Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Fresh Hell is This: Slavery: The Game? (Video) Survey says, "It's a hoax!" Or An Ugly Marketing Pitch

The following piece has been cross-posted and also updated at

I am puzzled today and a tad distraught. Through a friend's Facebook post, I learned of a website for a supposed video game that may be real but is more than likely, ostensibly, bogus. It's called "Slavery the Game." While its website requires that you enter an age to verify you're old enough to see the horror behind the first page, the same video you see at that website is available for view on YouTube to anyone. This offensive "game" threatens to go live in Spring 2012.

When I first saw the website video, a lead ball dropped in my stomach. Clearly the "game" is about the middle passage, the transatlantic slave trade of Africans to the Americas. Could this ever be a major-market virtual reality game? (Here I could comment on the whole plantation/slave trade tourism that flourishes in the American South, a big money maker right here in Louisiana, but I don't have time.)

Next, I wondered if this were some kind of political statement. If so, it gets a big fat fail from me the same way the "Hit the Bitch" campaign did. Fail. Fail, fail, fail!

I tried to discern if the narrator's voice was that of a man of African-Diaspora descent. (Yes, you can sometimes tell ethnicity without visuals.) It sounds like it could be, but I'm not sure, and that led me to wonder, "What if a black creator is behind this? Would that change the purpose of the game's creation?"

The Escapist has also pondered who is behind this game. The writer suggests that it may be bogus, some kind of publicity stunt. According to his research:
... neither this game, nor the people making it seem to exist anywhere outside of that single web page.

The description on the YouTube clip up there claims the game is the work of UK-based Total War creators The Creative Assembly, but the game appears nowhere on that firm's site.

Javelin Reds Gaming, the title's supposed creator, doesn't exist as far as we can tell. The phone number listed on the site leads to a Google Voice inbox (with a Kentucky area code) and "" appears to be a nonfunctional email address.

We even went so far as to plug "Javelin Reds" into an internet anagram generator, but as you can plainly see, the results offer little in the way of illumination.

I looked up on WhoIs and learned that the domain is registered through using its privacy proxy service. Seeing how secretive this creator or creators are, I'm inclined to believe that it's a malicious hoax unleashed on a fragile world by a person or people who have not yet grasped the ineffectiveness of ambiguity in marketing and messaging or the damage a mixed-message may do. It could also just as easily have been done by a bright but immature designer who still lives with his mom.

An avid gamer in my house immediately declared "it's a hoax." She says that you can tell it's a hoax by all the logos for major game companies at the bottom. She thinks it's "an exercise in hyperbole." (But it could be some crazy-azz way to try to sell the game to a company, a company that would have to have some kind of crazier-azz corporate death wish.)

The use of the company logos presents an intriguing issue for activists who want the video or website down. Can its creator use the logos without permission? Of course, if the creator is pressured to remove the logos, he/she will probably just edit the video and put it up again without the logos. Oh, where are the Super Hero Stuxnet hackers when you need them? Don't we have any of those who fight racist propaganda and hate speech?

Anyway, until we know who's behind this so-called game, we won't know if the creator is motivated to attack racism and slavery or glorify it. In the meantime, has this person done more damage than good for the world community? What is his/her game?


Mom101 said...

I was sick to my stomach watching the preview. That said, it's clearly some sort of stunt. I'm trying hard to withhold judgment until I see what it's actually for. Sometimes the means justifies the end.

I know I'm being optimistic, here.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Yes, Liz. You are being very optimistic. :-) Whoever did it should own it and come forward and comment to give his/her creative product context, otherwise, it's just another insult to people of the African Diaspora that will probably be misused and misconstrued all over the Net.

The818 said...

The human being in me says is can't be real. The American in me has a shred of doubt about that.

What's next? Virtual Auschwitz?

Hoax, social commentary, call it what you will, I'm just still trying to wrap my head around it's purpose.

Dan said...

My guesses: a) that's not a black guy doing the voice-over, and b) it's a hoax. If it were a real pitch to the Xbox or PlayStation people, it would have better animation. The graphic effects are good, and nicely timed with a quick, dramatic tempo, but I know two or three people personally who could slap that together in an afternoon with readily available software. Heck, the little ships crossing the ocean, I could've done that back in MacOS 9 with some Adobe software. Also, that's too many logos at the end. If a game designer were pitching this to, say, the Sony PlayStation folks, he or she wouldn't likely include the Microsoft Xbox logo. Probably somebody with a low sense of humor who thinks it'll generate some Internet buzz... like this comment.

CCGroovy!!! said...

"JOKE" or not, "HOAX" or not; just why, Why, WHY?!?!?

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Yes, @The818. It's the wrap around that makes the head explode. :-)

@Dan I agree regarding the ease with which this kind of thing gets done now. So, if it's a real attempt to market somebody's concept or skills, then there's need for improvement in many areas. But if it's to generate buzz, then the person has not heard of how negative publicity can backfire.

Yep, that was my daughter's take on the logos, "Too many to be taken seriously."

Regina said...

Hoax, ploy, stunt, whatever it is, there is a blatant disregard for the people of AA ancestry, that much is definitely obvious.
It is a passive aggressive way to attack those you do not like. I can not see what purpose this would serve other than to degrade or just piss off black people(or any people with some sense).

Anonymous said...

My first reaction was, WTH? Then I moved on to, "this has to be a hoax". Now I can only hope that this is a twisted attempt to produce a game similar to Kevin Willmott's movie Confederate States of America. Whatever the motive is behind the movie, the timing, in respect to the social climate in the US, could not be worse.

msladydeborah said...

Before I go off, I am willing to wait to see if anything actually emerges from this intial introduction.

Even if it is a hoax, I am not feeling the intent at all. Especially when I consider the over all racial climate in America and globally.

I am going to keep it real, hoax or no hoax, this is a real moral and mental low to the enslaved African population and their off springs. I didn't even watch the trailer because I know the details of how people were enslaved in Africa. Even if the African captives have the opportunity to revolt and rebel, it is still not the type of game that I would want to be involved in.

People need to stop trying to put sugar over crap. The developer of this video, does not care if African Americans see this promo of this game. So what! Just that fact that it exists says a whole lot about the mental state of the person who created it. What really should bother people is the possibility that the creator is home grown American. Yes, I am going there with my comments.

It is no secret that the subject of American being a slaveholding nation for profit, is a touchy subject in our society and the global society at large. No matter what status this game really holds, there is a clear in our face message, which pretty says, it does not matter how it makes you feel, I am willing to exploit the fact that slavery did occur and whatever pain or horror was entailed in those times to us, does not truly matter.

Gena said...

You know, between the Katt Williams mess, this and the idiot trying to revoke the 1964 Voting Act - I am real angry.

Because when a game, real or hoax prototype, has a series of flogging tools and there is a monetary value attached to how cruel you can be then we have indeed lost our way.

I want to be wrong about this, I hope to hell it is a hoax. But I have read comments from people at other places that are eager, yes, eager to play it.

My heart aches.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

@Gena, I dread it, but would please give me the link to those sites where some people seem eager to play it because I think that data might help with a research project I'm working on.

Gena said...

Well, okay but I don't think this is gonna raise any hopes of gathering in unity anytime soon.

I guess we are a little late to the party. There seems to be many games that incorporate slavery as a gaming narrative.

Keeping my eyes upward for that chariot. Swing low...

Chick Lit Gurrl said...

I saw this. Was disgusted. And angry. And then they both dissipated...a bit...because I told myself, "It's not real." Doesn't make the act of creating the idea and manufacturing at the very least the site and the video any less ignorant, harmful, and damaging.

You mentioned the narrator's voice, and it made me think of context, which made me think of rhetoric of bit (and of course you mentioning it on my FB page). The WHO behind it (the creator) can have a totally different context than what we the audience has. White or black, the creator could mean this for harm or for a teaching lesson (though that person would be VERY hard press to argue the latter). Even if the creator meant it for good, I think the context of the audience will stay unchanged--it will be disgusted, stunned, angry, and any other pissed-off adjective we could tag on. Slavery was not a game for most involved, and nothing in the video illustrated any form of redeeming, educational value...unless one finds becoming the best slave master a redeeming, educational value.

RiPPa said...

I so love post-racial America! I'm a bit disappointed by the fact that they didn't come out with the whole Cowboy & Indian thing before this. I mean, why should anyone be left out? Oh well, hopefully they don't skip the Jewish Holocaust thing. Sure it's not American but the Global economy could use the boost.

Rita Arens said...

I'm late to the discussion, but I worry most about kids seeing this, primarily black kids but also kids of any race who might think "well, if adults made it into a game, maybe it was okay after all." Kids are so, so impressionable and we have this amazing chance to change things with every new generation.

I don't think it truly matters if it's a hoax because of the ease of distribution. I've told my daughter millions of times she's not allowed to watch YouTube without me beside her to narrate what she sees -- I am sick thinking she could ever stumble across something like this without context.

I have no intention of hiding slavery from her, because it's an important part of our country's history in that it influences everything about modern race relations in America. But I want to be sitting right there next to her to answer her questions, because the answers to all her questions will be hard, hard, hard -- hard for me to tell her and hard for her as a white kid to wrap her head around, but which she must if she is to be part of the solution.