Dead Island sparks sexism flap

PC gamers unearth derogatory references in code of Techland's survival horror action game; developer apologizes, evaluating options for its removal.

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Techland's Dead Island has proven to be quite the controversial game, though for reasons that pertain not at all to its rabid, flesh-eating zombies. And while the first wave of anger over the game involved an intense CG-rendered teaser trailer depicting the gruesome death of a child, the second is rooted in a misogynistic inclusion in the game itself.

Zombies have a legitimate claim to the title "man-eater."

Last night, a Steam user claimed to have uncovered a line of code in the PC edition of Dead Island referring to an in-game skill for the female survivor Purna as "Feminist Whore." The line of code can reportedly be found in Dead Island's .scr file.

Steam users quickly picked up on the original post, speculating that it is in reference to Purna's ability that grants a 15 percent damage increase against male characters. In the game itself, it is referred to as the "Gender Wars" skill.

In a statement released to GameSpot, Techland confirmed that the derogatory references can be found in the game, and apologized for the oversight. The developer also said that their inclusion was the result of a single individual:

It has come to our attention that one of Dead Island’s leftover debug files contains a highly inappropriate internal script name of one of the character skills. This has been inexcusably overlooked and released with the game.

The line in question was something a programmer considered a private joke. The skill naturally has a completely different in-game name and the script reference was also changed. What is left is a part of an obscure debug function. This is merely an explanation but by no means an excuse. In the end, that code was made a part of the product and signed with our company name. We deeply regret that fact and we apologize to all our customers or anyone who might have been offended by that inappropriate expression.

The person responsible for this unfortunate situation will face professional consequences for violating the professional standards and beliefs Techland stands for.

A Techland representative further stated that the studio is "currently evaluating options for dealing with the issue."

Responding to a request for comment, North American publisher Deep Silver would only confirm the line of code, calling it the work of a lone developer at the studio. "These unfortunate actions were of one individual at developer company Techland and do not in any way represent the views of publishing company Deep Silver," the publisher said in a statement.

The PC edition of Dead Island is proving to be a headache for Techland. Upon the game's release earlier this week, Techland said that an "incorrect version" of the game was released on Steam. Though it was subsequently fixed, those who had begun playing the game with the initially released version may have experienced corrupted save files.

Deep Silver has promised a make-good for PC gamers affected by this issue. For more information, check out GameSpot's review of Dead Island.

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