Days after prisoner survival game Scum came out in Steam Early Access, players discovered their criminal characters could be given Nazi-related tattoos. Today, its publisher Devolver Digital scrubbed the customization options from the title and apologized.
Players on Reddit and Steam noticed that the Scum Supporter Pack DLC included content with the numbers "14" and "88," well-known neo-Nazi references. Another tattoo included the Iron Cross and skull, which, while not nearly as controversial as the Nazi Swastika, is still used by neo-Nazis. As Polygon reported, all had been removed from the game as of this morning (the left image is from Reddit, the right from Polygon).
While these tattoos fit the game's lore -- every player is a prisoner convicted of serious crimes, and neo-Nazi tattoos aren't unknown in prison populations -- they upset some players. Predictably, others on Reddit and Steam forums argued that these symbols fit the fiction, but it seems Nazi imagery was too hot-button for Devolver or the team that created the game to ignore. The publisher provided this statement to Polygon:
"Devolver Digital has become aware of tattoos representing neo-Nazi symbology in the newly released prison survival simulation game Scum. We do not agree with use of this symbology or any hateful content, regardless of intention.
The use of the tattoo was intended to assist in portraying a realistic element of prison culture and the horrid elements within it. This content has been patched out as of this morning, and Devolver Digital are currently conducting a full review of all assets and content in the game with Gamepires. We strongly condemn any and all use of hateful symbology in our games and agree it should have never been in the game regardless of creative intent or realism. Devolver Digital apologizes unreservedly."
While Scum's developers at the Croatia-based studio Gamepires gave this statement to Polygon:
"Recently we patched out content from Scum that included neo-Nazi symbols. 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.
Since our initial response on our forums we've discussed this as a team and with our publisher and agree wholeheartedly that this content was unnecessary, should not have been included, and have removed it. We apologize for this misstep and promise to our fans that we will take more caution in our approach moving forward."
This is a bit of a black eye for Devolver, which tweeted out that Scum's launch was its biggest ever. The scrappy indie publishing house releases off-kilter and hyperviolent games like My Friend Pedro and Genital Jousting, respectively, and is known for taking swings at AAA gaming at every E3, lambasting the industry while portraying itself as a perennial underdog. But neo-Nazi imagery has become intolerable material at all levels of gaming: Last fall, Bungie swiftly removed icons from a piece of armor in Destiny 2 that bore a resemblance to a hate symbol.