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Playtonic removes controversial YouTuber JonTron from Yooka-Laylee

“We do not endorse or support JonTron's personal viewpoints”

UK developer Playtonic has removed the controversial YouTuber JonTron from its upcoming title Yooka-Laylee.

JonTron - real name Jon Jafari - has found himself in the news in recent weeks following a series of far-right views about immigration, ethnicity and nationalism.

Jafari is the founder of channel network Normal Boots, plus the host of a series of other YouTube shows. He personally has over 3m subscribers to his channel. His views were made apparent on Twitter and spilled over onto a video stream, and included the idea that Mexican immigrants are attempting to claim parts of America.

He reportedly lost a number of subscribers on the back of the controversy, although he has since attempted to clarify and downplay some of those views.

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Jon Jafari has over 3m YouTube subscribers

In February 2015, when it became apparent that Jafari was a big fan of Banjo-Kazooie, Playtonic invited the YouTuber to voice a minor character in Yooka-Laylee - the spiritual successor that generated over £2m via Kickstarter. An offer that was accepted.

However, following the recent controversy, the developer has decided to remove him from the game. The title launches on April 11th.

"We recently became aware of comments made by voice artist JonTron after development on Yooka-Laylee had been completed," the firm told GamesIndustry.biz in a statement.

"JonTron is a talented video presenter who we were initially, two years ago, happy to include as a voice contributor in our game. However, in light of his recent personal viewpoints we have made the decision to remove JonTron's inclusion in the game via a forthcoming content update. We would like to make absolutely clear that we do not endorse or support JonTron's personal viewpoints and that, as an external fan contributor, he does not represent Playtonic in any capacity. Playtonic is a studio that celebrates diversity in all forms and strives to make games that everyone can enjoy. As such, we deeply regret any implied association that could make players feel anything but 100% comfortable in our game worlds, or distract from the incredible goodwill and love shown by our fans and Kickstarter backers."  

Update: Jafari has responded to Playtonic's decision on Twitter. He wrote: "Unfortunate to see Playtonic remove me from Yooka Laylee, but I understand their decision. I wish them the best with their launch!"

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Latest comments (23)

Maged Hamdy Studying Computer Science, Rochester Institute of Technology2 months ago
Shouldn't we have higher standards than linking back to tabloids like Kotaku and less than reputable news sources like Polygon? You could've just embedded/linked the tweets instead of going for inflated second party opinions.
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 months ago
We support diversity as long you don't diverge from our support of diversity.
Makes perfect sense to me.
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Craig Whitehouse Digital Archivist, Musician 2 months ago
@Ruben Monteiro: I agree. Pretty gutted for Jon on this one, even if what he said is deemed #2edgy4me.
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Show all comments (23)
Jessica Hyland Artist, Turbulenz Limited2 months ago
I think it's perfectly reasonable for a company to cut ties with someone who starts spouting racist nonsense, but perhaps that's just me being overly intolerant. Of racists.
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Marcelo Careaga Head of Tencent Publishing, Miniclip2 months ago
@Ruben Monteiro: Do you mean supporting diversity needs to come with supporting views not supporting diversity? Doesn't that look antithetical to you?
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 months ago
I'm not sure why people have so much trouble with this concept:

When you *$&! on people, they stop wanting to help you.
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 months ago
@Marcelo Careaga: I think you either support diversity or you don't, and it's perfectly valid not to, like they did in this case by excluding someone that didn't match their ethics.
But doing that while at the same time claiming to "celebrate diversity in all forms"? I just think it's bad phrasing and sounds contradictory to me.
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Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 2 months ago
@Ruben Monteiro: 'Diversity' is shorthand for 'a diverse community of positive cultures, genders, orientations, etc' It doesn't mean you have to accept 'Hitler was right' just because that's one of many diverse opinions. Now, what's positive and what's not? That gets more contentious. Mostly we agree that more food is always good (even Brits have a few good foods) and for other things it's fuzzy, but it's clear JonTron's factually wrong and nasty comments about black people aren't the sort of thing that add positiveness to a community.

If you want to complain about the word 'diversity' being appropriated from its literal meaning then take it up with words like 'terrorist', or poor 'freedom', which is being violently abused right now.
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Eric Hoyt Studying Engineering, University of Colorado2 months ago
I seriously just went through the painful process of registering on this site, just to inform you @Ron Dippold that no, that is NOT the definition of diversity. That's adorable, but the definition of diversity is simply "the state of being diverse; variety". That's it.

You can't say what's "Good", or "Positive", and in the same way you can't say what's "Bad" or "Nasty", because that is COMPLETELY subjective. For instance, I could say you're a damn evil person, because you support communism, and thus YOU should be silenced and shut down, but I imagine you'd have problems with that.

(Not that I know your personal view points but I imagine you, based on your defense of shutting down "Offense speech", probably a supporter of of at least socialism, but again, just an example here, I don't know your personal viewpoints)

This being said, the viewpoints and ideas expressed by JonTron are not supported by hidden racists, nor did a bunch of magically evil people emerge from the forests to vote in this past election. His views clearly haven't detracted 3 million people subscribed to him. What you are effectively saying, is that JonTron, and roughly half the nation, are "wrong" and "nasty". That is insane. You are effectively saying millions of people are evil, which is not even vaguely true, but that's how you see them.

You create the habits, patterns, and power to silence unpopular opinions, or popular ones, and the minute someone you don't like gains power you've given them power to silence you.

So yes, you even let nutjobs that say "Hitler was right" talk, just as much as you do people who say "Che Guevara was a nice guy" continue to talk, because if you silence an opinion you don't like, it will just make that opinion more popular.
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Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 2 months ago
@Eric Hoyt: Sigh. I'm just telling you what Playtronic likely means when they say 'diversity', and why it's not hypocritical for them to dump him. It's what people who say 'diversity' without sneering and spitting on the floor mean.

You can of course quote me the dictionary definition, and I'll go 'Wow I did not know that, having no access to a dictionary, boy do I feel silly.' Maybe they should explicitly say 'positive diversity' to head off the concern trolling - seriously, that's a good idea.

JonTron said, among other crazy things, quote, “Wealthy blacks also commit more crime than poor whites. That’s a fact. Look it up." It's not a fact. And it's not even a freedom of speech thing, this is a private company deciding they don't want to be associated with a dumbass - that's bonafide freedom of association right there. Gaming's reputation is dismal enough already.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Ron Dippold on 24th March 2017 5:28am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 months ago
When you call out people on their BS is the very definition of free speech. You do not oppress anybody by calling their bluffs and agitation. Freedom of speech does not result in anybody having the right to say anything without consequences, especially when you cross into slander and hate speech territory. You can say it alright, but everybody else has the right to respond as well. Being cut from a game is the least of it. Laws against slander and hatespeech are real, 'look it up'.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 months ago
@Ruben Monteiro: There is a difference into having a particular set of ideas, and being openly xenophobic and spread hateful ideas. I don't think that is hard to see.
You are also taking wrong how "diversity" work; it's doesn't mean that they have to tolerate absolutely everything and everybody.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 24th March 2017 8:21am

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Dan Pearson European Editor, GamesIndustry.biz2 months ago
@Eric Hoyt: They're not silencing him. He, as you just pointed out, has a YouTube channel with THREE MILLION subscribers. What they've done is say: "what you've said is repugnant to us, please leave our house and express your views elsewhere."

Surely you can see the distinction between that and whatever bizarre Communist Stasi police state you've dreamt up?
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 months ago
@Eric Hoyt: So, you registered to take a statement about diversity ON PEOPLE, take it out of context, suggest that somebody is a socialist and use such idea to take credibility away from him? Honestly, I think you could have saved the time for that.

There is only a highlight I can point in your statement:

"So yes, you even let nutjobs that say "Hitler was right" talk, just as much as you do people who say "Che Guevara was a nice guy" continue to talk, because if you silence an opinion you don't like, it will just make that opinion more popular."

There is where the problem is; you confuse "disagree with a point of view" with "try to silence somebody". He's not silencing anybody (Arguably, that would have been Playtonic in this case); when somebody (anyone) writes something or say something he has that right, of course, but people around him have the right to challenge, disagree, or state his opinion about his idea. That is what Ron did here, he did not try to silence him at all: he challenged his idea and stated his desired (also a right) of not listening to a guy that he considers racist.
Now, with this stated, let me remind you how you registered in the web JUST to answer him. You focused your entire statement into proving him wrong, suggesting he has personal issues against the guy instead of his ideas and a secondary and kinda shy (everyone noticed, I'm afraid) attempt to discredit him by putting him in the socialist spectrum, which I'm going to guess you dislike.

So basically: Rod was trying to "disagree with a point of view", and you tried to "silence somebody"
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Adam Campbell Producer, Hopster2 months ago
@Jessica Hyland: Agreed 100%
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Keldon Alleyne Developer, leader, writer, Avasopht Ltd2 months ago
Failing to see how people can view this as "silencing unpopular views?"

It's as simple as, they are a company that employs many people, some of which are mexican. By endorsing this guy they are sending a clear message that they do not respect their mexican employees.

They also serve many people, some of which are mexicans.

It's not about saying half the population is evil, just that those views are not what they endorse. And if half the population hold irrational fears that mexicans are trying to take over I'd think there was a serious issue with the mental health of the nation - though a quarter of voters did believe the Pizzagate hoax!
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 months ago
@Ron Dippold: I'm sorry but their exact phrasing according the article is " celebrates diversity in all forms". ALL means ALL. It's not "all, except X". Maybe they should have used "positive diversity" as you say, but they didn't. So it does come across as hypocritical.
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Keldon Alleyne Developer, leader, writer, Avasopht Ltd2 months ago
@Ruben: when people say diversity in all forms, they mean it within a context of acceptable views. For example pedophilia would fall in the net of "ALL," but clearly when people praise diversity they're not intending to include pedophilia.

If you can understand that it should not be difficult to understand why racist views (including irrational racial fears) is also not within the context.

Is it really that complicated?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 24th March 2017 1:31pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 months ago
@Ruben Monteiro:
Celebrating diversity does not mean giving a platform to the undiverse.

Celebrating diversity does not mean celebrating bigotry, hatred and ignorance.

You cannot celebrate inclusion by accepting exclusion.
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Phil Hindle Contract Videgame Programmer 2 months ago
It's PlayTonic's game, they made it, they're under no obligation whatsoever to include anyone's contribution to the game. Every game developer has worked on code, art, assets, which have been cut from the game - do you hear them all moaning? The game isn't even finished yet, so I'd argue that saying he's been "removed" from the game is spurious.
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 months ago
@Jim Webb: "Celebrating diversity does not mean celebrating bigotry, hatred and ignorance."

I'm afraid it does (though I'd use the word "accepting" rather than "celebrating", for bigotry, etc).
Otherwise all that you're doing is excluding people you label as ignorant/bigots/haters (which is a subjective label you put on them, not an objective reality), and then celebrate diversity with the set of people that do conform to your ideas, which you believe to be the absolutely correct ones.
So in effect, you don't really want to celebrate diversity, what you want is to celebrate support for your ideas with people that think like you. Which is fine :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Ruben Monteiro on 24th March 2017 7:47pm

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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios2 months ago
Seriously, Ruben. It's not about thought policing. It's how you choose to act. We all have bad thoughts now and then, but most of us recognise the difference between acceptable and unacceptable. And yes, this is a social construct, and that's a good thing - if it was all based on dictionary definitions we could never improve society. We don't progress by accepting all viewpoints uncritically as you propose.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 2 months ago
This is an old solved issue, called the Paradox of Tolerance. Pretending it's a radical new thought is a weird modern perspective.

"Freedom of speech to those who would use it to eliminate the very principle upon which they rely is paradoxical" to quote Popper. Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. Therefrom in the name of tolerance, their must be restrictions on the tolerance of the intolerant. This is a logical truism.

Even the most staunch freedom advocate admits we must restrict people in certain ways to preserve our way of life. But everyone makes their own decisions on where that line is. We are all free to do so, but pretending unless someone advocates total unlimited tolerance we aren't being tolerant is being logically unsound and perhaps even willfully malicious.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 27th March 2017 11:04am

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