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.
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.