I think most of us can agree that punching Nazis is a good thing. Heck, a bunch of great video games are founded on that very premise. That’s why it was weird when a State of Decay 2 player discovered that the game gives characters a negative effect for having taken out the trash in their pre-apocalypse life.
In State of Decay 2, the open-world zombie game released by Undead Labs and Microsoft Studios in 2018, every survivor you recruit comes equipped with random traits that both reflect what they did before the outbreak and the effects those lived experiences have on their personality. Survivors can, for instance, be “Afraid of Rats,” which in turn makes them pros at pest control, providing a bonus to your maximum food storage.
Steam Marines 2 developer Yik-Sian James Seow picked up State of Decay 2 on sale in January, and quickly put together a lengthy Twitter thread about his time with the game. But last week, he noticed something odd: One of his survivors seemed to be getting a negative personality effect from the “Punched Nazis” trait. Under the flavor text, the game explained that kicking skinheads out of a local concert in a previous life indicated the character was generally “irritable towards other people” rather than, you know, just doing the right thing in that scenario.
“This would be a real bad way to discover the State of Decay 2 devs are cool with Nazis,” Seow wrote, setting off on a days-long tweeting spree asking Undead Labs and Microsoft Studios about the trait. He was eventually blocked by the official State of Decay account, which the studio now says was caused by a false positive in its “social listening software” after the barrage of harassment it received after offering public support for Black History Month.
In subsequent tweets shared yesterday, Undead Labs explained that the “Punched Nazis” trait was never meant to be presented in a wholly negative light, as it also gives survivors increased fighting experience and makes them “more likely to argue passionately for their beliefs,” the latter of which was accidentally altered with the addition of new game mechanics.
“When the Morale system arrived, it simplified our original nuanced concept of ‘characters arguing for their beliefs’ into a basic negative Morale effect, representing discord in the community,” Undead Labs wrote. “So today, this trait has a positive skill bonus and red text in the UI due to the likelihood of arguing. It’s been that way for years and we never realized how confusing that looks until tonight (it’s not common, and we have over 1300 traits).”
Undead Labs plans to rectify this issue in a future hotfix by removing the negative effect currently associated with the “Punched Nazis” trait, turning it into the positive personality indicator it was always meant to be. Survivors will still get a boost to their fighting experience, but rightly won’t be regarded as nuisances by the community for having stood up to white supremacists.
As is often the case in these situations, Seow himself has been on the other end of a hate campaign by gamers who would rather argue for the rights of Nazis than take a long, hard look at the hatred that has been allowed to foment in their communities and rip it out by the roots. Establishing a safe, welcoming society requires us to be intolerant of intolerance, and if you can’t even get down with that in a video game, well, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.