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

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Zep

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Sep 28, 2004
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Night_Trekker said:
I will be very disappointed if 5th Cell bows to this pressure.
Depends on the steam this story picks up. If Castle Crashers caught shit, there is no way this avoids conflict.

WB will have an apology out ASAP if this happens.
 

Zenith

Banned
Feb 17, 2006
12,579
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I've never heard of Sambo and i thought i knew all the obscure racial slurs.

This is a transparent attempt to whip up controversy and only reactionry morons would be offended. I mean "deliberately or not"? They just accused the devs of purposely sneaking in racist terms to help spread the hate.
 

OnPoint

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Jun 4, 2007
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Question 57: Multiple choice

sprsk said:
If Sambo is a type of watermelon, what's the issue?
A) It's a conspiracy

B) It was intentionally included because it is an old slur

C) There is no issue

D) It was an accident but the developers should apologize right now for including a word that accurately represents its depiction

Answer:

C)
 

batbeg

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Dec 2, 2007
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Looking at the leaked list, I see 5th Cell had the audacity to include cracker. As a white man, I will not support this demonspawned game!

...and I do think sambo is an outdated, out-of-use insult, so the mistake could have easily happened. I know when I was in one of my classes we were watching an old British sitcom (the one about the black, African neighbor moving in, can't remember the title, pretty well known though) our teacher asked us to take notes of all the derogatory uses in the episode. She was surprised when none of us caught sambo, and had to explain to us what it meant.

A class of 30 college students not getting it certainly implies it isn't a very common use. But no, of course not, it's just GAF lying to save face for 5th Cells (non)issue.
 

Cosmonaut X

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batbeg said:
know when I was in one of my classes we were watching an old British sitcom (the one about the black, African neighbor moving in, can't remember the title, pretty well known though)
It was Love Thy Neighbour - well worth reading up on if you get the chance. I remember being pretty shocked the first time I ever saw an episode of it, around 15 years after it first aired.
 

Djanvk

Neo Member
Dec 13, 2008
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This is funny, people always seem to find some type of controversy.
On another Note:

I'm a white man and Just bought this for my Daughter who is mixed, he mom is black. Should I take it back now? Hell no this is a old stereotype and really I educated to understand stereotypes so she will understand if people say something. But it's a fig gourd anyways.
 

Masklinn

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Sep 9, 2006
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I, for one, didn't know about the racist connotations of the word sambo and thought it was going to bring up this:


which would have been completely awesome
 

SovanJedi

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Night_Trekker said:
Big wall of awesome and win.
I couldn't agree more.

Also, another representative here of the "didn't know Sambo had racist connotations" group, though I'm not American so it probably doesn't count. Honestly though, it's such a finnicky jump to make that acknowledging its existence as a kind of racial slur would be more harmful. After all, where would it stop? What other leaps of logic could be made to suggest other things are racist and need amending/apologizing for?
 

mrklaw

MrArseFace
Jun 10, 2004
59,901
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I'm old and from the UK and remember reading 'that book' and being fond of it (OMG Racist child!). So perhaps its a generational thing - the book disappeared pretty quickly in the 80's I think.

I don't get the watermelon thing though, so perhaps thats a US only thing. So the word has racial connotations wider than the US, though perhaps only to older people, but the connection between that racial slur and watermelon is perhaps limited to the US.

So it'll only offend older Americans? and as mentioned, its not a watermelon anyway - its just using the same graphic, just like many other objects in the game.
 

Cosmonaut X

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mrklaw said:
I'm old and from the UK and remember reading 'that book' and being fond of it (OMG Racist child!). So perhaps its a generational thing - the book disappeared pretty quickly in the 80's I think.
Yeah, the 80s were a turning point for quite a few things like that in the UK - just off the top of my head, that was also when Robertsons pulled the Golliwog mascot from its marmalade advertising.
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
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Setting aside the whole issue, because I think 5th Cell has pretty adequately demonstrated how the item got added to the game and why it's there (and thus this is basically a non-issue)...

It's gotta be pretty improbable that there's an offensive word whose alternate definition is a totally unrelated term that happens to be similar to another term whose connotation in context of the first offensive word ends up being offensive.

Any other words in the English language that would trigger this sequence of logical leaps?
 

Flachmatuch

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Dec 22, 2005
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I hope these people noticed the racism and jingoism in CoD4 and complained about the sexism in Ninja Gaiden too. Unless, of course, they prefer these non issues, preferably related to small companies. Or maybe they're just plain dumb and can't recognize racism.
 

JavyOO7

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Jun 10, 2004
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I always thought Sambo meant a Russian fighting style in wrestling. I only know this because Kozlov from WWE has it printed on his tights and the announcers were hyping him up as this sambo machine even thought he doesn't use it at all in his matches. =p
 
May 12, 2009
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Hmm, this is the first time I've heard of the word "Sambo" (I don't live in America, English isn't my first language, etc.) so I don't really know what to think. What I do know is that the word "Eskimo" (which is in Scribblenauts' dictionary as well) is considered offensive these days (the proper term for them for the people is "Inuit") which seems pretty embarrassing on 5th Cell's part.
 

stephentotilo

Behind The Games
Jun 17, 2005
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In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.

I see there are disagreements about how widely known the word sambo is, how widely its racial connotations are known, about what information we included or didn't include in the story. But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.
 

Fersis

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amtentori said:


These things are extremely tasty btw.

The old packaging used to have a dark skinned person wearing a straw hat.
it was changed about 8 years ago.
That looks tasty. nom nom nom nom
 

Flachmatuch

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Dec 22, 2005
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stephentotilo said:
In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.

I see there are disagreements about how widely known the word sambo is, how widely its racial connotations are known, about what information we included or didn't include in the story. But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.

This looks like pure rationalisation. Unless, as I said, you've already noticed and written about racism in games *where it's actually there*. "Responsible" and "dispassionate"? Fuck me, what a hypocrite.
 

SovanJedi

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stephentotilo said:
But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.
You didn't though - Jackson is here in this very topic explaining that some information that was forwarded to you wasn't printed.
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
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Disclaimer: I work in the publishing world in a non-editorial job, but I am a published writer.

stephentotilo said:
In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.
No one in this thread or elsewhere has complained about Joystiq covering the allegation. Everyone in this thread is complaining about you guys covering the allegation. What do you think the difference is between the coverage that causes a difference in our reaction? Clearly that can't be chaulked up to people being defensive about the allegation or people being angry that you didn't ignore the story.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.
You know when people insulted your move to Kotaku, and you said "What tabloid journalism? What Kotaku pieces do people have a problem with?" ... It's fine that you don't agree with that assessment of this story, but I hope in the future you won't seem flabbergasted that people call Kotaku sleazy. This is what they're talking about.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.
Responsible and dispassionate?

Well, the title explicitly frames the story as being racial, rather than the more neutral "Controversial". This will cause people who tend to be progressive on racial sensitivity issues to immediately accept the validity of the charge, and people who tend to feel "PC has gone wild" to immediately dismiss the issue.

The lede does not summarize both sides of the stories, it's more of an exercise in creative writing that sets the tone for a scandal. "Nintendo DS title Scribblenauts has players solve puzzles by writing words. The game has a database of tens of thousands of words — writing words causes objects to appear on screen. So what happens when you write "sambo"?" could be rewritten more neutrally as "Nintendo DS title Scribblenauts has players solve puzzles by writing words. The game has a database of tens of thousands of words — writing words causes objects to appear on screen. Now, a controversy has erupted over the alleged meaning of one word in the game's dictionary--'sambo'". See how I've shifted the tone from a writer supporting an allegation to a writer reporting an allegation? By externalizing the controversy ("a controversy has erupted") , the writer is no longer a part of the forces making the allegation.

Including the dictionary definition is a joke. The paragraph before the definition adequately establishes the negative connotation of the word and the paragraph before that adequately establishes 5th Cell's intent. Using the dictionary afterward is sleazy because after contrasting two opposing views on the issue, a "neutral" source is cited to justify one of the two views. Everything after the dictionary definition is pure editorializing and condemning the word's inclusion and basically making a mockery of 5th Cell, with no attempt to be anything resembling dispassionate.

The article's "dispassionate conclusion"?
'Both "sambo" and the image of a watermelon carry the baggage of the American experience regarding racism. There is a connection between them. A long, painful and oppressive one.'

The final sentence fragment especially reads like a poor man's impression of Keith Olbermann's impression of Edward Murrow rooting out corruption.

This is not a dispassionate article.
 

sciplore

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Feb 10, 2008
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I always thought that when sambo was used as a racist term it suppose to bring up an image of a person that is black as ink with big red lips. The term comes from the original story character looks more than the story itself. Once the books got pulled off the shelves (in the USA at least) the slur fell to the wayside with it.

I do think it was dumb to make an issue of it especially when it was not referenced at all that way in the game. Also that sambo sandwich looks tasty.
 
Dec 5, 2008
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stephentotilo said:
In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.

I see there are disagreements about how widely known the word sambo is, how widely its racial connotations are known, about what information we included or didn't include in the story. But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.
:lol

TheRagnCajun said:
...sure looks like a whole lot of sensationalism to me.
Stephen tell me how your article is anything other than this^^
Everyone knows you're click grabbing which isn't surprising cause that's what Kotaku does. What's surprising is that you fit in so well in that shithole of a website, I can't even distinguish you from the other "games journalist" their anymore. You know, the morally just folk of Kotaku who burn 200 dollars for the people! :lol
 

Class_A_Ninja

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Jun 26, 2008
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I was under the impression that racism is generally an intentional thing and not a coincidence. Usually it is only the most absurd people that point out coincidences and mishaps as intentional racist acts. In some magical future world where people of different races are suddenly chill with each other, it will be these absurd people that won't let racism die out.

Anyways, it is very silly that Kotaku decided run this story with the slant they did. Very silly.
 
Jun 6, 2004
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stephentotilo said:
In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.

I see there are disagreements about how widely known the word sambo is, how widely its racial connotations are known, about what information we included or didn't include in the story. But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.
i remember when you used to be a journalist.
 

truly101

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Feb 20, 2007
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Are the same people who get upset about this also get upset about the word "niggardly"?
 

DarkJC

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The Faceless Master said:
i remember when you used to be a journalist.
Tell me about it. Made me remember a post of his I read a few days ago:

stephentotilo said:
Ah yes, people decrying my move to Kotaku, that terrible site that enables me to write and report the same kinds of stories I did at MTV Multiplayer and yet have 10 times the readers for the posts I always knew more people would care about.
I'd like to think this kind of shit would never fly at MTV Multiplayer.
 

Corto

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stephentotilo said:
In instances like this, ignoring a story -- one that was already on the Internet before we posted -- is not an option. What is an option is striving to get comment from the people involved. We held off publication until we did. It doesn't matter if I like Scribblenauts, like the folks from 5th Cell, visited their studio a couple of weeks ago, or any of that. If there's news, the reporter's obligation is to look into it.

I see there are disagreements about how widely known the word sambo is, how widely its racial connotations are known, about what information we included or didn't include in the story. But at the end of the day, we presented a story that I feel put the facts out there, explained the context, provided the needed explanation and ample defense from 5th Cell.

A reader who is thinking critically and whose heart and gut tell them that people at the development studio didn't intend any wrong will find plenty of facts in the story to support that.

This isn't a matter of what I want the story to include, but what we think the story needs to include, to be responsible and dispassionate, to focus on what we know and what we can back up. That was the goal and the service we hope to continue to provide to our readers.
As in any kid of journalism, in gaming journalism there is good and bad journalism. Tabloidesque sensationalist shit and really thought out, stimulating critical thinking stories... This story published in Kotaku is written in a very clumsy, ridiculous, and almost dishonest way as an attempt to stir shit up, with the purpose of artificially augmenting the site hit counts. It's an opportunistic sleazy maneuver and I for one will stop visiting your site because of this sample of the kind of journalism that you practice.
 

Anduron

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Oct 18, 2006
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Blueblur1 said:
Same here. I would just stop visiting Kotaku, guys. I never go there and I get by.
Lol really? You would stop visiting a site because it taught you something?
 

Suairyu

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May 16, 2009
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Stumpokapow said:
<Explanation of dispassionate journalism and why the Kotaku article is not that.>
As a writer, I want to make out with you so hard right now.
As a human being, I want to make love to you.
 
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