Because We Can't Have Nice Things: Scribblenauts Racism! Breaking!

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Roto13

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Zzoram said:
I have no idea why Kotaku isn't banned but Joystq is, considering that Kotaku is by far the worse of the two.
Joystiq isn't banned any more.

If someone makes a "Why Kotaku Sucks" thread, I'll be all over it.
 
Jun 7, 2004
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legend166 said:
Can someone explain the black people like watermelon stereotype? I don't understand that at all.
I unno, ask the 1850s or whatever the fuck.

It's cheap food? Easy to grow? Who the fuck knows.
Cyan said:
If this is some stupid bullshit story intended only to generate clicks (and I'm not saying I disagree)... why even link to them?
And worse than that, encourage people to click through and come back. What the fuck? I think you might be trying to give them more exposure, because, really, who the fuck reads Kotaku?
 

HUELEN10

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antispin said:
I hate to sound naive here -- not from the US and first time I heard this word -- but what's the watermelon connect here? Is watermelon another stereotype associated with a particular group of people?
The Kotaku link in the OP talks about your inquiry, but that's all I will say on your inquiry for I do not wish to be banned.

As for this whole issue, I am surprised myself on how it's being treated, "BREAKING NEWS" and the like. Pisses me off honestly. Now I don't know if this is true or not, sadly I do not have the game because they were sold out where I live and I just ordered it off amazon.com, but I've also heard of another possible issue like this. Apparently a priest is immortal, but a rabbi or a monk are not. Many are asking "why is this"? I live in a kinda "religious" area of sorts, so I've heard of this being talked about, but I haven't been able to confirm it myself.

Regardless, it is blatantly obvious that the scribblenauts team did not go out of their way to offend people int this whole "sambo" incident, and that anything that wasn't PC enough was an honest oversight. Maybe the USA is too PC, I'd rather not get into that, but Teetris is absolutely right, haters gonna hate.
 

vireland

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birdman said:
All I can say is that I never even heard the term until I saw it mentioned on Kotaku today.
We used to eat at Sambo's all the time when I was growing up in Southern California. It was a chain kinda like a Denny's. They had stories of little black Sambo getting chased around a tree by a tiger, turning the tiger into butter and other stuff all over the kids menus and the character was all over the restaraunt. As the racist connection became less tolerated, the chain tanked. I think there's only one left in Santa Barbara or something. I wish I still had the kids menus and place mats. People's jaws would drop if they saw them in the 21st century, but they were no big deal when I was a kid.
 

pakkit

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Watermelons are an African fruit that came across in the slave trade.

Jonnyram said:
But all I am reading is the text in children's books. Jesus.
And if you want to talk about racial stereotypes, try raising a couple of white kids in Japan. Don't give me your judgemental shit.
Just one man's opinion...
 
Dec 7, 2008
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Warren Ellis said:
i don't understand this.. why search the dictionary of a game to find racist terms ?
I didn't RTFA, but if I recall correctly the entire dictionary was leaked recently. The word sambo would stand out pretty well to anyone who knew what it meant compared to innocuous words like dinosaur, wombat and dingo.

Fake edit: Nevermind, looks like it was a suggested word when a similiar word was tried.
 

OnPoint

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I think "kotaku" should be better defined.

Kotaku (n) - 1. a term used to describe an overzealous blogger who is uninterested in fair and balanced reporting; 2. an amateur reporter who utilizes shock tactics purely to seek greater attention

How quickly can we make "calling someone a kotaku" a slur?
 

HUELEN10

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Warren Ellis said:
i don't understand this.. why search the dictionary of a game to find racist terms ?
To find something to bitch and moan about. All it takes is one little blemish to ruin anything, if the populace wants it bad enough. Fuck that, it's not even the populace! While it can be the populace, all it takes is just one little blemish and one bad egg! I am not talking about this issue specifically, I am talking in general of course.
 

pakkit

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I think the dude happed upon it and, ignorant of the other definition, passed the story along. Don't give him a hard time, having been hassled for reporting religious issues in games I can definitely relate to the guy.
 

antispin

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Son of Godzilla said:
I unno, ask the 1850s or whatever the fuck.

It's cheap food? Easy to grow? Who the fuck knows.
And worse than that, encourage people to click through and come back. What the fuck? I think you might be trying to give them more exposure, because, really, who the fuck reads Kotaku?
Also yummy! As is fried chicken and grape juice. "Black people have good taste" stereotype unlocked!
 

Zzoram

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Roto13 said:
Joystiq isn't banned any more.

If someone makes a "Why Kotaku Sucks" thread, I'll be all over it.
I really like how Joystiq has a mobile version of their site which is great for smartphone browsing of video game news. Most sites don't do that.
 
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Although the general media loves racial stuff like this, I don't think this story will cross over or gain any traction. People are overly sensitive and politically correct these days, but this story is so ridiculous I don't think anyone is going to take it seriously or be offended. Especially that it involves such an innocent game like Scribblenauts.
 

godhandiscen

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Please, lets ban Kotaku and get it over with. They are the fucking tabloids of game journalism. As if you couldn't go any lower...
 

Zzoram

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pakkit said:
Watermelons are an African fruit that came across in the slave trade.
Thank spaghettimonster it did, I really like watermelon. It's so refreshing.
 

Koomaster

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Heh, I actually found sambo myself earlier today in the game trying to type up something else. I had actually forgotten about how it used to be a racial word; till I saw this thread that is. ¬___¬

Anyway, this was a non-story; both blogs should be ashamed to have even written anything up about it.
 

Jackson

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I wasn't very happy when I told them that our last game we made "Lock's Quest" had a black guy as Lock's best friend who was the lead support character in the story.

But for some reason they refused to quote me on that point. Why? Not sure, Joystiq did, that smacks of sensationalism to me. Probably because it would undermine the whole racism point.

To be honest, I like Stephen a lot, but I don't know Ashcraft from Adam. But I thought that was kinda messed up they refused to take my quote about our last game.
 

Vyer

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pakkit said:
I think the dude happed upon it and, ignorant of the other definition, passed the story along. Don't give him a hard time, having been hassled for reporting religious issues in games I can definitely relate to the guy.
Yeah, I can definitely see how it would be a little shocking to someone who stumbled across it.

Other than that, I would find it hard to believe (I hope) the 5th cell guys would do anything negative like this intentionally.

In reality, the real problem here is that there isn't much awareness of other uses for the word.
 

antispin

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Jackson said:
I wasn't very happy when I told them that our last game we made "Lock's Quest" had a black guy as Lock's best friend who was the lead support character in the story.

But for some reason they refused to quote me on that point. Why? Not sure, Joystiq did, that smacks of sensationalism to me. Probably because it would undermine the whole racism point.

To be honest, I like Stephen a lot, but I don't know Ashcraft from Adam. But I thought that was kinda messed up they refused to take my quote about our last game.
Sucks that you even had to use your last game as a defense against this bullshit, sadly.
 

Tiktaalik

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Fredescu said:
Doesn't seem to reaaaaaally big when half the Americans in this thread haven't even heard of the term.
Ignorance isn't really an excuse. If you're going to put a word in the game you should know what it is. Look up "sambo" in wikipedia and you don't get any hits about figs.
 

HUELEN10

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Jackson said:
I wasn't very happy when I told them that our last game we made "Lock's Quest" had a black guy as Lock's best friend who was the lead support character in the story.

But for some reason they refused to quote me on that point. Why? Not sure, Joystiq did, that smacks of sensationalism to me. Probably because it would undermine the whole racism point.

To be honest, I like Stephen a lot, but I don't know Ashcraft from Adam. But I thought that was kinda messed up they refused to take my quote about our last game.
That is fucked up. Not only that, but the fact that you even had to bring up your last game, as antispin said, is pure bullshit. Kotaku, for shame. They might as well not even interviewed you, maybe it's not the correct word, but it stinks of cowardice on their part.
 

KHarvey16

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100% bullshit non-story. It's not an oversight, or poor judgment or any fault of 5th Cell. There's absolutely nothing there.
 
D

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hope you're proud of yourself Totilo
 

Crateman

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Ca1amity said:
Secondly, and more to the discussion end of things, the majority of this piece is spent explaining a uniquely American appropriation of a word (one that has passed out of common verbiage) and why, because it offended in America, it is offensive.
As a non-American, I have a real difficulty with pieces that purport to 'expose' or 'educate' on these matters universally when they are doing so from an American focused perspective.

Obviously this isnt the first time (see: "clearly no one black worked on this game") and we all do it from time to time. But, I'm wondering how we can purport to enjoy an international hobby, have global developers and a (generally speaking) multicultural take on things and then get caught up in American hand-wringing worrying over offense, or even worse, people digging around to find something offensive.

Why arent more developers able to say "No, here in Japan no one considered your nations particular history with slavery when making our zombie game. We just made a zombie game. Play it, discuss it from every angle, but dont try to paint us for what comes out of it" or "Yes, the song does use quotes from the Quran - it does so with respect and in aide of creating a beautiful sound. We stand behind our developers choice."
Why do we as consumers allow this petty shit to continue? Is there even anything we can do about it?
I agree with this particular excerpt of the OP's post. It doesn't surprise me at all that such thing was given the "racial connotation in games" spin.

And I'm really sorry that this had to happen with a game such as Scribblenauts. The flak that they might receive from this is unjust.
 

VALIS

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I think I'm going to use this opportunity to take a game I wasn't going to buy anyway, play up the very tenuous connection between it and certain social injustices, and raise an enormous "look at me!" stink about it on the internet! So what I'm saying is, we should boycott Scribblenauts!

I mean, you don't support racism, do you?! *glares*
 
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... It draws a watermelon when someone writes "sambo"? Seriously? Yeah, I quite agree with the article that it's nearly impossible to imagine any situation where that isn't racist... wow, that is pretty bad.

The word "Sambo" isn't inherently racist, no. It has been used as a slur, but that isn't the only thing it means. But having it make a watermelon... that is racist, without question. I know they have an excuse, but accurate or not it's not a very good one.

Washington State-based developer 5th Cell said in the game the word sambo refers not to the racial term but to the Spanish term for a fig leaf gourd that resembles a watermelon.

Slaczka said that the word was included in Scribblenauts because it is an ingredient of the Ecuadorian dish Fancesca, which is listed, on Wikipedia, as including a "figleaf gourd," or "sambo." A Google image search of the term "figleaf gourd" produces an image that looks like a watermelon. Slaczka said that it is common to use the same image for multiple words in Scribblenauts and that that is the reason a word meant to depict a figleaf gourd appears to be a watermelon.
If that's true then they just really weren't paying attention. I mean, not realizing the implications and what that image looked like? Not smart... they should have known better. I've never heard of any other definition other than the story (Little Black Sambo) and the racist ways the name was used, certainly. I find it very hard to believe that no one there responsible knew... it's possible, but seems pretty unlikely. Unless there wasn't enough oversight about which words went into the dictionary and what pictures they formed? But I'd think there'd have to be, so that explanation doesn't make sense.

So overall, how do we know that they are telling the truth when they say that it was a complete accident? I mean, yeah, whoever put it there probably did only mean the food ingredient or whatever... but how can you be absolutely sure? It just opens them up to a lot of questions that should never have had to have been raised.

Fredescu said:
Doesn't seem to reaaaaaally big when half the Americans in this thread haven't even heard of the term.
Being ignorant about the law does not mean you don't have to follow it... same applies here. And it is a very well known term.
 

jamesinclair

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^^^^
Look at the posted picture of the sambo. Looks like a water melon to me.



I have never heard of this word.

Tiktaalik said:
Ignorance isn't really an excuse. If you're going to put a word in the game you should know what it is. Look up "sambo" in wikipedia and you don't get any hits about figs.
So "monkey" shouldnt be in the game, because it could be used in a racist way?
 

Roto13

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Rez said:
hope you're proud of yourself Totilo
When he joined Kotaku, I tweeted about how someone like him doesn't belong in a crappy blog like that and Nick Denton started following me on Twitter. :p
 

Tiktaalik

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If you actually want to have a discussion about race in Scribblenauts someone should ask why apparently[1] the words "Native American", "American Eskimo", and "Eskimo" are in the game but "Jew", "Asian" or "African American" aren't. It's a shame, but I suppose it shouldn't be surprising considering the near invisible status of American Indians in American society, and their continued status as sports team caricatures.


[1] going from the leaked list, since I don't have the game myself.
 

Roto13

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Tiktaalik said:
If you actually want to have a discussion about race in Scribblenauts someone should ask why apparently[1] the words "Native American", "American Eskimo", and "Eskimo" are in the game but "Jew", "Asian" or "African American" aren't. It's a shame, but I suppose it shouldn't be surprising considering the near invisible status of American Indians in American society, and their continued status as sports team caricatures.


[1] going from the leaked list, since I don't have the game myself.
That "leaked" (re: ninja'd by a hacker) list isn't a complete list of words in the game.
 
Oct 28, 2005
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MidnightScott said:
I tried to warn Ashcraft, but he doesn't listen. :S
Bloggers in the Gawker Media Network are paid bonuses if they rack up a certain # of page views per month. I'm not sure if Kotaku adopted this pay scale system (Gawker, Defamer and several others in the Gawker Media Network have) yet, but if they have, then Ashcraft stands to make a sweet bonus at the end of this month, thanks in large part to this single article that has already accumulated over 30k views after only 5 or so hours.

Information on the Gawker Pay Scale is available here.
 

HUELEN10

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A Black Falcon said:
... It draws a watermelon when someone writes "sambo"? Seriously? Yeah, I quite agree with the article that it's nearly impossible to imagine any situation where that isn't racist... wow, that is pretty bad.
It's a type of gourd, which looks a lot like a watermelon. It makes sense that it uses the same sprite. It truly is an unfortunate coincidence, but I think it is foolish to consider it anything more.
 
Sorry if this has been explained but I've only read the OP: Is there any other use for the word that better explains why a watermelon pops up other than playing on a racist stereotype? Someone obviously went in there and programmed the game accept that word and respond this way so it's hard to call it a mistake. Disregarding Kotaku sensationalism and the internet's popular response of getting offending by someone calling out racism, it seems kinda fucked up the game does this at all.
 

Jhoan

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Damn, the game hasn't even been out for a week and it's already getting flak for a word that's being taken out of context. It's sad, but Totilo's still cool in my book. I hope you guys don't get too much flak for it. When I think of the word "sambo" I think of the sambo dolls that Brother Tod sells in "Invisible Man," but I don't know if that has anything to do with this. I didn't even know that the word was in the game until now.
 

KHarvey16

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A Black Falcon said:
... It draws a watermelon when someone writes "sambo"? Seriously? Yeah, I quite agree with the article that it's nearly impossible to imagine any situation where that isn't racist... wow, that is pretty bad.

The word "Sambo" isn't inherently racist, no. It has been used as a slur, but that isn't the only thing it means. But having it make a watermelon... that is racist, without question. I know they have an excuse, but accurate or not it's not a very good one.



If that's true then they just really weren't paying attention. I mean, not realizing the implications and what that image looked like? Not smart... they should have known better. I've never heard of any other definition other than the story (Little Black Sambo) and the racist ways the name was used, certainly. I find it very hard to believe that no one there responsible knew... it's possible, but seems pretty unlikely. Unless there wasn't enough oversight about which words went into the dictionary and what pictures they formed? But I'd think there'd have to be, so that explanation doesn't make sense.

So overall, how do we know that they are telling the truth when they say that it was a complete accident? I mean, yeah, whoever put it there probably did only mean the food ingredient or whatever... but how can you be absolutely sure? It just opens them up to a lot of questions that should never have had to have been raised.



Being ignorant about the law does not mean you don't have to follow it... same applies here. And it is a very well known term.
So you're the guy who these things are written for.

EazyB said:
Sorry if this has been explained but I've only read the OP: Is there any other use for the word that better explains why a watermelon pops up other than playing on a racist stereotype? Someone obviously went in there and programmed the game accept that word and respond this way so it's hard to call it a mistake. Disregarding Kotaku sensationalism and the internet's popular response of getting offending by someone calling out racism, it seems kinda fucked up the game does this at all.
If you read the OP you should already have the answer to this.
 

Koomaster

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Tiktaalik said:
Ignorance isn't really an excuse. If you're going to put a word in the game you should know what it is. Look up "sambo" in wikipedia and you don't get any hits about figs.
I live in the south and I really haven't heard/seen that word used negatively since I was a kid. Even when I saw it today in the game I had forgotten that it was ever a racial thing. I don't think it's logical for a dev to research every single word that appears in their game on the offchance that unbeknownst to them it might have a racial context. Especially a game like Scribblenauts which is pretty much a handheld dictionary.
 
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