In an illustration of how tired and complacent we’ve become towards content in video games, a new game on the iTunes App Store actually rewards players for beating Aboriginal Australians to death, as they “try to survive” in the virtual outback. It’s a tasteless virtual representation of the sort of approach early European settlers had towards the people who lived here before them – and that’s not okay.
This one has slipped through quality controls on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play, meaning anyone can play as a “lonely traveller” in the outback, avoiding aggressive animals, the dangerous wilderness and – of course – the pesky natives. And no, before you ask, it’s not set in “the olden days”, with the player character given some very modern weaponry alongside the stone axes and boomerangs.
The game, Survival Island 3 – Australia Story 3D, is described as follows:
Your goal is to survive. Beware of angry animals, especially if you don’t have any weapon. At nights there is really dangerous, try to hide somewhere. In your own house, for example. Hunt animals or grow plants – you have to eat something. You also have to fight with aboriginals – you invaded their home!
…and in case that wasn’t subtle enough, it’s accompanied by the following screenshot.
It’s frustrating that we’re still seeing this sort of racial discrimination in video games in 2016. Nearly 50 years ago, Australians voted overwhelmingly to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as citizens, and there is an increasing push to recognise the original inhabitants of this land in the Australian Constitution. On one hand, we’re (slowly) working together to right the wrongs of our forebears – but on the other, there’s things like this.
…and I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that someone’s written this content, the fact that people are playing the game, or the fact that so many of us will sigh and accept it as “just another video game”. If gamers aren’t killing Aboriginal Australians, they’re just going to kill someone else, so why bother getting upset?
Sure, this is a piece of what’s known as “shovelware” – it’s not a big-name AAA release, it won’t top any best-seller lists or win awards for great design. It’s just another title on a long list from a developer who churns out endless copies of the same game with slightly different skins and characters – but that doesn’t make it okay. Racial discrimination is still inappropriate, no matter where it’s presented and what the intended audience is. Stamping it out in these tiny games is an important step, otherwise the next game could be a big-name AAA release, an explosive blockbuster advocating racial genocide.
Survival Island 3 was added to the App Store in December, and is rated as appropriate for gamers 12+, for violent content. The same game also appears not once, but twice in the Classification Board’s database, rated both PG for “mild violence” and MA15+ for “strong violence”. However, regardless of what label it’s been given, it probably shouldn’t be played by anyone.
One of the most frustrating things about cases like this (if you can get past the whole “promoting hate crimes” thing) is that it’s impossible to talk about it without, in some way, promoting the game. Even if we didn’t tell you what it was called and where you could find it, chances are you’d still hop online to look it up, and a (hopefully small) bunch of people will likely buy a copy. And that still doesn’t make it okay.
The game’s developer is listed in iTunes as Kristina Fedenkova, who is also named as creator of games like My Cat Simulator – Catch Fish, Police Escape: Car Chase, Pixel Cars: Xtreme Road Race 3D and of course, the previous Survival Island games (we have our suspicions that “Kristina Fedenkova” represents a collective, rather than a single person). On Google Play, the same game is listed as Survival Island: Australia PRO, by GFTeam.
The game retails for AU$4.49 in the Australian App Store, and – obviously – I’m not rushing out to buy a copy. However, people on YouTube have done just that, including R2 Darksaber, who has created a series of five Let’s Play videos on the game.
R2 Darksaber takes great delight in playing the game. He locates an oasis, discovers food (including the great Australian native pumpkin), builds a home and – in video 4 – finds “the lost tribe”. In that one, the video shows a first-person view of beating an Aboriginal man to death with a blunt weapon while the voiceover cackles gleefully. The gamer is rewarded with a boomerang and what looks like a stone arrowhead – and R2 Darksaber is disappointed with the haul.
We’re told that the game does not encourage you to attack the “brown people”, but it doesn’t seem to go out of its way to discourage it, either. Once you do pick a fight with an NPC, the rest of the tribe will rise up against you and attack you on sight. However, despite fans of the game claiming that attacking an NPC will incur the wrath of the remaining tribe, by the next video, it seems that R2 Darksaber has been adopted by the survivors:
This place is just crawl… holy crap, well anyway, they said they’re gonna teach me how to throw boomerangs and stuff and how to hunt.
More frustrations: Not only is this a terrible concept for a game, it’s been poorly executed as well.
In case you were curious, Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines claim the publisher “will reject Apps for any content or behavior that [they] believe is over the line” – so does this mean that killing Aboriginal people is okay?
Online petitions rarely achieve anything, but if you want to add your voice to the chorus telling Apple that this sort of thing is not okay, one’s been set up: Killing Indigenous Australians is not a game! – it already has more than 6,000 supporters at time of writing.
If you want to sign something that will make a difference, join the 285,000+ supporters who want to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.
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