Valve has been revealing new Artifact cards on its Twitter feed over the past few days, including one called Crack the Whip. "When you play Crack the Whip, it triggers once right after its played," Valve wrote. "If you play an Untested Grunt next to the whipped hero it will trigger again, and the Grunt will receive the bonus."
That's innocuous enough—"cracking the whip" is a fairly common and widely used phrase—but the card text turned it into something altogether different. "Crack the Whip," it says. "Modify a black hero with 'After you play a black card, give this hero and its allied neighbors +2 Attack this round'."
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/qXflFpdOZbSeptember 26, 2018
The "black hero" is a reference to card color: As we explain in our Artifact guide, cards and heroes are selected from four possible colors—red, green, blue, and black—each with its own "personality" and range of capabilities. But commenters on Twitter very quickly pointed out the potential (and, let's be honest, obvious) racial connotations of the card text.
"Having a card called 'Crack the Whip' that says it modifies black heroes is not a good look, especially out of context," one said. Another pointed out that "the pairing of 'black' with 'whip' can be easily misinterpreted/misrepresented," and could also very easily be used "inappropriately" on platforms like Twitch. There were also memes—no surprise there—and suggestions that the card text, while certainly not intentionally racist, was evidence of a lack of diversity at Valve.
Valve didn't respond to the criticism on Twitter, but it did take to heart the suggestion made by several people that the whole thing could be easily fixed with a name change.
Crack the Whip has been renamed to Coordinated Assault.September 28, 2018
Full credit goes to Valve for moving quickly to correct what was obviously a dumb and avoidable mistake, but as several commenters pointed out, addressing the circumstances that enabled it to be made in the first place would be an even bigger and more meaningful step. I've reached out to Valve for more information, and will update if I receive a reply.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.