For a small period of time, a new player emblem was made available, celebrating black culture. The emblem featured red, black, and green paint stripes, with three yellow birds flying over it. All in all, a very standard expression. Unfortunately, this emblem was also named Bonobo. Which, if you didnt know, is an endangered variety of great ape.
Juneteenth, for those who might not know, is a recently established federal holiday. It celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, but is also synonymous with celebrating black culture all around. We dont need to tell you why naming an emblem based on black culture after a type of ape is a pretty flagrant instance of racism.
The issue was noticed quite quickly, and was shared online. Not long after, the developers took notice and immediately changed it. The emblem is now named Freedom.
So what happened? How does someone accidentally do something like this? Well, according to John Junyszek, Sr. Community Manager for Halo, its leftover from an internal toolset (a piece of software for making development easier or more efficient).
We strive to create diverse and inclusive gaming communities. While the original name refers to an internal toolset, it was not intended to be applied to this content and we recognize the harm it may have caused.
The palette was incorrectly named and we immediately renamed it via an update.
There remains a number of questions: what toolset would result in this happening? How did no one internally notice this problem before reaching publication? One running theory is that something in their system will name files after various animals, and this is just an unfortunate coincidence, but we lack the details to know for sure.
The issue didnt go away immediately, though. Eventually, it reached 343 founder and head honcho Bonnie Ross.
We were made aware of a palette option for our Juneteenth emblem that contained a term that was offensive and hurtful. The team immediately addressed this issue via an update.
We are a studio and franchise that is committed to inclusivity where everyone is welcome and supported to be their true self. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a hurtful moment.
So maybe it was a genuine accident. Maybe 343 has some expressive racists in their workplace that managed to sneak something out there. We arent sure what the truth is, so were giving the company the benefit of the doubt and believing them when they say it was an accident.
This does remind us of a similar situation about a year ago. During a limited time beta for Back 4 Blood, the co-op zombie shooter game, some players noticed that the zombies appeared to be saying what sounded like the N-word. After much confusion by the devs (who knew very well that none of their zombie shout sound files contained such a slur), they discovered that it was a bug that caused two separate zombie noises to play and overlap, causing it to sound like a racial slur.