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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Meanwhile...

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


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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  • Anonymous

    I’m amazed by how good that apology is. I wish more companies would respond that way to scandals like this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnradclyffe John Radclyffe Lohan

    Really refreshing to see such a great apology. 

  • Anonymous

    Purna, the game’s only female player character
    Purna isn’t the only female character in this game. We can also choose Xian Mei who’s an expert on sword fighting if I remember correctly. There are also two male characters so it’s all fair and square. Plus the female characters are more kick-ass, so I wouldn’t consider the devs to be unfair to women or anything like that… just saying ;-)

  • Robot Jones

    I had no idea Adachi worked on this game.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, the wikipedia page only lists three characters. Still not sure that absolves them of “feministwhorepurna,” if that is what you are implying, but correction noted. 

  • http://twitter.com/MightySquid Kate Falanga

    As someone who is in the Software Developer world in Quality Assurance especially I have to agree that this kind of thing can totally happen. I’m not going to take it too seriously.

    However, I will wait for the reviews to come in rather than to just blindly buy the game as I was thinking of doing. Not only is it just a good idea to wait in general so you don’t get a crappy game in this case I want to make sure it was just what they said it was and not an indication of the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/1shewolf JoAnna Luffman

    Nerd Programmer makes stupid joke, Film at 11.

    Seriously, all programmers during the early stages will use placeholders in their code. Sometimes funny, sometimes not. This version should NEVER have gotten out since it’s a dev copy. 

    It’s a good thing no one can see my code.

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    I lol’d.

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    It’s a good apology, at least.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

  • Anonymous

    Sigh.  Seems like with games lately it’s been: 1 step forward, and 3 steps back.  Now I’m leaning toward not getting this one… How many zombie survival games does one need anyway?

  • Michail Velichansky

    @facebook-100000801758413:disqus This is actually a pretty good reminder for us programmers that we have to write code as if others are going to read it. What may seem hilarious at 4am after a 16 hour code-fest might be a lot less so when it appears in a code review, or a supervisor sees something, or… worse case… some bug lets a user see some text a user was never meant to see. Like here.
    Not to mention, tonight’s funny ivar is tomorrow’s “wtf was this for???”

    I once used a goto in some code, and thought it was funny to paste in a giant ascii-art raptor. Then I forgot it was there and pushed it to the repo. Only to have it found at a code review :D Though, that was mostly just cause for amusement.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck this “Good Apology” Shit.  It’s the least they can do.  Hopefully there were actually reprimands for the employee (and the bosses of said employee) responsible.  I think NOW that I won’t buy it.

  • Zap Riecken

    Ugh… really… this is a story. What if one of the male’s characters
    had some random skill called Sexist Pig? Would this have any media
    coverage. I’m so tired of this one-sided microscope on all things
    relating to women in any male-centric hobby.

    Again I question why
    I visit this site. I know hypocritical feminists need a forum, but I
    thought The Mary Sue was about geek girl culture.

  • Kim Tink

    I’ve seen some pretty bad things left in the coding that the devs don’t think the public will see. I remember a particularly… disturbing one in Baldur’s Gate 2. I won’t repeat it here. It was pretty vulgar.

    I’m glad they took this seriously and both apologized and reprimanded the employee.

  • Jen H

    Why would a feminist have sex with men anyway? Wouldn’t she find that inherently abusive or degrading?

  • Carolynn C

    I wrote a really long reply to this, but it was lost in the process of logging in.

    I think what you’re saying is unfair and uninformed, and that you’re playing into a stereotype that for the most part doesn’t actually reflect many feminists. 

  • Life Lessons

    Hmmm… I now have a good reason to not buy the game.

  • Anonymous

    As a self-identified feminist, here are some reasons.
    -Because sex feels nice
    -Because one is attracted to one’s partner
    -Because seriously, sex feels pretty good
    -Because not all men are disgustingly sexist, patriarchal turdwaffles, and in fact, many of them are pretty decent human beings
    -As a ‘take-that” to the myth that feminists hate sex, especially with men
    -And have I mentioned that when performed correctly, sex is a lot of fun?

    But then, of course, none of these reasons line up with the standard stereotype of a feminist, which is really more like a terrifying Mecha-Godzilla/Voltron mashup, where the individual lions are hyperbolic versions of divisive radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas, and they all hate men, and joy.

  • Jen H

    I want to meet some of your kind of feminists; the ones around here are scary. They hiss like geese if you mention wanting a boyfriend.

  • Anonymous

    Holy Crap this site never ceases to amaze me with the BS it will bitch about. Probably why its named after a chick. Dudes don’t complain about this kind of crap. “FeministWhore” Hilarious!

  • Anonymous

    I think if a skill in a game were called ‘SexistPig’ that’d be just as stupid and offensive. But, you know, it feels good to rail against the entire female gender for “invading” video games and calling out bullshit in video games when we see it, right?

    And sorry, this is part of geek girl culture. Maybe you should just stop coming here…

  • Anonymous

    Some commenters never cease to amaze me with the way they bitch on feminist sites just to get attention.

  • Anonymous

    Scandal? Hope he gets reprimanded? Not going to buy the game now? Are you people SERIOUS? My god what has this world come to. Listen up people, it was in the code. Not on display for gamers to view while installing or playing the game. Anyone who has coded for a lengthy period of time has been there where silly placeholders get created. Feministwh*re I consider to be quite mild. All these jokers with their political correctness, it’s sickening.

  • Anonymous

    Alternate title for the comment thread: “People who regularly visit a site about women in geek culture are surprised and personally offended that some women are unhappy about there being a sexist, nasty slur in the code for a video game many of them had wanted to play.” Maybe the subtitle could be “Also, feminists are scary, baby-eating monsters who hate fun and smiles, and love mind control, right?”

  • Anonymous

    “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I
    only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments
    that differentiate me from a doormat.”
    –Rebecca West (1892-1983)

    Basically, we’re as varied in our opinions and feelings as Normal Humans, except for the whole “thinking women shouldn’t be treated as some strange space-creature wildly variant from human males, who are default people” thing. Just like with any group, there are loud jackasses who presume to speak for the whole class, and then there are cool people, if you look around.

  • John Seavey

    Well, I have to admire their honesty: At last, someone in the video game industry has admitted that all too many of their female characters are, at heart, just a placeholder for “Wouldn’t it be awesome if the slutty chick we all want to bang was also a major ass-kicker so that we could call her a ‘feminist’?” Bravo to this studio for their revealing, post-modern take on women’s role in video games as expressed through bold satire.

    Or they could just be unbelievably stupid, oblivious, and sexist. Not sure which, really…

  • Anonymous

    “How many zombie survival games does one need anyway?”
    Being a fan of Zombie survival and not finding what I want in other games, I’d say at least one thats free-roaming, vaguely realistic feeling and intelligent*

    *note that I don’t know if this one covers these facets :-/

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but then the same name would apply to a bunch of stuff on here, making any searches hard work …

  • Zap Riecken

    When did this site become feminist? I thought it was about geek girl culture…

  • Anonymous

    Lol, there are *many* a post on this site about feminists and in reference to feminism. Just do a search. And assuming you’re a geek of some kind yourself, it doesn’t take much to see there’s lots to be discussed in the way of sexism, which kinda sorta falls into the realm of geek girl culture.

    For example, as a girl who likes to play video games – I may have been interested in getting Dead Island, so when coming across a story like this it makes me wonder – should I give my hard-earned money to people like this? Or should I be a customer to someone else who will better respect me and my gender? It seems like we’re being overly critical or making a mountain out of a molehill, but it makes A TON of sense to me to spotlight a product with potential to be offensive to girls on a geek girl culture blog. Really, it’s not that difficult to understand…