Steam Game's "Slave Tetris" Minigame Removed After Backlash

Serious Games says it was attempting to educate people about the dark reality of the slave trade.

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In the wake of social media backlash, the developer behind Playing History 2 - Slave Trade has removed a minigame called "Slave Tetris." As you can see in the image below, this minigame saw users playing as the captain of a slave ship, tasked with packing in as many slaves as possible using the Tetris formula.

"The game and trailer was updated Monday. Slave Tetris has been removed as it was perceived to be extremely insensitive by some people," its developer, Serious Games, announced on Twitter.

Image credit: Eurogamer
Image credit: Eurogamer

Slave Trade was released back in 2013, but controversy around the game's Slave Tetris minigame erupted this week after the game returned to the spotlight by way of a Steam sale. As stated, the game's trailer has also been removed, as it featured a brief snippet of the controversial minigame.

"Travel back in time and witness the horrors of slave trade firsthand," reads a line from the game's description. "You will be working as young slave steward on a ship crossing the Atlantic. You are to serve the captain and be his eyes and ears. What do you do, when you realize that your own sister has been captured by the slave traders?"

Reaction on social media to Slave Tetris, and Slave Trade itself, has been negative. Some people called the game "sick" and "disturbing." But Serious Games CEO, Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, wrote on Twitter that he was attempting to educate people about the dark reality of the slave trade. Egenfeldt-Nielsen was an assistant profession at IT-University in Copenhagen before he founded Serious Games.

In a series of since-deleted tweets (captured by BuzzFeed), Engenfedlt-Nielsen defended Slave Trade.

"We lose money on these games," he said to one person. "We make them because we think it is important to make educational games to fight ignorance." In another tweet, he defended the minigame specifically, by saying, "Slave ships were stacked as Tetris.. point is to disgust people so they understand how inhumane slave trade was."

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Engenfeldt-Nielsen has since deactivated his Twitter account.

In a post to Slave Trade's Steam page, Serious Games shed more light on its decision to remove the minigame. The developer explained that it did so because controversy over this game "overshadowed 99.9 percent of the game, and that was not the way we wanted to sell it." The studio said it's unfortunate that gamers are passing judgment on the entire game based on that one section.

"It was never the intention for the game to become something that people would outright dismiss based on that single small feature," it said. "You are of course entitled to your refund."

This is not the first game from Serious Games that tackles a potentially controversial subject. Other titles from the Danish studio focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sweat shops in Bangladesh, and modern slavery in Bolivia.

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