Consultant helps game developers not do stupid things such as decorate lava levels with Stars of David

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A more famous example


I was AD on a game and had to insist that artists don’t use photos of the World Trade Center rubble as texture maps for in-game wreckage.

Also, don’t put real company logos on things used to murder punks, and don’t use real graffiti without permission from the artist.

I probably came off as a jerk and the producer never appreciated how much trouble and money I saved them.


DEFINITELY a scene from a The Office/Silicon Valley style sitcom set in a game development studio.


Nerds can be annoyingly oblivious. I was helping my black friend out by designing the character sheet for this RPG he was making. He said for this one part he wanted a “symbol with a cross in a circle - like this” and sent me a pic of the white power cross, which I am sure he found via a google search.

I was like - uh, let’s not use that…


Does deliberate offensiveness provoke controversy, grab eyeballs, and help sell product?

It’s not deliberate, though. It’s because the game industry is full of people with limited frames of reference and narrow interests. This consultant’s job is to tell developers when they have done something offensive without realizing it.


I would say that Duke Nukem Forever kind of provides an acid test of being offensive in order to try to sell product.They tried, they even made a tentacled rape monster as a part of their game, and the thing was considered a catastrophic failure.

Offensive content shouldn’t be the point, but it is a good tool as a means to an end, for making a point that’s even more impactful because of the vehicle used. If the point is to just be gross, there’s a very narrow slice of demographic they’re aiming for, and narrow demographics don’t translate to sales.


Is this another way of saying, “an inadequate grasp of history?” It’s amazing what occupations have sprung up in niches around tech.

I also liked the sound of that “angry shootyboys” metaphor for the troops.


Exactly. Lots of games are inadvertedly offensive. When you want to make an offensive game on purpose, sure, go ahead. But Most developers don’t want to do that, they just can’t oversee all different cultural sensitivities.

Like the example with the Derwish in Halo she mentioned. I highly doubt Bungie was actually planning on antagonizing millions of sufi muslims, and they probably just took some generic terms they associated with ‘religious fanatics’, influenced probably by western gulf war propaganda.


It’s also possible that they made no religious connection at all. I grew up thinking a whirling dervish was a sandstorm - I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I had it until about five years ago. My best guess is that I got it from comics or perhaps Looney Tunes. To paraphrase Hanlon’s Razor, “Don’t attribute malice to what can be explained by ignorance (or misunderstanding).”

(Edited for typo)


More generally: an inadequate grasp of anything which isn’t [video games, sci-fi movies, comic books…]

Or, I suspect, neither of those things - their notion of “dervish” was filtered through previous usage in sci-fi/fantasy (which might have been more appropriate references) and had become completely decontextualized as a result. Or it someone had heard the word somewhere, liked the sound of it, and had a very superficial (and likely incorrect) understanding of what it meant, perhaps based on a couple minutes research. I’ve seen both of those things happen in the game industry, especially the former.


I suspect that the limited reference crops up in terms of how the games are actually built; as well; given that they aren’t small projects anymore.

The article notes the case of a UFC game where one of the post-match animations had a christian connotation which became a problem when one of the licensed characters, actually muslim, would periodically pick that one.

Odds are pretty good that assembling the library of generic animations for characters to use in order to not be creepy and lifeless when they didn’t have anything specific to do was a totally separate job from doing the design, and unique animations and potentially motion capture, for specific licensed characters. Putting together the algorithm by which characters pulled from the generic flavor pool, without being too predictable, repetitive, or having the entire room do the same thing at once was likely yet enough distinct job.

It would very much be a “seriously dude?” moment if there were actually a point where a specific person chose that outcome; but(as with a lot of TV and movie continuity errors), there probably wasn’t:

Some person or team got the job of putting together a whole bunch of stock animations; someone else designed how characters chose stock animations to fill idle time; someone else entirely did rights clearance that dictated which real people would or wouldn’t be in the game, once that was ironed out doing their character designs and any unique animations was a distinct task.

Having someone check for continuity errors when your process is ripe for producing them is a good idea; but it’s a distinct flavor of error from the “how did anyone OK that?” flavor.


Lack of any kind of cultural or historical awareness (or just to type your cool new company name into Google) can lead to all kinds of anger and misunderstanding. Austin-Based Restaurant PR Firm “Strange Fruit PR” to Change Name After Twitter Finds Out They Exist


Though I have to say, there are plenty of “seriously, dude?” moments where specific people did choose that particular outcome. And not just specific people, but multiple layers of individuals seeing - and signing off on - something problematic (as a lack of diversity meant no one recognized the issue).

But yeah, AAA development offers new, unintentional opportunities for this, as components can end up being used in unforeseen contexts. Though even here, if someone had sufficiently thought about many of these issues, recognizing that they didn’t know the context in which their work would be used, they could have recognized that was, itself, potentially problematic. (E.g. doing a culturally-specific set of gestures as part of a “generic” animation set relies on certain problematic assumptions, or lack of understanding on the part of the animator.) So the flavors of error aren’t necessarily that distinct, really.

Then there’s the issue of international development - bits of a game being made in multiple countries is standard in AAA games. (Though this is also true even for relatively small projects, these days.) The cluelessness of developers is compounded, as American, Chinese and Korean developers, for instance, are clueless about different things. Then you have elements that are lost in translation, as well…

I keep thinking of the “seriously, dude?” moment I had doing a brief design pass, late in the process, on a Korean MMO that was being released in the US - there were a bunch of culturally problematic references to Muslims in there that I tried to flag, even though it was outside my remit. I’m not sure if it was something in the original Korean game (either deliberate bigotry, or insensitivity to a religion practiced by no more than 0.2% of the population there), clumsy translation, a deliberate addition by the US localizing team, or what… Whatever it was, a whole bunch of people had signed off on it before it got to me. I’ve run into plenty of similar issues with entirely US-developed games I’ve worked on, too, but that was one of the more glaring. I never saw the released game, so I don’t know if it got fixed, but I suspect my concerns were ignored.


Like this: ? Because I just learned from this very post that there is such a thing as a white power cross and apparently it’s the symbol of ‘exclusive or’ I’ve been teaching students for ages. This is somewhat worrying.

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Ah. The ends poke out of the circle. Thank the heavens.


Yes, that is the symbol he sent me.

Right, as shown above, it is a specific symbol. There are many other similar symbols out there. Registration marks looks similar, cross-hairs, etc. Your is fine. Are you using it in maths?

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Intro to CS. XOR’s an important operation to consider, and I tend to write the way C does it (^) and then the mathematical symbol for it next to it, so they know both.

I didn’t know that there existed such a thing as a ‘white power cross’ and I didn’t want the term in my search history and the description of ‘cross in a circle’ sounded familiar.