What The Washington Redskins Could Learn From A Game Named "Starcoon"

If I learned anything this past week, it's that some people will find any context in which an ethnic slur is not an ethnic slur, or will find some justification for its use on something, from a video game to a football team.

Really, the reactions were almost swappable. In Washington, rumblings that the Redskins might relocate to a stadium in the city limits sparked a city councilman's call for the team to reconsider its nickname of obviously racist origin — and the usual backlash against it. In video games, a student project out of the Netherlands billed itself as "Starcoon," borne of an understandable language disconnect but one that still invoked a top-five racial slur in the company of "spade," "spook," and the big N.

"Starcoon," however, changed its name, recognising the embarrassment it would inevitably suffer if the game became a success in an English-speaking country. Yes, right, the protagonist of the platformer is a raccoon. Unless the truncated word is preceded by "Maine" or followed by "hound" you will have a problem on this side of the Atlantic, and in this case, it sounded like a ridiculous sci-fi blaxploitation film starring Bull Connor as the villain. Wisely, the creators bailed on the original name, rebranding it as Curio's Starquest.

The reaction was depressingly predictable. We're told all the time that the average age of gamers is getting older, but their emotional maturity and concept of life in a pluralist society seems to be stuck somewhere around the freshman year of high school. On average, it's a demographic no more sophisticated than a meathead sports fan. "Ever wonder why racial slurs for white people never caught on?" said this commenter in one of our posts on "Starcoon."

No. Please, enlighten us.

"Because white people have higher self esteem in regards to their racial identity."

Yes, that's it. After everything they've gone through, for all for which they have stood, and suffered, ethnic minorities are simply insecure. Once they get over that, hey, racial equality.

No, racial slurs against white people never caught on here because white people, through the laws, textbooks and periodicals they largely control, have a demonstrable, centuries-long head start on deciding what words get used, and how.

One of those uses is in professional sports, where white people have such "higher self esteem" that thousands identify themselves, as fans of Washington's football team (or of other teams in high school), with a straight-up ethnic slur.

"Redskin nation." "Redskin pride." They smear on warpaint and wear headdresses and go to the games. Then, when someone points out how childish all this is, the official newspaper of white people writes a hoary defence of the right to use the word, a vortex of circular logic that reads like an email from your grandfather with FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD:FWD: in the subject header.

It doesn't matter if the entirety of an ethnic minority is or isn't offended by a word and it doesn't matter if you knew a black guy or a native american who has no problem with it. Good for him, though I doubt he actually exists.

It doesn't matter if a majority in a poll say they're fine with the name, and it doesn't matter that the word is inoffensive if it describes peanuts or potatoes. And "political correctness," the "liberal media," and every horseshit straw man you construct has nothing to say here.

What matters is that a billion-dollar business and its loyal consumers, in the year 2013, identify themselves with an insult. It matters that a term of derision, inferiority and hatred is being directed at the product on the field — by those who sell it and buy it. How is it different from "Washington Shitheads?" How is it even dignified?

That is why "Starcoon" changed its name. That is why the Washington Redskins should change theirs.

Stick Jockey is Kotaku's column on sports video games. It appears Sundays.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @owengood.


    I have no idea what a 'coon', 'spade', or 'spook' is, and I doubt the game's creators did either. I don't think they should have had to change the name, but good on them for not making a fuss. Shame everyone else is doing it for them.

    Last edited 07/05/13 10:20 am

      I find it a bit ridiculous when a fuss is kicked up because someone, somewhere might take offense to something, when it is not intended to do so, and often used in an entirely different context (such as the spacecoon example) and may have varying degrees of obscureness in whats actually offensive about it depending where one is from. The Redskins example is a bad analogy, as this term was actually coined in the so-called racist context, referring to people of reddish skin. The spacecoon game may similarly offensive to some, if it featured a space faring person of African ancestry, but it doesn't. So I personally think the point is moot.

    It doesn’t matter if the entirety of an ethnic minority is or isn’t offended by a word
    Owen, I am afraid you have totally missed the point in an article I assume is wholly targeted to get a rise out of sensible people.
    What matters is that a billion-dollar business and its loyal consumers, in the year 2013, identify themselves with an insult
    Why does that matter? Aren't social etiquettes dictated by the majority? You state yourself that :
    a majority in a poll say they’re fine with the name
    So who is it that is to be placated by this changed? Is it now the done thing for others to be offended FOR minorities?
    Language continually evolves - it's use changes the meanings. I mean if I say "gay" now, it means someone who is interested in same-sex relations first, and happy as a distant second.
    People need to get some perspective - particularly as this evolution of the term is positive - taking a slur (I am assuming) from days of old and turning into something people cheer for.

    I will continue to call a spade a spade, refer to shady spy type characters as 'spooks'. I actually think there is something behind intent behind how a word is used, depending on the context. Kind of like the evolution of the word 'wog' here, some certainly still use it as a pejorative, but in my experience, it more often is not.

    No, racial slurs against white people never caught on here

    Really? I can think of a few that have. I personally do not take offense when referred to as 'honky', but that's just me.

    I refer to someone's previous comment that Starcoon, when used in context of the main character, it should be pretty bloody obvious that it's referring to a Star-faring Racoon, and not some bizarre racial slur.

    How in the hell is this any way equivalent?

    Starcoon was a game about a raccoon, who some idiots thought might be a racial slur, despite the fact that it is about a fucking raccoon. There is no ambiguity there. There is no double entendre.

    The Redkins name comes from a racial slur, features an image affirming that origin, and hasn't even tried a double-entendre. It's all slur, all the time.

    How the hell are these in any way similar? What is WRONG with people? Do they have the comprehension skills of 3-day old bread mold? Do they think context is less important than looking for something to get offended by? How in the hell are we meant to achieve ANYTHING with people crying wolf all the godamn time?

    Edit: Bad analogy is bad for touching on something different. Funny, but not equivalent.

    Last edited 07/05/13 2:19 pm

    This debate (that the Washington Redskins should change their name) has been raging on for years and years. The team can't move back or build a new stadium in the D.C. area because lawmakers have stated that a name change is required before they can move (hence why the Redskins are in Maryland)...according to the National Annenberg Survey, they asked Native Americans from the 48 continental U.S. states "The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or does it not bother you?" In response, 90% replied that the name is acceptable, while 9% said that it was offensive, and 1% would not answer.

    But alas...the term Coon for me as a kid was cheese from Kraft...

    Starcoon and the game is about a raccoon in space...i don't see nothing wrong with the title but others will...

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