Tag Archives: Techland

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. http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2106493 #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(){
	Skill("TeamSpirit1Purna");
	Skill("SharpApprenticePurna");
[...]
	Skill("TeamSpirit2Purna");
	Skill("FeministWh*rePurna");
	Skill("MeleeDurabilityPurna");
[...]
}

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.