Indie Dev Removing Racially Charged Gag From Game After Complaints

Indie Dev Removing Racially Charged Gag From Game After Complaints

Most people seem to really like the indie PC sensation The Stanley Parable, but not everyone enjoys one of the jokes in the game. Specifically, a jokey 50s-style PSA video that shows a black child being given cigarettes and set on fire by a white guy.

In response to a couple player complaints, The Stanley Parable creator Davey Wreden says he's going to remove the offending images in an upcoming patch. You can watch the scene in question at 2:49 in this Let's Play video, though mind that it does show one of the game's many (many) endings.

"Choice," the PSA video's narrator says in the game, "it's the best part of being a real person… For example, in this scenario, a hypothetical real person named Steven has a choice. He could spend years helping improve the quality of life for citizens of impoverished third-world nations... [Cue image of him lighting a cigarette for a young black kid] ...or he could systematically set fire to every orphan living within a 30 kilometer radius of his house. [Second image of him setting the kid on fire]"

"A white man giving black children cigarettes or setting them on fire in Stanley Parable = not cool or funny," said writer Oliver Campbell yesterday on Twitter, before reaching out to a couple of Kotaku's editors to point out the offending images. Today, Campbell said that Wreden had agreed to patch the game and remove the images.

I asked Wreden why he'd decided to change the game. "I received two separate complaints today from people who found that the images made them significantly uncomfortable," Wreden told me in an email, "and in one case a teacher expressed concern about the effect of that kind of image on her kids.

"It's actually really tough to respond to complaints about someone being offended," he said, "but I think I would be able to change the actual images without having to go to too much trouble." Wreden says he'll be able to change the images sometime in the next couple of weeks, but that the dialogue in the scene would be much more difficult to alter.

"I'm not exactly married to the visual gag there," Wreden said, "it doesn't make or break anything about that particular section, and we always wanted the game to be something that could be played by anyone of any age. If a person would feel less comfortable showing the game to their children then I've got no problem helping fix that!"

A happy enough ending, then. It's common to hear cries of "censorship!" at this kind of thing, but as anyone who's told a joke knows, punchlines don't always play out how you'd intended. It's understandable that Wreden would choose to simply tweak his game rather than leave in a joke that makes some players uncomfortable in a way he hadn't planned.


    It is a bit sensitive, sure, but I personally think it's a bit drastic to ask the creator to get rid of it.

    I agree with it's removal. Certainly made me stop to pause. Why they decided to have it in the first place, I wonder...

    If people are offended enough to contact him, then good on him for being mature enough to acknowledge their issues and remove it. I personally think it's a funny parody of the way humanity treated each other back in the day and it brings to light the fact that some people are terrible and we as humanity need to fix that. I think that for those reasons, it's an excellent gag that should be seen. In saying that, I'm a 19 year old white male who's never been oppressed, so my judgement isn't as important as those people who this does target and may be sensitive to this. Hopefully there isn't too much controversy coming out of the change, and if there is, at least it will drum up business for a mature and talented indie developer.

      This has got to be one of the most level-headed comments I have ever read. Thank you, Sir.

        Yeah. Somebody call security to escort him out. There's no place for that kind of thing on the internet.

    Eh, I think people are making a big deal of "race" here.
    Would they be making such a fuss if it was a white orphan?

    edits: Wait, only THREE people complained?
    Man I dunno. I guess it's nice if he didn't care too much about the gag to cut it and wanted as little offended people as possible, but only three people? That would be too few to worry about if it were me.

    Last edited 24/10/13 9:36 pm

      Do you think "race" isn't a real thing or something?

      No, they won't make the same fuss as a white orphan because white children don't have a centuries old history of people trafficking at the hands of white adults.

        no child has, by definition, "centuries old history"...

          Are you fucking serious? You want to talk semantics or are you just being a tool?

        But we're not talking about trafficking, we're talking about torching orphans.

        It really seems like that episode of South Park with the flag. The adults were viewing it as racism, the kids saw it as "people hanging people".

          Slavery and abuse. Violence and murder. Terrible and often fatal power differentials based on skin colour. General shitty treatment of black people at the hands of white people. It has a long and storied history and it's still in living memory. People are touchy about it and rightly so.

          It doesn't matter how many people complained. The guy made it, he found out that someone had some criticism of his thing and he decided that the criticism is valid. More people getting angry doesn't make the problem more or less legitimate. It was a bad call on his part. He didn't intend any upset and when he accidentally caused it, he decided to fix it.

    So it would be ok if he was setting fire to a white kid?

    Isn't that racist?

      No dummy, because of Privilege, remember?

        It's a privilege to be set alight. Got it.

          Nah because white people could do with some suffering after unchecked prosperity for centuries. Apparently equality is a zero-sum game, who knew?

            Man... for a second there, Poe's Law kicked in for me.
            You can actually see people who seriously carry that attitude around and about. It's especially prevalent when it comes to gender relations, used as an excuse to justify ignoring the horrifically unfair treatment of fathers in family courts and husbands in divorces. "Women have so much stacked against us, now you know what it feels like," and similar bullshit. Suffering's only bad if it's your side who's suffering? It's pretty disgusting.

              Yeah sorry I should have signposted my position a little better but to do so would sacrifice the parody.

              Yeah it's sad / worrying how many times I have heard people talk exactly like that.

    I don't think people should be worried too much about censorship here. If something stands out so much that it stops you from being immersed in the game, maybe its removal will benefit the game's tone overall. Maybe the developer realised this and decided to remove it to improve the overall quality of the game and the experience playing it?

      Yeah, I think anyone crying foul here is being mad for the sake of having a drum to bang. The author was all for it. It's not censorship.

      Why This is not Censorship: A play in One Act

      Someone who played the game: Hey guy, that thing there kind of alludes to some nasty shit in history and I don't like it much.
      The author: Oh shit, it didn't really click to me that it looked like that. I'll change it because I don't want people being upset by a thing I made. It doesn't even hurt the end product!
      Someone who played the game: Awesome. Thanks.

      - Fin -

    oh FFS, it's a joke, get over it you nanny state fucking morons. Seriously, you can't even plant a fucking tree without some dick head crying about these days, harden up

      My initial response didn't add anything to the conversation, but that's because I was replying to something so ridiculous that it made me mad as hell. Here's an actual response.

      'Nanny State' is a term used to describe a government trying to control the lives of citizens, supposedly for their own good. This story has nothing to do with control, government, or minimising potential for harm against people regardless of how they feel. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

      The comment about the tree makes absolutely no sense and 'harden up' is possibly the best way to make everyone realise how little you are going to add to any conversation.

      The worst part about this is how you honestly show your complete lack of empathy. It wouldn't be such a problem if your selfish opinions weren't held by so many people. You have decided that people being less worth empathy and consideration based on minority status is not only acceptable, but preferable. Not only do people have to live with that, but they need to be constantly reminded that they are considered lesser beings because to do otherwise would inconvenience you. Is your need to be able to make a joke stronger than that of another's need to not constantly be mentally and emotionally assaulted from all sides?

      Your misplaced indignation is so disgusting that engaging you is a terrible idea. Which is why i wrote my original post; short, sweet, to the point.

      TL:DR - Fuck you.

      Last edited 26/10/13 1:55 am

      People who use the term "Nanny State" and "Harden Up" are so cool.
      I'm not sure why any of this story would elicit such a response at all. Both sides are in agreement. All good right?
      What has the State or hardening up have to do with an author wishing to be suitable to a wider audience by taking on criticism?

        I agree, saying 'Harden Up' is one of the quickest ways to let everyone in the room know you're the dumbest guy there.

    I kinda like the 'set fire to an orphan' gag, and the image of a stereotypically affluent white (presumably) American donating to third-world countries (many of which have black people) contains a pretty solid core of truth - a recognizable image, a stronger trope to yank on.

    But if you dissect images and devices as tropes into their components of evoked imagery, recognition of circumstance, and then the perversion of the norm for laughs, breaking the gag down into its components... you can probably find ways to achieve a similar effect without hitting those racial sensitivity triggers.

    Creator's call, and he made it. Sounds like he wasn't married to the joke as much as he was to the reaction. I wouldn't be surprised if he was potentially even annoyed at the oversight of the racial angle from a professional craftsman's stand-point rather than a personal, moral one. Kind of like how an artist feels when a casual observer notes that it kinda looks like the pose you drew that guy at makes it look like he's sucking a dick. "DAMMIT, NOW I SEE IT TOO. THANKS FOR RUINING MY PICTURE."

      Yeah I haven't played this yet, but I thought the joke was pretty funny. I certainly didn't think "RACIST!" at all.

      Maybe he should just change the images and keep the joke... have him overlooking a burning town or something instead, and giving the orphan food or something in the first one..

        I say he should use an old British style street urchin. A kid that looks like he came out of Oliver! would do the job nicely.

    ... Honestly i don't believe this is for the better, in ANY way. Also the fact this complaint got -any- attention, especially media-based, that makes it only worse for even more people without actually knowing what the heck is actually going on will try to judge the situation from then on.

    I'm sorry but it's simply wrong to draw ethics in a room where they're already being burned to the floor by the rest of the concept.
    The picture already shows a child that's getting lit-up a smoke, and the other set on fire in general.
    No, instead of finding that disturbing (which -generally- should be, considering normally enforced "values") , the person who started complaining decided that it should be about the etnicity of the "victim" in both pictures, mainly the last one.

    Does whoever complained intend to say "Okay, i understand the third-world countries are generally filled with people of a darker skin then stanley, but using the same kid just to finish the though behind the whole gag is wrong." ?

    I even believe it's wrong to promise adjustment, lest he changes the picture of the executor of these actions to that of a black man, for the heck of parody.

    The image is showing two concepts which are already ethnicly wrong, but you just disregard that whole fact for your own measly problem which, honestly, completes the gag since it points to the same person, therefore enforcing the following:
    "You can choose how to live. You can either help a person or set him/her on fire, that's your choice.", which is basically what the game's trying to tell you at that point anyway.
    No, instead we decide to play the sour pickle and likely force someone to destroy the synergy of the gimmick. You're basically saying "But he's lighting someone on fire" against the bad example anyway. And that, makes you a selfish AND self-fooling idiot.

    So, i don't know whoever may have complained. But i deem this person, as i just said above. A selfish and self-fooling idiot, that just ruined a joke that even satired racism in general if you'd freaking look at it from somewhere outside of your closed-off-thinking-box.
    Because you want to force the picture to something more "ethically-befitting" (while it wasn't to start with) in this way, you're likely to ruin the gist that you can do either bad or good things to the same person. If the left will stay "black" just to befit likeliness of being a third-world-country-kid and the right will be white in your oh so evolved way of looking at a situation you can now either help a black kid, or set a white one on fire. Great job, idiot.

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