Consider Different Cultures In Games Production

Consider symbols/settings you use in your game, and show them to people before you use them in your game.
Not long ago I learned something totally new about games production: people are politically very aware, and notice cultural aspects. Somebody might get offended if you don’t.

Some days ago I posted secret game project concept art.

The image is here:

After showing this picture to people and explaining that these would be the evil/dark units in the game we got comments that the characters/symbols had similarities with the following themes:

Issue #1 – Similarity with Turkey’s flag
I agree that the symbol has similarities with Turkey’s flag (somebody said it reminded he about Islam/Turkey). Just look at the picture below and compare the flag with the symbol that units have (in the picture above). This is a coincidence – not intended.

First of all I need to say that I noticed the similarity and we discussed with the artist before we showed the concept art in public. I want to make it really clear to everybody that the similarity was a pure coincidence, and the image/symbols don’t reflect our opinions on any religions or Countries. We don’t think that Islam/Turkey is evil nor have any meaning to bring this kind of message to public. We change the symbol to some japanese/chinese character (maybe ‘evil/dark/black’ and ‘good/light/white’).

The main reason in bringing this issue up is that you fellow game producers can learn or be reminded as well. I don’t think we all need to do the same mistakes. The lesson learned: Remember to consider symbols/settings you use in your game and test them with people. It just might backfire to you if you ignore different cultures in global marketplace.

Issue #2 – Other similarities, although not so serious ones…
Similarity was found with Dr. Zoidberg (from the terrific Futurama series) and Cthulhu (the Lovecraft monster – great novels & great RPG game btw):

(Found this Cthulhu image using google picture search. The same image appeared on several pages, so if somebody can point me to author, I’d be happy to put his link here.)

As you can see, they have similarities with the Dark Chi Wizard. That was unintentional, but sometimes it just happens – I guess it’s the same as with game ideas: sometimes people get same kind of ‘unique’ game ideas just to find out someone else is already working on it… It’s fun to see how people can spot these kinds of things – and it’s fun to notice how people comment and bring these up.

In this case we won’t do any changes, our concept is ours and if it has similarities with any cartoon or fictional character, then be it.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I think you artist should be able to express there vision if others can express there religion. final word, final thought. That is life we do what we want when we want, stop judging people with same thought processes, its wrong if you think so or right if you believe, if you think i’m not making any since then mature a little harder and you will.

  2. I think now, more than ever, it’s important to have some sensitivity to whether any group is being singled out or portrayed in a derogatory way in video games. Video games’ influence is more far-reaching now than in recent years, and I appreciate when a game creator will consider that influence and its validity. Games should be fun, not teaching any kind of prejudice – unless it’s against aliens! :^)

  3. I believe that the choice to change one small thing to stop an issue before it starts is the artist’s chioce and a good one, The prior knowledge is the difference maker iin my mind, he “tested” it and got feed back and made the better choice. GOOD JOB. STAY ALERT>

  4. I think you should leave it as is. If you really did come up with it on your own without purposely thinking of or using those things as references, then you’re within your artistic right to use them. Everyone is going to see different things in designs, and if they want to look at your work negatively they’re going to find something that should be changed or is wrong. This kind of politically correct design that tries not to offend anyone offends me and makes me sick. It’s like when they took out the entire quest concerning blowing up a city with a nuclear bomb from the Japanese version of Fallout3. Like the Japanese can’t differentiate between fiction and Hiroshima. You can’t write or create constantly thinking about who you’re going to offend.

  5. They had some great symbols for King Arthurs legends. Use some of them. I think we worry too much about symbolism .Its what the characters represent that is important.

  6. In our society, race, religion, culture and all things ethnic, can touch very sensitive nerves to the extent that artistic creativity may feel boxed in. However, if you want controversy ( and to be honest attention) then you will have it if you cross those lines.

    On the other hand if you are seeking popularity without the back lash, its best to error on the siede of political correctness.

    The scene above while close the the Turkish flag, is for pleasure and not politics, so if the artist wants to be favored by politicos he/she should alter the graphics. But it’s not fair to infringe on artist because they are by virtue of their calling naturalist, who draw what they see in their imaginations.

    I think making a big issue out of it will infringe on their artistic creativity. But if it were my call I would change it just to prevent controversy and negative commentary.

  7. Regardless if it is coincidence or not, do not use any symbols that are religious. Perhaps the artists should study religious symbols so they stay in the clear of controversy. Remember, cultural sensitivity can be very important in overall success. Thanks for making the change.

  8. @Ville: I haven’t played – nor read much – about Oblivion so I cannot tell what kind of content it has… and Fallout, well – I think Fallout is a great game.

    @Duncan & Penguinx: Nah… they copied that from Cthulhu ;)

  9. Duncan, neat. I’d not seen the D&D stuff before (never did get into any of that).

  10. What do you think of leaving children out of many games, such as the recent Oblivion, and games like Fallout? Is it sensitivity taken too far?

  11. Well, as a Turkish Game Developer,
    It is not hard to believe that similarity is coincidence. We have cult symbols on our flag (as many Islamic Countries). I am very pleased with your sensitivity. I am not sure that there would be a backfire from Turkish community if you didn’t change symbols :) However, it seems that it is better to change for the sake of sensitivity. That’s whay I thank you on behalf of Turkish game community.


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