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Dead Island Uses “Feminist Whore” as a Placeholder Text for Female Character

Meanwhile...

Earlier this week Dead Island, which you might know as That Zombie Game With The Really Surprisingly Touching Backwards Trailer With the Dead Little Girl, shipped. At least, the game shipped to PlayStation and Xbox players. PC users downloading the game from Steam found that they hadn’t quite gotten the release version of the game.

They’d gotten the developer build, which is to say, they’d gotten a less polished version of the game never intended for public eyes. This meant that the game was full of bugs (some as disturbing as they are hilarious), the code had references to the Xbox version of the game, and, as someone pointed out on the Steam forums, still contained placeholder text for one of the abilities of Purna, the game’s only female player character. That text was: “FeministWhorePurna”.

For a little bit of context, here’s Purna’s canonical bio:

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.

It was theorized that this placeholder text was an earlier name for one of the abilities that Purna can be equipped with in the game, which is currently called “Gender Wars.” It allows her to do more damage when fighting male zombies.

I’m not going to dig into the myriad ways in which the ability as intended is problematic in terms of gender representation, and hopefully the reasons why one would be offended by someone making a joke utilizing the all too familiar use of the word “feminist” as an insult and or implying that a woman has sex on occasion with dudes is reprehensible are obvious.

And if you’d like to argue that it was just a joke somebody made in their office to people who would presumably be in on it and it was never intended to be a joke made in public, please watch this and then come back when you’ve figured out the analogy.

I think that the best thing to take away from this, is this is the sort of thing that happens when a workforce or industry is homogenous. The workplace becomes a place that, if it isn’t careful, is going to make the kind of mistakes that the more diverse society around it finds to be less than acceptable. There are pretty simple solutions to this sort of thing, too.

To their credit, Dead Island‘s developer Techland have issued this statement, and seem to be taking the whole thing impressively seriously.

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 naturally 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.

Techland and Deep Silver, the game’s publisher, have taken a lot of flak in the last few days from PC customers, but their swift and firm response to the reveal of Purna’s unfinished code is something in their favor, though it’s still disturbing that the code was in there to begin with.

(via The Border House.)

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