UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Nintendo Splatoon Game hit with anti-Israel Graffiti

A child playing the video game,  Nintendo Splatoon 2, was shocked to see an anti-Israel expletive written in graffiti on a wall in the background of the game.

Splatoon is a game where “Inklings” splat ink and claim territory in a 4 player shooting game.  The game has an Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating of “Everyone 10+” and according to ESRB it may contain “mild language”.   The words “Fxck Israel” were written, as if in graffiti,  on a wall.

When UK Lawyers for Israel heard about this incident they wrote to the ESRB as well as to Nintendo’s legal counsel, to ensure that the offending graffiti would be removed.

ESRB replied that  online-enabled games like Splatoon 2 permit players to interact in real-time with other players as well as add content of their own, such as text and/or voice chat, skins for characters or maps for background images.  The Online Rating Notice for such games reads “Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB.”  This is a warning to consumers, in particular to parents, that other players may be able to add content that has not been considered in the ESRB rating assignment.

Nintendo also replied, apologising for the offence and upset that the graffiti caused to the child in question. Rob Posgate, Legal Counsel to Nintendo UK commented:

We can assure you that the anti-Israel graffiti that the child saw was not generated by Nintendo as part of the design of the game, Splatoon 2. We strongly condemn such statements, and the sentiments behind them.”

He explained that Splatoon 2, like many video games, contains features for users to generate and display certain content. The screenshot with the offending graffiti was from the waiting area which users’ characters arrive in before deciding which battle arena to join in order to play the game.

In that waiting area, users may generate and display content including by creating graffiti to be displayed on certain walls.  Posgate said: “The vast majority of our users generate harmless and fun content.  Unfortunately, a very small minority of users may from time to time use this functionality to post harmful and offensive messages. To protect our users from this abusive behaviour, we include a reporting functionality within the game.”

If content is reported using the in-game mechanism, Nintendo can remove any harmful or offensive messages. Nintendo also uses this functionality to escalate repeated or serious offences, where users may be temporarily or permanently banned from the game.

User generated content that is displayed in this graffiti format is randomly posted, and regularly rotated so that any such graffiti would only be displayed for a short while.

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI commented: “If anyone else comes across inappropriate content in a video game, it is important to report this to the video game company, so that the offensive content can be removed as soon as possible, and the offenders can be barred from the game.  We are pleased that Nintendo has highlighted the reporting function on their games.”