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PewDiePie sparks dev backlash after using racial slur

UPDATED Over the weekend, mega-popular YouTuber PewDiePie dropped a racial slur during a stream PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, leading one prominent game developer to threaten DMCA action.

Chris Kerr

September 11, 2017

3 Min Read

Over the weekend, mega-popular YouTuber PewDiePie -- a.k.a. Felix Kjellberg -- dropped a racial slur during a stream PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, leading one prominent game developer to threaten DMCA action on Kjellberg's channel, and encouraged other devs to do the same.

Kjellberg is one of the biggest online stars in the world with over 57 million subscribers on YouTube. The racially-charged incident not only brings up moral concerns, but also questions about the rights game developers have when it comes to footage of their games.

"What a fucking n****r, jeez, oh my god, what the fuck," Kjellberg said. "Fuck. Sorry, but what the fuck. What a fuckin' asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." The clip shows him laughing about the incident.

This isn't the first time the Swedish online personalilty has caused offense. Earlier this year, he sparked similar controversy by uploading videos containing anti-semitic remarks and imagery. That debacle resulted in Disney ending their partnership with Kjellberg, while YouTube also canned its planned "Scare PewDiePie" video series and removed his channel from its Google Preferred ad platform.

"We're filing a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie's Firewatch content and any future Campo Santo games," tweeted Sean Vanaman, co-founder of Firewatch developer Campo Santo, in a strongly worded thread responding to Kjellberg's slur.

If successful, it would prevent Kjellberg from featuring Campo Santo games in any future content, and would also force him to pull down any videos featuring Firewatch.  

"There is a bit of leeway you have to have with the internet when you wake up every day and make video games," Vanaman said. "There's also a breaking point. I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make.

"He's worse than a closeted racist: he's a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry," he said. "I'd urge other developers and will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a millionaire.

"Furthermore, we're complicit: I'm sure we've made money off of the 5.7 million views that video has and that's something for us to think about."

There's a bit of a debate right now as to the legality of such a move, and as some have pointed out, the Firewatch website expressly gives streamers permission to feature the game and monetise their videos. 

Still, Vanaman seems confident, and responsed to those concerns by explaining that "all streaming is infringement but devs and pubs allow it because it makes us money too."

Kjellberg himself has yet to comment on the incident or Campo Santo's response, while the video featuring the slur has since been pulled.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Kjellberg issued a short response video regarding the incident. "You probably won't believe me when I say this," he said, "but whenever I go online and I hear other players use the same kind of language that I did, I always find it extremely immature and stupid. I hate how I personally fed into that part of gaming as well. It's something I said in the heat of the moment. It's the worst word I could possibly think of, and it just sort of slipped out...there are no excuses for it."

The rest of the response is below:

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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