Batman: The Enemy Within removes photo resembling real murder victim

Telltale Games have hastily updated the latest episode of Batman: The Enemy Within [official site] to remove an in-game photograph of a murder victim which bore a striking resemblance to a real-world photo of murdered Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov following his assassination. Telltale avoid addressing how this happened, but do say they “regret this incident occurred” are “taking appropriate internal action”.

The image appears in Episode Two of The Enemy Within, which launched this week, as Bruce Wayne looks at crime scenes on his mate Batman’s Batcomputer. One is a deadly bank robbery committed by Harley Quinn, where a body lies before an open vault. This figure, YouTuber Bro Team Pill noticed on Thursday, looks an awful lot like Andrei Karlov on the ground in a widely-published photo after he was shot at an art gallery in 2016.

I’ll not embed the pictures here but to be quite clear: you will see a photograph of a dead person and his assassin standing over him if you click on this link for a comparison.

Following a day of speculation in cyberspace, Telltale responded with a statement last night:

“An update to the game has been submitted this morning that will be removing the image across all platforms. We regret this incident occurred, and we are taking appropriate action internally to ensure that we continue to maintain our high standards in Production and Quality Assurance.”

Which skirts around stating directly whether the image was based upon Karlov or not and, if so, how that ever seemed sensible to anyone. But it does look an awful lot like the in-game photo is based on/painted over the real-world photo.

It does seems unlikely that an artist sought to specifically recreate Karlov’s assassination. Far more likely is that someone was searching around for reference pictures of a dead body lying on a floor, found that, then, either thinking it was a staged scene or making a gross and insensitive decision, used that. Either scenario is foolish.

20 Comments

  1. Halk says:

    It was not resembling a murder victim, it was a murder victim. Like literally copy and pasted from a photo into the game.

  2. waltC says:

    Yes if it actually wasn’t the guy they’d have simply denied it–but there’s no question that they actually used the guy’s crime scene. Hence the apology and removal.

  3. dylan says:

    Whoops…

  4. pepperfez says:

    That photo won the World Press Photo of the Year award, so it’s. It’s an amazing, bizarre image that honestly looks like something out of a particularly bleak comic book, so I can see a too-clever-for-his-own-good artist sneaking it into a game.

    Haha, I wrote that before I looked at the comparison. Those fucking hacks, they copied exactly enough to be gross and none of the things that make the real image compelling. The artistic bankruptcy is really hard on the heels of the moral bankruptcy there.

    • UncleLou says:

      It‘s an original photo that was taken from a different angle and a few seconds earlier or later than the WPA photo. There’s a whole “series” of the complete murder.

      • pepperfez says:

        Right, I’m just offended that the part they copied — the pose and appearance of the victim — is both the most tasteless and the least interesting thing they could have copied. I was expecting to see a shooting in a minimalist art gallery where everyone was wearing a suit, not the ambassador’s body used as a prop in a generic grimdark room.

  5. icecoldbud says:

    To all of you gaming artists looking for a job zip off your resume to Telltale there surely will be a job for you opening up momentarily…..

  6. mujie says:

    I guess dead people in games aren’t allowed to lie down and have suits?

  7. ResonanceCascade says:

    I’m guessing someone did a google image search for something like “dead guy in a suit” and either lazily (and potentially illegally) copied it, or meant to use it as a placeholder or reference and forgot about it.

    Anyway, it’s an astounding photograph. It almost looks professionally staged. I’m not excusing the laziness and/or sloppiness that led to it appearing in this game, but I can see why it wouldn’t cross the artist’s mind that it was an actual dead person.

    • April March says:

      Yeah. I saw the original photo first and thought that THAT was the image from the game.

      It does mean that someone copied from an image on the internet without clearing its rights, like they were doing a photoshop contest on Something Awful.

    • Kodaemon says:

      That’s the thing, there were professional photographers at the site, because no one was expecting something like this, and one of them just happened to stay calm enough to take the photo. I’d seen the original photo before, not because I’m one of those people searching for shock footage, but bcause it came up in the news. It’s kind of aesthetically perfect, awful as it may be.

  8. spacedyemeerkat says:

    For anyone interested, and since the story may be slightly inaccurate in the sense that it’s not a dead body, Karlov apparently died in hospital rather than at the scene.

  9. TheAngriestHobo says:

    It’s basically Tali’s face all over again.

  10. poliovaccine says:

    I can see potentially someone thinking it would make a clever easter egg, not realizing how tasteless it was because, yknow, they had no taste. The fact that the photo was so acclaimed in itself makes me think it’s possible it’s well enough known, at least large enough in one game artist’s mind, that the decision to use it could have been deliberate.

    Placeholder or random google result ideas also seem super possible. Interesting little thing.

    What are the rules about images of dead people anyway? We see that burning monk all the time, yknow, the one from that Rage Against the Machine album cover, and we see dead Africans and Iranians and Somalians and so forth in media, I mean they do politely instruct you to avert your eyes if the images will offend you, but that’s a far cry from refraining from their use so as not to offend. You guys must have seen the clickbait where they show peoples’ death masks, right? Or the ones of Victorian-era families posing corpses for photographs? What are the rules on the Zapruder film? How about the Zapruder film vs. a neat and tidy open casket burial? There were images of dead civilians on the front page of the newspaper after this latest Las Vegas sniper shooting – what are the rules on that? At what point does your dead visage take on the historic import, and thereby vague responsibility to all mankind that seems to fall upon dead Egyptian pharaohs, citizens of Pompeii, and other significant corpses?

    If it seems like I’m trying to lead towards some point in particular, I’m not – I just mean to ask each of these questions individually, because it all seems too arbitrary to me to do anything else. It’s like the judge’s famous definition of pornography: “I dont know how to explain it, but I know it when I see it.” This death image seems obviously tasteless and callous, I dont argue that for a second, but just as clearly as that’s apparent, there are so many other deaths we view with entirely different eyes. Why isnt it the same watching JFK get shot as Lee Harvey Oswald (regardless if you think he killed JFK or not)? Or *isnt* it the same? It feels like it should be, but it also feels like it isnt. Does it matter who the person is who’s dying? I guess it obviously does in various ways, right? It would matter if it was your mother. We cry when the good characters die and cheer when the bad ones do. But if who you are can matter, what else about your death can matter too? The room you’re in, the clothes you’re wearing? The particular grimace which finally fixes on your particular face at rhe end, what if something about it or you or your death is comical? To what extent is the fame of the photograph relevant to the perception of gross insult in this strange bit of game assets? It’s like death is a kind of nakedness, and the difference between pornography and the Venus de Milo is its own kind of blurred line.

    • soco says:

      So this won’t answer all of your points you brought up, but one that is important that I don’t think you mentioned is copyright.
      The photo used was probably under copyright by the photographer or by the news outlet the photographer worked for. Legally, this is the problem…someone just copied and pasted a work they didn’t own that was owned by someone else and didn’t get permission. They also used it in a commercial product which adds a layer of issue usually (often if it is for a non-profit or education a copyright holder will just ask that it is taken down, but a for-profit work can be sued with the idea that the owner of the copyright is entitled to some of the monetary gain.)

      None of this addresses your main points about when it is ok to see dead bodies, under what context, etc…which is a much more complicated issue and one that will differ by culture, and probably within cultures. But while we as a society may have a problem with the photo being used here in that it feels icky or in bad taste, if there is a suit it will be over copyright.

      Although, now having written that I could see the surviving family suing over emotional harm or something along those lines. Again, this is probably because it is a commercial work and would likely be looked upon differently if it were for education or informational like a journalism piece.

      • poliovaccine says:

        That’s all very true, I didnt even consider copyright as part of the equation, but that’s a whole other level. I’m interested by the distinction you point out in it being a commercial product, since I can absolutely see the guy’s family objecting to some game developers “profiting off his death,” but aren’t newspapers and news networks also profiting there as well? What about the photographer, aren’t they profiting, too? I dont mean to argue that commercial use would or should be viewed differently than artistic or educational use, because that much is clearly apparent, and the distinction of one’s death being used in an art photo for the ages vs. a Batman-themed videogame seems obvious – but I do mean to wonder aloud why that is, exactly..? Not that I don’t *get* it, but I’d struggle to *articulate* it.

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