Google removes 'Slavery Simulator' game amid outrage in Brazil

·3 min read
A screengrab from the game
A screengrab from the game

Google has removed a highly controversial game called Slavery Simulator from its app store, after it caused outrage in Brazil.

The app, which allowed players to "buy and sell" black characters, was launched by Magnus Games on 20 April.

The game was downloaded more than 1,000 times before it was removed on Wednesday, local media reported.

Brazil is a country still coming to terms with its legacy of slavery, which was only abolished in 1888.

In a description of the game, the developer boasted that users could "exchange, buy and sell slaves". It also allowed players to inflict various forms of torture on black characters.

According to images of the game, users were offered a choice to either liberate the enslaved characters or "use slaves for your own enrichment. Prevent the abolition of slavery and accumulate wealth".

At the time of its removal, the game had a rating of four out of five stars, with one review reading: "Great game to pass the time. But I think it lacked more torture options."

Social media users in Brazil expressed fury over the game, and a number of prominent politicians urged officials to hold tech companies to a higher standard.

"Blatant racism," tweeted Renata Souza, a black activist and regional politician from Rio de Janeiro.

"The image illustrating the game has a white man surrounded by black men. It is absurdly violent. Google and the developer must answer for this crime of hatred and racism."

And Denise Pessoa, a lawmaker with the governing PT political party, wrote on Twitter: "IT IS ABSURD that a game that spreads cruelty and hate speech against black people is available. Our country was built with the blood of the black population. People were killed, tortured. A 'Slavery Simulator' is no joke."

The office of Brazil's Public Prosecutor said it had opened an investigation into how the game - called Simulador de Escravid√£o in Portuguese - was allowed to be placed on the Google Play Store, local media reported.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Ministry for Racial equality said it had arranged a meeting with Google to help build "anti-racist content moderation" policies. It added that the developers would be held legally responsible.

In a statement to the BBC, a Google spokesperson said that the Play Store does not allow "apps that promote violence or incite hatred against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, or that depict or promote gratuitous violence or other dangerous activities".

"When violations are found, we take appropriate action," it added.

Magnus Games did not respond to a BBC request for comment, but in its description of the game the company said it was "created solely for entertainment purposes. Our studio condemns slavery in any form.

"All game content is fictional and not tied to specific historical events. All coincidences are accidental."

More than four million enslaved people were taken to Brazil in the course of the country's history. In 1822, 1.5 million of the 3.5 million people living in the country were enslaved.