Valve has taken the wise course of changing the name of “Crack The Whip” from their upcoming digital trading card game, Artifact.
Game developers, even ones with large and diverse populations like Valve, sometimes find themselves living in a perfect bubble in which so many of the world’s problems don’t seem to exist. Problems like racism, inequality, and homophobia just don’t register as much as they should while they’re pouring their hearts out making the best game possible.
We’re hoping that’s what happened with Valve when they recently unveiled the card “Crack the Whip” during one of their Artifact teaser announcements on Twitter.
The announcement itself was pretty innocuous — just letting people see an example of how easy it will be to understand the game’s mechanics. However, as their example, they chose a somewhat questionably-named card with an even more questionable mechanic on top of that.
This card packs a big punch immediately and then keeps on punching. When you play Crack the Whip, it triggers once right after it’s played. If you play an Untested Grunt next to the whipped hero it will trigger again, and the Grunt will receive the bonus. pic.twitter.com/qXflFpdOZb— Artifact (@PlayArtifact) September 26, 2018
“Crack the Whip” as a card name isn’t so bad on its own, but combined with the card’s effect can seem like a reference to slavery that’s a little too on the nose. The card read: "Modify a black hero with 'After you play a black card, give this hero and its allied neighbors +2 Attack this round."
The art on the card was simply a larger kobold-lookin’ dude whipping a smaller kobold —evidently kobolds (or lizardmen, or whatever) being representative of “black” creatures in Artifact’s color pie. But taken out of context, the card can seem awfully insensitive during an era of increased racial tensions in the United States.
Valve was immediately bombarded by gamers questioning the logic of including a card with this combination of statements, mostly using hilarious gifs of African Americans looking dumbfounded. At least one Twitter user seemed to want to offer genuine advice for Valve, which the developer wisely took.
Crack the Whip has been renamed to Coordinated Assault.— Artifact (@PlayArtifact) September 28, 2018
Brad Muir, one of Artifact’s lead developers, quickly announced that “Crack the Whip” would be renamed “Coordinated Assault”.
Artifact will take on a crowded market of trading card games starting November 28th. Whether it will grab enough players from Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering remains to be seen, but even if it flops, Valve will still have oodles of cash to throw around, don’t you worry.