In the short time since its release, survival game SCUM has caught players’ eyes for its ludicrous attention to detail, its slapstick antics, and — in the grand tradition of survival games such as Ark: Survival Evolved — diarrhoea. It’s already sold over 250,000 copies.
Yesterday, though, the game caught players off guard in a far less fun way when they discovered they could put a Nazi tattoo on their avatars.
The tattoo, which players could unlock if they purchased the SCUM supporter pack, prominently featured an iron cross with a skull and the numbers 14 and 88. Both are white supremacist dog whistles: Fourteen refers to 14-word statement “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” and eight refers to H — the eighth letter of the alphabet — so repeating it twice gets you HH, meant to stand for “Heil Hitler”.
Discussion and outcry against the symbols circulated on social media yesterday, and today, those symbols got quietly removed from the game.
Initially, one of the game’s developers — both Gamepires and Croteam are credited with having worked on it — dismissed players’ criticism of the tattoo.
In response to a Steam thread criticising the tattoo’s inclusion (via PC Gamer), Croteam incubator marketing and community manager Zenoslaf told players, “It’s a game. It’s fiction. If you are offended by some textures in the game, please don’t play the game. Because if we start removing things that hurt someone’s feelings, it will be an empty game, with no people, no weapons, no blood, no humour, no pooping, killing others, eating human flesh, killing animals.”
The tattoo and its symbols reference a very real, non-fictional group that killed millions of people last century, and which has also had a recent resurgence. These specific symbols are still in use by current-day neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups; participants in the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, for example, handed out flyers referring to the numbers “14” and “88".
Zenoslaf went on to note that the game’s developers are not “right wing” or “Nazi supporters”, asserting that actually, “only offending thing here, in my opinion, is calling us Nazi supporters for no reason”.
Earlier today, the tattoo’s Nazi imagery did get patched out of the game. Both publisher Devolver and developer Gamepires issued statements to Kotaku on the matter.
“Devolver Digital has become aware of tattoos representing neo-Nazi symbology in the newly released prison survival simulation game SCUM,” said Devolver. “We do not agree with use of this symbology or any hateful content, regardless of intention.” Devolver is now “conducting a full review of all assets and content in the game with Gamepires”.
Gamepires, meanwhile, explained the rationale behind the tattoo’s inclusion, but it has now come to the conclusion that it was “completely unnecessary” to have included the imagery.
“Our intention was to create an atmosphere of the worst of the worst criminals in SCUM, and to portray the horrible type of people who would find themselves in a ‘fight to the death’ situation for a futuristic reality show where the worst criminals are pitted against one another,” Gamepires wrote.
After yesterday’s backlash, however, Gamepires talked the issue over as a team and also discussed the matter with Devolver. Now, the 14/88 tattoo has been removed.
“We apologise for this misstep and promise to our fans that we will take more caution in our approach moving forward,” said Gamepires.