Steam Survival Hit SCUM Removes Nazi Tattoo After Outcry

Image: yksiii

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.


Comments

    Seems a bit overreactionary to me honestly when we're talking about game that's about a bunch of criminals on an island running around murdering each other... it's not like they'd be running around with My Little Ponies tatted up on them instead now is it?

      if they're a bunch of horrible people then wouldn't the option of such symbolism be condemning it anyway?

        Ever been into a prison? I've spent a little time there visiting people and seen tatts on people (prison tatts), I've seen iron crosses, 1488 tatts and everything in my time. They exist, we have to stop pretending they don't. The more we give power to this sort of thing by trying to erase history, the more it stands out and gains traction. The more we realise 'it's just an image', the less power it contains.

          I agree, don't erase history or ignore the implications.

          however.. this is a fictional game about that they themselves have created, and there is no reason to include the tattoos in the first place.. except of course if they're edgelords, white supremacists, or savvy businessmen who are using the moral outrage to gain notoriety.

            or they're wanting to represent the absolute scum of the earth, I mean no decent person after all runs around with that sort of rubbish tattooed on them of course. It does seem fitting in a game called "Scum".

              their artists cant very good at their job if they cant come up with any original artwork without falling back to old faithful rubbish like Nazi symbols. Thats why I dont like it. It doesnt need to be. Someone in a board meeting sat there and said 'lets do this' and someone else said 'sure'. On purpose, when they could have done all matter of different and more clever tatts. Thats why I dont like. Its lazy.

              In real life if I see anyone with any form of it, it is a key indication that the person who has it is not a person who is willing to give society anything of note. But at least they believe in something. Even if it is ghastly.

              Seeing it in a computer is just the sure sign that some loser kid doesnt know his history enough to know of the 60 odd million dead, and everything that symbol and things like it represent. Wearing it just to look tough and/or knowing it will piss people off. Thats their belief. Sad and pathetic as it is.

                I'd disagree that it's lazy personally. They've clearly intended for the material to represent a low class of citizen, those who offend, reoffend and end up in the criminal system. In that sense, it perfectly fits.

                Having known people who have been to prison, having seen prison tatts and the kind from there, I'll honestly say you rarely see the ultra creative ones. In fact I'm surprised we don't have more 'needle and biro ink' ones in here. I just spent the morning playing the game, it's a quite a fun game a this point for an alpha. I don't know how far it will get, but it's pretty damn solid and tbh, this is all a storm in a teacup and to echo the general sentiments, the furor is generally coming from the crowds who will never play the game, it's never the target audience who kicks up the biggest stink.

                As for 'the loser kid' and what it represents, as we edge further and further away from WW2 in history, further generations won't find it as impactful as we do. It's fact. My Grandfather who served, always wondered why I was never horrified by the Boer War, my own father has a hard time as a veteran, grasping why my son isn't horrified by the atrocities of the Vietnam war. I teach a group of kids, to whom, even only 17 years on, September 11 is 'just another thing that happened', and to them, todays cultural climate and wartorn climate is stock standard.

                The fact of the matter is, the more we censor, the further down the rabbit hole we go. Germany censored the imagery for a long, long time. It called for all Nazi imagery to be censored and removed from plain sight. Now? They've retracted that order, because they knew the power that prohibition gives. Prohibiting something makes it *all the more appealing* to people. It casts a spotlight on it and says 'THIS IS GOOD BECAUSE ITS NOT ALLOWED'. If you say 'you can't have that because it's banned', the first reaction from the general public is 'I want that thing'. If you say 'Well, it's pathetic, it's shit, it's used by lowlives and fuckwits, but it's there, enjoy it if you really must', you're going to find the novelty wears off much, much faster and it becomes a lot less of an issue.

                That's exactly how this should've been handled. But the press they got from this so far is insane, must've really increased their sales metrics by now :)

                  Maybe that was the intention all along, cause outrage, deny people's feelings then remove the image and apologies all round, result free press more sales.

                  What's worse though, using something like that to generate more press or just doing it and saying "don't like it get stuffed".

                  @almightysparrow if you're going to try to quote him, don't fall for the strawman fallacy of misrepresenting his original statement and argument. His actual quote was:

                  “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.”

                  Not

                  "Don't like it get stuffed".

                  What he did say was fairly eloquent in that sense. We live in a time where people like to get outraged by *anything*. We see people get outraged by something on a daily basis. Hell, we just saw people get outraged at Spike Lee because they felt he 'didn't represent the police poorly enough' in his movie. Quite frankly, the way Croteam put it should've been the end of it to anyone with common sense, there's imagery like a tattoo that isn't illegal in the game, so I don't like it... so I won't play it? If I don't play it, I don't get offended by it? Therefor I won't press and push my sense of personal moral outrage on others. There's zero reason at this point for people not to be grown up enough to say "I don't like it, therefor I won't play it/watch it/listen to it", it's just we've become a world that actively seeks to be outraged rather than a world that seeks to deal with things, to sort them out first and foremost.

                  Don't get me wrong I'm not offended by it at all I'm actually in support of the imagery to an extent, although I don't know how many people would understand the history behind it.

                  I was mainly generalising about the subject matter in the comment about telling people to "get stuffed", which although would sound really bad I would piss my self laughing and probably buy the game.

                  @almightysparrow Yeah I get what you mean, I wasn't trying to come across as abrasive, apologies if it did. I'm a history teacher by profession so I'm steeped in this kind of thing. I also abhor censorship. The Franco-Prussian Iron-Cross as it is, isn't often recognised for what it actually is. Most people just think it means Nazi, which isn't what it is at all, it's only the 1939 model which included the Swastika in the middle that was actually a Nazi symbol. I try to be a stickler for detail when it comes to these things, I also expect my students to be :)

                  Why do those specific symbols need to be in a game? As an option for player characters?

                  Answer: because the Devs wanted player characters to be able to dress as Nazis.

                  No realism argument- it's not a realistic game.

                  Because they're representing the worst possible people in humanity, showing who the worst are. I don't know if you realise it, but generally, those who tend to adorn themselves with those markings tend not to be too nice...

                You're an absolute Muppet if you think that just because an artist uses an existing symbol or imagery that they are bad at their jobs.

              You keep talking about "the game characters", but what about the very real human players that make them their avatars? Why would you give them that choice? Let us try to think for a moment who would put such tattoos on their characters:

              -Straight out Nazis
              -Edgelords that get off from "triggering" people and being generally offensive
              -People who care about "authenticity" and realism in games to the exclusion of arguably more important factors
              -Kids that think that such imagery and association makes them "badass" without fully understanding the implications
              -People absolutely clueless about their meaning

              For the top two: why would you want to give anything to this people? For the bottom two: why wouldn't you just give them similar looking imagery (skulls, etc) without all the horrible baggage? The people in the middle are the only ones with a legitimate bone in this fight, but how many of them are actually out there? And should their whims about cosmetics in one among thousands and thousands of games out there outweigh society's necessity to not normalise symbols that even today are being pushed by genocidal groups?

              I'm a gamer too, but if I learned that some icon in a game that I enjoy is representative of horrible, still-existing ideals, I'd get over my preference for seeing it.

                Will putting a virtual gun in their characters hands make them go out and shoot up someplace? This isnt shifting the goalposts, it's the same principle. Why would you put something horrible in the hands of people that's done so much wrong in recent history and was the tool of so much destruction? A gun makes a kid "badass", a bigger gun makes an edgelord "edgier" etc etc.

                Because the context is what matters and people rush to judgement like right here, without thinking of context. A game where the scum of the earth are dropped into a reality show to murder each other. These arent nice people. But context is a forgotten thing these days in order for people to be the first to be outraged :)

                  So what, no matter how horrible the crime, anything can be made fine in a context? Even if that was a legitimate argument, what is the need in doing it? I mean, it's just a game; it could be about anything so why make exceptions for things that we as a society need to repudiate if it decides to be themed around something vile, and for some reason, we apparently owe "realism" to its players?

                  If for some reason they make "Pedo-rapist, the game" would it be reasonable if the people who feel inclined to play it complain if, I dunno, the kids that make the attainable goals in the game don't have detailed genital textures or something like that? Seriously, how many things should we excuse under "it's just a game and it makes logic within its own context"?

                  No because being a pedophile and molesting a child is an illegal act. That's completely different to what we're talking about. We are talking about a tattoo, try not to shift those goalposts.

                  Yeah context is important. As a survival game I'm guessing it doesn't have any story or political message, and it's not connected to WWII or Nazism at all. So essentially the tattoos are just there as cosmetic items, nothing more. Importantly, you could remove all the tattoos from the game, label every player as a hunter instead of a criminal, and it would have zero impact on the game. If the central conceit of the game is that every player is a criminal, but it isn't really followed up on by the game itself, then I don't think that's a reasonable justification for keeping them in.

                  Yes, a lot of bad people have those tattoos. But not every bad person has one, and there's plenty of other offensive tattoos out there, so I don't think that's a good reason for leaving them in the game either. Also it's not a history book, it's a game, so it wouldn't be revising or deleting history to remove them.

                  But for me, the big contextual problem with those tattoos is that it's a neo-nazi prison tattoo, not an actual Nazi one. The numbers in those prison tattoos are used to reference Nazism in a way that is not easily recognised by most people (actual Nazi tattoos being generally not allowed in penal systems AFAIA). A subtle way to say, I'm a Nazi supporter, without having an actual Swastika or whatever as a tattoo. That's not something anyone should be promoting in their game.

                  (Replying to your latest message)

                  That's where you are mistaken. We are not talking about a tattoo; we're talking about a symbol. And not some dusty old symbol with merely historic meaning, but one /still/ being used by people exhibiting the same mentality and ideals of one of the worst genocidal groups of people in history. There's no moving of goalposts unless you think that genocide is "not illegal".

                  If you understand what the symbol means and you place it in your character "for realism", you're literally choosing to have a neo-Nazi as your avatar. How is it that much different from choosing a rapist of kids as an avatar?

      I'd love to see them do a Blizzard (sparkle pony level) and replace all the tats in the game with hello kitty, my little pony and other fluffy imagery.

        See, I'd actually be all for that as well. An 'all or nothing' approach. You either embrace it and run with it, or don't touch it.

      I think I'd be OK with this argument if we were talking about NPCs, like having actual Nazis in videogames, I have no problem with that. But these are unlockable tattoos for players to adorn themselves with. If people are role playing criminals, all well and good, but is neo-Nazis imagery necessary to do that? I just wonder how many people would have been choosing those tattoos because they support the ideals behind them rather than wanting to immerse themselves in criminal role playing.

        I just wonder how many people would have been choosing those tattoos because they support the ideals behind them rather than wanting to immerse themselves in criminal role playing.

        How many people do you play with who are white nationalists now? Personally I don't care as I don't talk to them online and I don't engage with people. A tattoo isn't going to turn anyone into a nazi just as violence in the game isn't going to make anyone go out and shoot someone, just as a money shot in a porno isn't going to turn someones jerkoff session into an orgy...

        Wait, that last one... O_O

        But you (meaning your character) are a shit person, that is like the whole premise of the game. You aren't joe from down the road that stole some blokes tv, you are dick who stuck it in someone without consent or shot up a school. They are accurately representing the level of filth that you would probably not feel pity for being stuck on a murder island.

        From my point of view it is like if they put all the child molesters on an island, I would probably tune in to make sure someone was getting a real raw end of the stick.

      And there's any hundreds and thousands of symbols they can put on them that aren't nazi propaganda.

      To use Nazi symbology uncritically- and no, putting it on a criminal isn't "criticism" when a game valourises violent criminals.

        Of course there are, I'm hoping they also put in the shitty tattoos you see in prisons people do with hot needles and biro ink too. When you take into context who the people are in the game, it's a fair call to have them in it. But people are going to be offended at a tattoo.

        Now, if you'll mind me, I'm going to play the game, carve up someones dead body then take a steaming shit in his mouth, then piss in his eyesockets, then vomit on his innards.

        You can literally do that. That's not an exaggeration.

        That's not offensive at all is it? :)

          It's not "being offended at a tattoo." It's "deserved criticism when people present Nazi propaganda."

            This is becoming circular, I get you don't understand the concept of context, or at least refuse to acknowledge it. I completely understand what you're attempting to say, I also acknowledge it, I just think it's weak. The context of the game imho justifies it, as did the use of severe imagery in other games in the past, which themselves didn't promote people to run out and become white nationalists. After all, if we're going to fly that flag of 'games don't promote people to do things', we have to actually believe it. Not yank our dicks to the ideal when it suits us.

              I'm saying it's not even in context. It adds nothing to the narrative, it's in there solely so people can clad themselves in Nazi propaganda, and that's worthy of comment and criticism.

              And saying "we're flying the flag of games don't promote people to do things" is not actually a universal statement. Games don't "promote people to do things" any more than any other medium, but denying that games have an effect is being wilfully ignorant.

                I'm confident you haven't even played the game now. It's entirely in context. A group of the worlds worst prisoners, absolute scum, relegated to an island 12km x 12km, where they have to hunt down and kill each other. A game of ultra violence where criminals must murder and destroy each other. It's entirely in context *as they're criminals*. Go visit a jail sometime, get some perspective.

                  *rolls eyes* and here we go with the 'you're a nazi' slurring. When you've got nothing else to say, drop to that point.

    The tattoo and its symbols reference a very real, non-fictional group that killed millions of people last century

    The game also features guns. Guns that kill hundreds of people in the US every year.

      Autonomously? Do you have references to back that claim up?

        Tattoo's don't kill autonomously either, so therefor the tattoo is harmless right?

        I mean, you literally just backed up his point for him. Ta.

      You mean guns that kill tens of thousands of people in the US every year.

    Eh, I can understand both arguments made in these comments.
    Nazi tattoos are a pretty good way to say "hey, this guy is scum!"

    But in CURRENT YEAR, maybe we don't need nazi tattoos in games right now. You don't want to make the actual neo-nazis happy.

    Let's not put My Little Pony and Nazi tattoos on the same wavelength. There is a cost to normalising something; the power of a symbol isn't diminished because not everyone engages or pays attention to it. It still acts as a rallying cry to its supporters and sympathisers, and there's a reason society has been adamant about not letting it proliferate freely.

      Indeed. These symbols are rallying calls to the groups that employ them, much moreso than a gun is to pro-gun groups or the NRA. It's fine for symbols to appear, it's great to educate people on their history and meaning, but offering them up as an option that players can choose to decorate their characters with strikes me as a step too far in empowering and normalising the presence of those symbols. This isn't about denying the symbol exists, it's about trying to deny it its power.

    I had no idea 1488 was a Nazi symbol until I read this article :/

    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.

    Thanks for the history lesson. I wouldn't have known this without your patronising explanation.
    Just how dumb is your target audience supposed to be?

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