Off-brand Switch skin features vulgar message to Nintendo lawyers

Originally published at: Off-brand Switch skin features vulgar message to Nintendo lawyers | Boing Boing


I fully expected this to be untrue because the top couple of layers of reporting on this have no evidence for the claim and it seems like an unlikely thing for any company to actually do. However if you follow the story back to the original, sure enough, it is true. Amazing.


I’m very interested to learn about what the runic for “fuck off” or even “lawyers” is. And their literal translations.


“Runic” here refers to a made up “language” (really just a trivial cipher) that vaguely resembles Nordic runes. It’s a common thing across many video games, starting with RPGs in the 1980s such as the Ultima series (which itself took them from paper RPGs). It’s a basic 1:1 mapping of some runes that nerds like onto English letters. For some reason this same mapping has persisted across many games over many decades.

Of course nobody ever acknowledges the white supremacist subtext of ignorant nerds choosing some imagined “Viking” runes for this because they’re “cool” or “historic” or “mysterious” or whatever.

The mapping of the runes used in Ultima was similar, but not identical, to what was used on the maps in the my paperback copies of the Tolkien novels. I’d always assumed that was the original source of the cypher and the rest were derivative. I also assumed that the Ultima mapping was altered slightly because they used it as an authenticity check in some of the games. No idea if my youthful assumptions are true, though.


Yah, I think you’re right about Tolkien being the original source, but variations of it were everywhere back then. Some D&D modules used it, for example, and other paper RPGs. No doubt all pilfered from Tolkien like everything else fantasy-related was back then (and now) but who knows where any specific game took it from.

Ultima may have done it as copy protection, but just as likely Garriott used it because he liked the thematic verisimilitude. It was a lot of work to program a custom font renderer on the Apple II just for it, which he wouldn’t have done just for copy protection. Temple of Apshai did something similar- they offered the option to play the entire game in a sort of pidgin of Old English, just for the perceived authenticity of it. I’d guess that’s where Garriott got the idea.

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