And yet “WASP” produces some sort of insect

Scribblenauts is a game that manifests objects from the player’s input. You write a noun, it creates that noun with all the expected properties. Want a dinosaur to fight a vampire? Then write dinosaur and vampire. They will fight. It’s as awesome as it sounds.

I was messing around with the game today, trying to produce intangible elements (love, art, etc). I tried samba, but accidentally mistyped it as sambs. The game popped up it’s helpful “Did You Mean…?” dialog.

The first option was Sambo.

Okay, that’s weird, right? There’s no way the game would contain an ethnic slur. I figured it also meant something else that I wasn’t familiar with, so I clicked this check box to make it real.

2009-09-16 19.50.13

It made a goddamn watermelon. Which, FYI, is a pretty iffy connection.

What the hell were 5th Cell, the developers, thinking here? Lucas Rizoli suggested via Twitter that maybe it was a subtle allusion to Sambo brand watermelon… which is still frickin’ Sambo brand watermelon. There’s a logical explanation for this, I’m sure. I’m just hoping that it’s not “Someone hid a racist term in our game.”

UPDATED TO ADD: Actual media outlets (with credibility and all that stuff) have gotten a response from 5th Cell, stating that a “sambo” is another name for a type of ecudoran gourd that resembles a watermelon.  Ian Bogost has written an interesting piece for Gamasutra about this that I highly recommend reading.

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21 Comments

  1. Maybe it was another—indirect, misguided—nod to Something Awful or 4chan.

  2. slow news day…?

  3. yeah, it seems like a slow day for this to be noteworthy. I can’t believe when tried the word cracker, it gave me a salted biscuit!

  4. Ok, so it’s your fault that Kotaku just brought this to their page as breaking news. For your information, sambo is a spanish word, it is a specie of gourd that resembles a watermelon. It is also known as “la calabaza blanca” or the white pumpkin. Though it is known as green and white.

    Here is the articule WITH a picture. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbita_ficifolia

    Here is another picture. http://www.gastronomiaycia.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/cidra.jpg
    Wow, do this picture remember you of ANYTHING? 100% aqccurate with the picture in Scirbblenauts. So nothing wrong.

    Now the web is going nuts about this issue where there was no issue in the beggining. The picture is right, the definition is right, 5th Cell did’t do a bad move. But, this news will spread and the damage is done. Congrats on giving poor 5th cell a hell of a problem =)

  5. Neo Confederate

    c’mon guys, racism doesn’t even exist anymore. we have a black president. that means racism has ended, everywhere.

    *snickers* lol that rhyms with ________ oh boy, youtube comments, here I come!

  6. When I clicked on this entry in my reader and hopped over here, the site displayed your “Cockpunch Will Smith” banner. Which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, added immeasurably to the flavor of this post.

    Looks like an unfortunate coincidence for 5th Cell. Your hyper-acute brain strikes again.

  7. Wo Zachary, you are an idiot. A sambo IS a unique fruit that is very similar to a watermelon. It is also a type of martial art and a racist brand of watermelon and a racial slur. However, it’s pretty obvious that the game is conjuring the fruit. There’s nothing improper about it.

  8. @yup: This isn’t a news site. It’s my personal blog.

    @Grow, @Author: I didn’t know that sambo was a type of fruit. I searched wikipedia and there was no mention of it. I made this post so someone could clarify. That’s it.

  9. No, YOU are the idiot for coming to these stupid, over-reacting conclusions. It’s fucknuts like you insisting that everything be absolutely PC in every regard that are driving the litigious culture of the country and ruining our fucking society. Why can’t we just be left the fuck alone, you dipshit?

  10. All of you guys getting on Zachary’s case need to bring it down a notch.
    To him, this could have been considered racists, and why wouldn’t it?
    On first look this does seem racists. Sure, it’s a gord, it’s been said, okay, but even as Kotaku mentioned the word SLAVE brings up a old southern SLAVE master type… is that not racists, either? How would you defend that one?
    An old man sees the world differently from a younger man, or even a woman, or even an old black woman. Who are we to judge what Zachary saw?
    Get over yourselves if you think THIS is the reason (this GAME and how Zachary brought this to Kotaku’s attention) is the reason that racism still exists in the world today.
    As Kotaku’s other article touched on [minority report], some people won’t see it because their blinders have been affixed since day one; it’s natural for you to see nothing while Zachary (and many, many others) could see something racists. Not his fault, so think before you judge him.

  11. Yeah, it is Jeremy’s fault, to a certain extent. He shouldn’t have immediately called something he was unfamiliar with “racist.” And, therefore, he deserves punishment for this mistake.

  12. Wow.

    Its amazing how the internet works! You write a personal and honestly surprised blog, inquisitive of the inclusion and item, Kotaku writes up a pretty solid explaination of what’s at work, from the fruit to the racial slur. And literally hundreds of comments are then generated, decry and bemoaning a “controversy” that is “overblown”.

    And the funniest part, is that you don’t want anything but an explanation. And you got one! Yet there’s thousands upon thousands of people that are complaining about racism being perpetuated and the world being overly “PC” or about someone pulling “the race card”. There’s even subsequent discussions about sensationalism in gaming journalism going on over at Destructoid’s community.

    All because you misspelled samba and wrote about what happened!

    Don’t misundertand though: I’m not mad at you, or blaming you, or finding you in any malicious fault! I think its always good to ask questions, even touchy ones (who knew?)

    Its amazing how the internet works.

  13. @James: You’re very mean! But about a thousand times nicer than all the comments caught in the spam filter because they use really, *really* bad words.

    @oh wow, @Variable Gear, @Tubatic: Thank you guys for being civil. I didn’t intend for this to balloon into a thousand-comment argument at Kotaku. I only emailed a link to Kotaku/Joystiq because I was obviously not in a position to get any sort of explanation from 5th Cell. I think both of those blogs handled it well, with a “listen, before you freak out, this is the story” attitude.

  14. Now that you know the whole story, why not amend your post and include a link to a site which gives 5th Cell’s explanation? That’s the beauty of these digital things…easy to add, subtract, amend.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to get some pancakes and tiger butter.

  15. @Paul: Good call. I’ve updated the post.

  16. Thank you, great read!

  17. you are really stupid, man!!!

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