silver.” She is also following up with Techland themselves.

Update (19:03 GMT+1): Techland has responded to EuroGamer, providing the following apology:

“It obviously violates professional and ethical standards at Techland and should never have happened,” Blazej Krakowiak, international brand manager, told Eurogamer. “We’re investigating this right now and we’ll issue a statement later.

“For now, I can only express my sincerest apologies for this incident and assure you that whoever acted so irresponsibly did not represent the views and opinions of Techland.

“I’m equally sure that aside from the author of that unfortunate line of code, everyone at the office is as disturbed by this as you are.”

Update (20:45 GMT+1): Tracy John received the following apology and acknowledgment from Techland (which was updated into her original post):

“It has come to our attention that one of Dead Island’s leftover debug files contains a highly inappropriate internal script name of one of the character skills. This has been inexcusably overlooked and released with the game. The line in question was something a programmer considered a private joke. The skill naturaly [sic] has a completely different in-game name and the script reference was also changed. What is left is a part of an obscure debug function. This is merely an explanation but by no means an excuse. In the end that code was made a part of the product and signed with our company name.

“We deeply regret that fact and we apologize to all our customers or anyone who might have been offended by that inappropriate expression. The person responsible for this unfortunate situation will face professional consequences for violating the professional standards and beliefs Techland stands for.”

To be honest, I am somewhat surprised by the quick response and acknowledging that what they have done is provide an explanation, not an excuse.

About Denis Farr

Denis Farr is a white, androgynously gendered, TAB, German-born and U.S.-schooled, male-sexed queer person (with a penchant for other male-sexed queer persons) who started writing about games at Vorpal Bunny Ranch (in other words, he's loquacious). He has continued with this endeavor, expanding his writing to both and here at The Border House. A strong proponent of expanding diversity in games, his focus is often on how characters are depicted in games, and exploring the language we use to explicate games themselves.
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60 Responses to Gender Wars and Gendered Slurs

  1. Jargo says:

    It is very common that the enum of a skill (the internal name inside the game source-code or the game scripting) has the first name the designer or programmer thought of, and that it is never changed during the project, even if the on screen description and name of a skill is different in the final product.

    But clearly the mindset of the individual how came up with this is pretty obvious.

    • Denis Farr says:

      That I can understand. I have seen a handful of coders on Twitter already state that if you do this, make sure that what you write would not be objectionable if released to the public. Seems rather wise career advice.

    • Ran says:

      Tragically, this ‘backroom’ sexism is all over the industry. i once worked at a very large studio. After a few weeks as only the second woman in the company, I discovered that ALL the women in the game (all NPCs, natch) we’re labelled ‘NPCWhores’ in the code. When I made a complaint, and asked for it to be changed, I got stares of incomprehension, then eye rolls.

      It’s disingenuous to say it was a rogue coder. Other coders, designers and possibly producers would have seen this label, and done nothing about it (apart from maybe have a giggle, then back peddle when it gets called.

      • Sagan says:

        In defense of the other coders and designers: As Jargo said, the internal name usually remains unchanged. Changing it is a lot of work. The name is probably used in source code, scripts, language files, documentation, maybe in your asset management system and probably in other places that I forgot.
        In other words: Changing a name like that would probably take you a day just to search and replace through all the files that could possibly affected by this, many of them in very different places, and it is likely lead to bugs that happen a month later when you receive a translation file that still references the old name which the engine no longer recognizes.
        So honestly: If I was a coder at Techland, I wouldn’t have changed the name, especially if I have X number of other things already on my plate.

        • Nigel says:

          Nonsense. Changing a variable name is a trivial part of writing programs and professional developers do it all the time. There are also many automated tools that aid this process, so the tired old arguments that “there are more important things to do” or “it would take too many resources” have never been more inappropriate.

        • Jargo says:

          I agree with Nigel, changing variable names is normally very trivial and i do it all the time if i encounter cryptic or misleading variable names (luckily i never encountered offensive naming). but if it is some sort of scripting variable or something which can be saved inside the game levels it could be a bit tricky, but in the end someone changed the naming because it was only visible in the debug build which was accidentally published on steam.

          The question which team member would be aware of such variable it is nearly impossible to say. Sometimes i put something funny in the source code and the next day on lunch break someone mentioned what i wrote, sometimes it can be there for half a year before someone stumbles across this.

  2. Lima Zulu says:

    Some of the people in that discussion thread about it are rather stupid. DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WORDS MEAN AND GET OVER IT. WORDS MEAN NOTHING LOLOLOL

    If only privilege was tangible; they’d be crushed to death under the colossal weight.

    • Denis Farr says:

      Yeah, I’ve somewhat glibly confided to friends that this is an instance where it would be apt to say, “Right, I’m so sorry your life of only having to deal with generalized insults that are not directed toward by sex, sexual orientation, gender, race, etc. You must be so strong and hardened. Definitely not sensitive like us…”

  3. Darius K. says:

    I’ve got to say: I’m very impressed with Techland’s response. It’s the first gender/sexism-related apology I’ve seen from a game company in a long time that doesn’t say, “We’re sorry if you were offended.” Instead they apologize to all of their customers, and anyone else who might have been offended. I do wish they’d said “anyone else who *was/is* offended” but it’s close enough for me.

    “This is merely an explanation but by no means an excuse” is awesome to see. Hopefully their internal discipline is something beyond a slap on the wrist.

    • Cole92 says:

      This. ^

      Far too often does an issue of this nature come up only to have representatives of the offending company brush it aside or try to downplay its severity. Kudos to Techland on this one.

    • Denis Farr says:

      It’s exactly how I feel. I was trying to think of the last time I recall a game company actually apologizing about something like this. SquareEnix’s recent response to Deus Ex is about what I expect, sadly.

      Looking further into the game, I am extremely tempted to pick it up when I get access to something that will play it (after all, three out of four of the main characters are POC). If they had simply brushed this under the rug, I would not have thought of supporting it. Now? It may well be a problematic game that I wish to experience.

      Whether I will or not is another question, however.

      • Darius K. says:

        Yeah, the game went from “I have no interest” to “I’ll probably buy it when the price comes down a bit” — I don’t like the genre but I’m willing to support Techland at this point.

      • Zaewen says:

        My husband has the game, and I’ve looked over his shoulder a bit at him playing through it (especially the character select). I, myself, was put off a bit from the game by the sexualized and violent marketing showing of hordes of bikini clad female zombies being cut down, but the playable characters are definitely sparking an interest in me. Three of the four are POC, two are WOC that both have backgrounds in law enforcement, and only two (the two men) are from the USA. A very, very diverse cast by industry standards.

        • Zaewen says:

          Also, forgot to add, that the backgrounds of the two WOC specifically deal with the sexism they had to deal with in their careers in law enforcement and the Aussie also talks about how racism intersects with sexism in her life.

          • Quinnae says:

            I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how that’s handled. Acknowledging racism in Australia? Crikey! Hopefully it will allay some of the concerns I outlined in my comment below.

  4. Laurentius says:

    Techland seems to be a mess of the company, at least apology even if PR driven came rather sincere then half-assed.

  5. Quinnae says:

    Thanks so much for writing about this, Denis.

    I’m quite impressed with their response. It does feel damage control-ey, and to be perfectly and cynically honest I’m sure that many developers at the firm were more grunting about “political correctness gone mad” than “disturbed”. But it is still very good to see that *this* is how they are controlling damage- admitting fault, providing explanations but not excuses, and disciplining the person responsible.

    From the description of Purna I’m afraid I’ve still little confidence in this game, however. I’ll keep my eye on details about it as it becomes available but here are some other thoughts on the situation:

    Our current historical moment is one in which a certain (white, upper class, and predominantly male) liberal discourse has come to dominate the discussion on social justice issues. What has emerged is a discursive regime in which we have a list of proscribed Very Bad Words You Should Never Say Or Else You’re a Bigot. Say this, don’t say that, but don’t ever learn why.

    Missing in this is the meaning of the words and the ideologies behind certain pointed expressions. The issue is not that this programmer *used* the words “feminist whore”, it’s that this idea may well be lurking behind the root and branch design of the character, or the views of women more generally held by all of those with a say on that part of the project. That belief would still be there whether or not the words “feminist whore” were ever committed to code.

    The person responsible will be censured for articulating their sexism in an unacceptable way. For using uncouth language. But not for actually *being* sexist.

    Those words, “feminist whore”, are a massive red flag. But like a red flag it is signifying something other than itself, warning you about something other than itself. It gestures to something, indicates something. In this case it is that *something* that Techland should be most concerned about, not simply the red flag they’ve now plucked up and tossed into incinerator.

    The aforementioned discursive regime is one in which people can delude themselves into thinking that they hold no prejudice so long as they never grant utterance to one of the Very Bad words, and grants them licence to think that so long as they express (say) sexism politely, sans any Bad Words, they are not sexist.

    This use of locker room language is, I think, what has embarrassed Techland and Deep Silver the most.

    That this was replaced with the somewhat more modestly named skill “Gender Wars” underscores the point. I’ve generally found most anyone talking about a “War of the Sexes” or some synonym, regardless of gender, to be less than friendly to any vision of equality or justice. This is how they view feminists (and by extension any woman distinguishable from a doormat, which is just about all of us.): as warriors out to physically hurt men. That they simply made the language softer doesn’t change the underlying eye-roller of a misogynist idea.

    I am happy to be proven wrong and I hope that this game will present us with truly strong women characters not defined by their sexuality or their bodies- but forgive me if my optimism is only of the most cautious variety.

    • Laurentius says:

      I’m quite impressed with their response. It does feel damage control-ey, and to be perfectly and cynically honest I’m sure that many developers at the firm were more grunting about “political correctness gone mad” than “disturbed”.

      To be honest it may be different this time (unlike DeusEx), DI launch especially on PC is/was huge mess, adding this sexist situation that had to be dealt with, I’d rather think everyone at Techland stay pretty damn quiet because it’s pretty obvious that heads will roll.

    • Denis Farr says:

      I would definitely agree with you and have had this conversation on G+ and Twitter with someone: they will be removing the symptom, but not the cause. The fact that this was put in place makes me think the following: this character had a vision of someone who was a feminist or espouses similar ideals (which would make me happy) and someone was making a joke in an antagonistic manner or as a flippant, “Tshyeah, feminism, right,” comment (more possibilities exist, those just seem the two most likely to me).

      The phrase itself doesn’t even really make sense to me beyond a generalized insult, where both feminist and whore are insults specified to her sex, but don’t actual play with each other in any way. Whore in this case seems to be a non-sexualized, general insult (though one could argue when you use such language, it is never non-sexualized).

      Agreed on Gender Wars. Among the reasons I loved the perks in Fallout: New Vegas was anyone of either sex could choose the perk to gain such a damage bonus against either sex. It did not sit well with me that Fallout 3 specified them (and the previous 2 just had one that male and female characters shared that made it opposite sex, if I recall correctly).

      However, as has been discussed above, it does seem she may have justification for it? I suppose I really will have to play to see if this is a stereotyping of the amazonian feminist who subscribes to Dworkin’s SCUM Manifesto, or actually gives characterization. Given the genre, I’m not incredibly hopeful, but perhaps willing to see how it explores that.

      • Quinnae says:

        However, as has been discussed above, it does seem she may have justification for it? I suppose I really will have to play to see if this is a stereotyping of the amazonian feminist who subscribes to Dworkin’s SCUM Manifesto, or actually gives characterization. Given the genre, I’m not incredibly hopeful, but perhaps willing to see how it explores that.

        Heh. Well, the SCUM Manifesto was written by Valerie Solanas, not Andrea Dworkin- but yes, I know what you mean. :)

        The phrase itself doesn’t even really make sense to me beyond a generalized insult, where both feminist and whore are insults specified to her sex, but don’t actual play with each other in any way. Whore in this case seems to be a non-sexualized, general insult (though one could argue when you use such language, it is never non-sexualized).

        I would make the argument that it’s never non-sexualised, although the term ‘whore’ operates in ways that are not always specifically reduced to sex: like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ it’s generally just “woman I disagree very strongly with” in terms of its meaning. It actually does play together with feminist quite well- as it might with anything (“Communist whore” “Rebel whore” “Republican whore” etc.) Remember when ex-Congressman Grayson called a woman lobbyist a whore? Or when Ed Schultz called Laura Inghram a slut? (I picked instances of liberal men attacking conservative women for a reason).

        The sexual connotation is always present but it’s something men tar women with when they don’t like what we’re saying or doing, in my view.

        • Denis Farr says:

          My apologies for incorrectly attributing the SCUM Manifesto.

          Ah, I should have been more careful in my language: I meant non-sexualized in terms of it not having to do with the sexual worker aspect of whore. Whore is very much a sexualized term in that it rarely gets thrown at men, so in that case it fits well with the already gendered insult that has been established by the feminist opening. Usually feminists and sex are never equated unless it’s about how they spurn men (which is why I found the pairing of whore odd, as I am much more accustomed to ‘bitch’ and company in conjunction with it—I also don’t automatically get called feminist when I express my views on these topics, as I am perceived as a man).

      • KA101 says:

        (and the previous 2 just had one that male and female characters shared that made it opposite sex, if I recall correctly)

        Huh? Fallout 1 had no perks specifically dealing with character gender, so far as I know, and FO2’s Sex Appeal only affected Charisma. -1 with your own sex but +1 with other sex. Reinforcing gender binaries is a problem, no argument there, but there wasn’t anything that provided direct combat bonuses or perk-specific dialogue.

        [Unfortunately, my gaming computer is old, I’ve heard bad things about secuROM, and I’m a bit of a snob for the original style, so I’m not likely to try the new Fallouts. Pity, as they sound pretty good.]

  6. NazcaTheMad says:

    I’m still curious whether the issue for them is that the name ended up in the final version of the game or that it was called that in the first place. Hard to read through PRese.

  7. Raja says:

    I’ll probably pick it up when the price goes a lot lower as there aren’t too many open world zombie games on tropical islands but yeah the whole feminist whore thing which i just read about minutes before i came here was disturbing to say the least,

  8. gleep says:

    ”These unfortunate actions were of one individual at developer company Techland and do not in any way represent the views of publishing company Deep Silver.”

    Techland has lone coders sneaking misogynistic slurs into their game? No, other people at the company would have to have seen this and said nothing, even in a debug build of the game. Hostile working environment, indeed.

  9. TheLaquidara says:

    Unfortunately I can’t buy the idea that this was an isolated incident created by one person. I won’t make any claims to say I’m an expert in game programming, or have any large scope of what it all looks like behind the scenes, but my years of listening, reading, and research in games development makes it hard to believe that this was just “slipped” in there without notice.

    I feel like this Gamasutra article sums up most of my thoughts on this:

    I’ve yet to play it and I know only what has been passed around, which isn’t really reliable in the grand scheme of thing. I’m going to wait and see if the company actually follows up on this issue.

    • TheLaquidara says:

      I should clarify: It was most likely created by one person, but it had to have been seen by others who look over/edit the code.

    • Maverynthia says:

      That’s what I feel. That this didn’t exist in a void, and that disciplining one person over this won’t make anything better. Everyone who looked over the code said that this was perfectly OK and that there was nothing wrong with it. Which is why I can’t accept the apology that was issued. No where did they say they were going to call the programming group together for any kind of training or disciplining. It’s just another hand wave at a very serious problem.

      Also considering the bikini clad zombies as was mentioned, yeah this is another one of those misogynistic games everyone’s going to buy. Telling the companies once again that people, including feminists will play games where the female characters are sexually objectified and used as little more than wank material.

    • Nigel says:

      I can tell you as a developer, it is VERY EASY for one person to slip something like this into code and have it not be caught. Modern software is extraordinarily complex with codebases often running to millions of lines of code; even with frequent code reviews it’s not possible to catch everything. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t other developers at the company creating an environment where such views are welcome. After all, one of the first things programmers are taught is to make sure all comments are meaningful and publishable in production code even if they aren’t meant to be. Occasionally someone makes a mistake and the result is usually humorous. This time it was horrific.

      • TheLaquidara says:

        Appreciate the insight. Again, no firsthand knowledge of this stuff, but to me it seems like it’s in the part of the code hat would be reviewed more heavily, do you think that it would be harder to slip something like this in due to being an ability/skill, or is that something that’s hard to judge in general?

        Either way I’ve picked my stance on waiting to see what the Dead Island people will do in the future, so it’s more for my own curiosity. I’m not too hung up on it personally, but I can’t blame anybody that takes more of an issue with it and the game a whole.

        • Nigel says:

          I understand that. I’m just trying to shed some light on the development process, not excuse their actions. Even though the text was not meant to be seen or even in the released game it should not have been part of the codebase. According to the story, the text appeared in “debug code.” If so, it’s not likely anyone would see this code at all. Debug code is used by developers to check their work during the development of a feature for the game. It is never meant to be seen by anyone but developers (usually only the developer who wrote it) and deleted once the code is ready for testing. One view might see it as a very convenient thing to say for a cover story and I appreciate that perspective. Maybe it was left on purpose to damage the company. I don’t know. I can only go by what they said so the whole thing may just be elaborate damage control. The way the text was found in a dump of the code itself rather than on screen in the game makes the debug story plausible.

    • L.R. Weizel says:

      HRURRGH those comments

      All of my rage

      I imagine Sinister Mephisto having the most punchable face in history, to go with his obnoxiously privileged attitude.

      At one point he just says “Sorry, what issue?”

      Typical “conservative” attitude, it doesn’t apply to me so why should I give a toss

    • Deviija says:

      Yes, the Gamasutra article is way more on point of what I am feeling and what my opinions (and problems) are with this issue. Glad it was posted. Kudos to the author for writing it up.

      The comments, as expected, are filled with many shudder-worthy posts.

  10. Bris says:

    I can’t help but look at Purna, and think that Techland clearly have no idea what an Aboriginal woman actually looks like, or what an Aboriginal name is.

  11. Maverynthia says:

    It should also be pointed out this this article:
    As Laquidara listed.

    Also mentions the awards the company got for killing a zombified little girl (who was thrown out a window) in their trailer, and the fact that the female characters regenerate health with a skill called “Vampire”.

  12. Overmind says:

    “She is hired not just for her skills but her looks as wealthy men did not mind showing up with Purna on their arm.”

    [Sigh] Why does there always have to be a comment about a female character’s appearance in her bio?

  13. Mike says:

    “Please note, I have not played Dead Island, and have no immediate plans to do such.”

    Sorry to be picky, but is this sentence grammaticaly corretct? Shouldn’t it be “to do so” instead of “such”?

  14. Karen says:

    I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that this line of code exists, or the fact that the average gamer seems to think it’s “just a joke” or it’s perfectly ok because “feminist whore isn’t an insult!”
    Don’t even get me started on the people who are badmouthing feminists for DARING to be offended…

    Ugh I hate the human race sometimes.

    • Nigel says:

      Despite the depressing uniformity of unbridled hatred towards pretty much anyone trying to discuss sexism let alone criticize it on gaming websites, I don’t think the comments reflect the attitudes of the average gamer so much as they are closer to the attitudes of the average ‘hardcore’ game who writes comments on the Internet. However I have always wondered why gamers seem to be particularly wrathful when it comes to topics like sex or race in games.

      I read an article in the Economist the other day about how people are much more concerned with not being at the bottom of the social pecking order than with being at the top. The idea was being used to explain how people who make slightly more than minimum wage are the fiercest opponents of a minimum wage hike, whereas the same people might be ambivalent about tax reform that requires extremely high income people to pay even the same percentage of income as they do.

      I wonder if this applies to the anger gamers spit whenever someone even mentions sexism in games. Does the still prevalent status of the gamer being the mythical nerd in his mom’s basement cause many gamers to be especially hateful when issues of social injustice are mentioned in games? Is this a tooth and nail status grab to maintain some level of privilege over perceived lesser people in the social hierarchy?

      • Rakaziel says:

        Most likely. What surprises me is that it is that prevalent in gamers while there is less of it in for example the manga fan and furry communities, despite especially the latter also having some social stigma. In the end, I think envy plays a role. As many of them are in puberty, with the full load of hormones, but far from getting any sex, and having, unlike in the other two fandoms, very few sexual works within their fandom, or more precisely, no deeply sexual ones, just something that merely teases them, they get quite begrudging about the entire subject, not unlike certain religions and their preachers, and attack who they deem the easiest targets because the consider, or wish to consider, them powerless minorities.

      • Ohma says:

        I think it comes from competition pervading the culture of gaming. The kind of people who spend hours and tens of dollars getting onto the high score screen on Galaga are more likely to be the kind of people who Care Too Much about it than the people who play a few times and move on to another machine.

        The logic behind video game design hasn’t really changed much since arcades were A Thing, games still by and large encourage players to get a high score (or something equivalent to it) with the implication that someone with bigger numbers is better than anyone with smaller numbers. It’s the whole reason that gamerscores and trophies/achievements exist. I actually don’t think that we’ll see the annoying vitriol and posturing go away until developers finally stop encouraging it with mechanics left over from the seventies.

        • JenniP says:

          A person whose long jump is measured to be longer is the better athlete, not “implied to be” better. A person whose Tetris TGM high score is higher is the better player, not “implied to be” better.

          Score in some games, and direct win-loss confrontation in others like Chess, is a necessary and inseparable part of the game.

          Is the amateur track and field athlete “Caring Too Much” when they sink thousands of hours and dollars into their practice? Should points not be counted in Olympic shooting because those mechanics are so 70’s?

          “Gamerscores” are a different thing entirely – a cash grab based on collecting instinct. Gotta catch them all, etc. They do not constitute an actual competition any more than collecting money in Plants & Zombies is a competition.

          • Ohma says:

            “Is the amateur track and field athlete “Caring Too Much” when they sink thousands of hours and dollars into their practice?”

            No, but someone who does the same and then throws a fit when they don’t win probably is. I actually didn’t mean to say “trying to achieve things is wrong” just that games are still being designed with similar attitudes to those that were the norm when an arcade machine’s main goal was to take all your quarters. Many modern games simply take the childish rivalries arcade dwellers had over high scores and codify them as a central element of gameplay (I’m mostly thinking of multi-fps…s -how do you pluralize that anyway?- where we got the ability to spam canned insults at other players and now voice chat to just say whatever crap we think of).

            On the plus side I do think that game design is slowly lumbering towards the right direction with unlockables and points awarded for assisting your team and generally being more like a person becoming more and more common.

            • JenniP says:

              How have team-based multiplayer FPSs “codified childish rivalries as a central element of gameplay”? In every such game, given roughly equal individual player abilities, teams whose players can keep their egos and tempers in check and play cohesively will win.

              I also do not understand what that has to do with single-player arcade games. I got into those about year and a half back, and now count some of them among my all-time favorite games.

              Taking the player’s money never stopped being arcade games’ main goal because they are commercial games. Same goes for Mass Effect, World of Warcraft and Farmville; each just has a different earning model. Nothing wrong with the developer making money as long as the game delivers.

    • L.R. Weizel says:

      Definitely the attitudes. After all this is just one incident, but the reaction to it is widespread and sickening.

  15. Claire says:

    It’s a good response. My eyebrows still raise themselves re: some of what I know about the game itself, though.

    And I did wonder, is the person who added the phrase a misogynist, or could it be some sneak-activist feminist making a (misguided?) complaint about the “gender wars” ability, etc?

    Probably not, but that is a more hopeful possibility.

  16. I first stumbled upon this on Kotaku yesterday, and decided to abuse myself by reading the comments thread. A few people made very good points concerning how it reflects on the industry as a whole – and of course they’re still being attacked by sexism-apologists. I ended up pulling some of the best (worst) comments to dissect on my own blog (warning, it’s NSFW at first, but there’s a button on the top left that will make it so, image-wise). Long story short, it’s amazing the depths some people will sink to try and make YOU into the villain for actually caring about something like this.

    • Karen says:

      Didn’t you know? Only ~sensitive~ ~weak~ ~women~ are offended by hurt by mere words! Big, strong white ~manly~ ~men~ are the only ones who can see how ~inoffensive~ gendered slurs really are! /sarcasm/

      I was reading an interesting interview from a few months back, where BurnYourBra (a large-ish African American gamer) was discussing some of the horrible insults that were directed towards her during professional tournaments. “Black bitch”, “Fat c*nt”, “N*gger”, etc.
      …AND MOST OF THE COMMENTS TO THE INTERVIEW WERE DEFENDING THE INSULTERS!! “Oh, she should just ‘man up’ and put up with it”, “nothing wrong with a big of trash talk”, “words are just words”, “everyone gets called names at game tournaments. Get over it”, etc etc.

      I was left sitting at my computer with a shocked face, thinking “is common sense really not that common? How can so many people not see what’s wrong with calling a black women ‘black bitch’ or ‘n*gger’ JUST BECAUSE YOU LOST A FRICKING GAME!”

  17. Rakaziel says:

    I assume the prevalence of gendered insults and the sexism in the gaming scene is at least partially based on enviousness. Other fandoms with the same nerd stigma, like the furry fandom and the manga fandom, have sexual works in their fandom, while the gamers don’t, at least not in America. The companies only use promises they don’t fulfill to sell the games. This is no problem for people who are already in relationships or are simply beyond the stage of puberty and have cooled down a bit, but for the puberscent it can lead to getting very begrudging about the entire matter because they do not want to be reminded that they do not get any now and that their games tell promises that will never be met in reality later (not unlike people who got indoctrinated into thinking sex is evil, but of course still have a sex drive, though that may overlap quite a bit in some areas). And since they want to feel entitled and powerful, even more so since competitive gaming can be a very frustrating hobby at times, and feelings of entitlement and power either require either tangible accomplishments or somebody less entitled and powerful to look down upon – aka the people who are either minorities or remind them that their fantasies will find little approval in reality, and especially those who are both. That these fantasies are influenced by the mountain of priviledge many of them already sit on and consider the mountaintop the baseline from which they start is then an additional factor that makes them even more unpleasant to any who dares remind them or dares object, or God forbid, dares both. And some of them later work in a game studio and let it flow into their work.

  18. ProdiGal says:

    Yeah… I would LIKE to believe that this was more of an isolated incident than a canary in a coalmine, but color me cynical.

    Although there’s still a silver lining… as was mentioned previously in the comments, the fact that they’re scrambling to save face rather than shrugging it off is a good sign. Bayard Rustin had some interesting things to say about limiting the degree to which people can openly manifest their bigotry.

  19. Corbiu Geisha says:

    I am two minds about it. On one hand, it is a positive thing that it is an “explanation but by no means an excuse.” We all know there are too many excuses for that sort of behaviour. On the other, I share the same cynicism that this may just amount to nothing more than damage control.

    Still, this has given me some interest in the game.

    • Laurentius says:

      At certain level it does not matter that much, whether wholeheartedly or cynical damage control it broadly sends same message, that such situation is unacceptable and deserves apology.

      • Nigel says:

        It would be nice to get beyond apologies though. If the situation is truly unacceptable, then by definition it wouldn’t happen in the first place.

        • JenniP says:

          To the contrary, by definition it has to be able to happen and also to not happen. Applying the label “unacceptable” to anything immutable is nonsense.

          • Nigel says:

            The point is that saying something is unacceptable when you have no power to not accept it cheapens the word and makes it pointless. How is this behavior unacceptable when all another developer has to do is some other offensive thing and then just issue a press release? It’s only truly unacceptable when that part of the community that can choose not to accept the behavior, in this case developers, has the same conviction.

            • JenniP says:

              It’s unacceptable if the person calling it unacceptable won’t let it pass without repercussions. Both the magnitude of those repercussions and what the label gets thrown at in the first place are subjective. Techland has indicated they will not let this pass, therefore it seems to be unacceptable to them.

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