Last night, Twitter user Christina Lu (a BuzzFeed employee) noticed some strange and offensive text in the rampant new mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Pictured above, it's an auto-generated greeting from another BuzzFeed employee, Ellie Hall. Users have no control over their auto-generated greetings to other users, though they can sync their auto-greeting to their last tweet. But Hall has never, ever, ever, tweeted anything remotely close to "Whats up ma nigga?"
The implication: One of the most popular games on the planet right now, which boasts at least hundreds of thousands of users, attributes racially charged language to people who are totally unaware.
Unacceptable, right? Yes and no.
Both Lu and Hall, it turns out, had been playing a very popular "hacked" version of the game which gives the player unlimited "cash" and "K-stars" (quantities that the game gives out piecemeal to encourage in-app spending). The "hack" isn't anything complicated; it just involves swapping out the user's current saved game for one widely available online.
It did raise the possibility, however, that the uploader of the hacked save file had doctored in-game greetings, including the "Whats up ma nigga" that Lu saw. The save file was uploaded to SiNfuL iPhone Forums by a user named BJorn_LuLszic, who has not responded to Facebook and Twitter messages.
To complicated matters, other users who have apparently not hacked the game (they don't have unlimited cash or K-stars), have also reported very strange auto-greetings:
So are these auto-generated, or perhaps these users had set their greeting to be previous tweets? In the case of the second image, the Twitter account @skyhighemiko hasn't tweeted since 2011. And even then, it's not clear if this user is actually synced to a Twitter account.
Which leads to the question: Has Glu programmed Kim Kardashian: Hollywood with wildly inappropriate auto-responses? That would certainly be a first for a hugely popular iPhone game that is rated 12+ (for pertinently, "Infrequent/Mild Profanity") and doesn't include a significant way for users to add their own content. At the time of this writing, no one was answering the Glu office phone, and the company has not responded to an email for comment.
According to Jason Enriquez, Glu's director of business development and global communications, players do have the option to add in their own greeting, which potentially explains the latter two messages.
Says Enriquez, "We didn’t include anything that is inappropriate in the game."
This still doesn't explain the first, extremely off-color instance, which may be attributable to the hack. Hall, the BuzzFeed employee to whom the greeting was attributed in-game, did not at any point enter her own greeting in the game.
Kim Kardashian posted a response on her personal website:
"I have to clarify a false report about my new game app. The screenshots in this article show some offensive greetings being used, which are from a hacked version of the game–not the REAL version. To clarify: Nothing inappropriate is included in any part of my game! Just wanted to clear the air. Thank you for all the support so far. I’m glad you are loving the game as much as I do! Xo"
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at email@example.com.
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