It seems that video games and controversy go hand-in-hand. People are always pointing a finger at video games for glorifying things like violence, criminal behavior and sexuality. They are often blamed for addiction, aggression and antisocial behavior. But that’s not all; the ever obnoxious animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has made headlines with their outspoken criticism of many video games for elements of (you guessed it): animal cruelty. Like me, you might be scratching your head at this. Read on, it gets worse.
Most recently, PETA has taken issue with Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (set to be released on October 29th of this year), due to the fact that it gives players the chance to realistically harpoon whales. The organization claims that this “glorifies” whaling. A spokesperson said, “Whaling; that is shooting whales with harpoons and leaving them to struggle for an hour or more before they die or are hacked apart while they are still alive; may seem like something out of the history books, but this bloody industry still goes on today in the face of international condemnation and it’s disgraceful for any game to glorify it.” He also added that, “PETA encourages video game companies to create games that celebrate animals, not games that promote hurting and killing them.”
Um, let’s consider the fact that Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is pirate-themed and takes place in the early 18th century. The fact is, whaling is something out of the history books. Whether or not the controversial (and internationally banned) practice takes place today is irrelevant. Ubisoft continues to strive for historical accuracy in its gmes, as it always has with the Assassin’s Creed series; I don’t expect we’ll see overzealous gamers putting together parties and actually going out whaling as a result. And no real whales were harmed in the making of the game. Ubisoft has yet to respond, so there has been no indication as to whether or not they intend to remove the whaling element from the game.
PETA, however, was successful in convincing Zynga to remove pitbulls as weapons in the popular Facebook game Mafia Wars.
This is not the first video game PETA has taken issue with; not by a long shot. One has to wonder if this is all just a bid for publicity. As far as we know PETA operates no animal shelters, sanctuaries or spay/neuter clinics. In fact, we know of no actual “hands on” rescue/rehabilitation work PETA does with actual, animals.
The newest Pokemon game (Pokemon Black and White 2) has not escaped PETA’s notice. The organization has criticized it for condoning animal cruelty and treating the titular Pokemon like abused animals. These poor, mythical creatures with magic powers are stuffed into balls all day and made to perform at their trainer’s command. I can see how this would inspire real-life animal cruelty to all those magical pets being sold at Petco. PETA has even gone so far as to make a spoof called Pokemon Black and Blue, in which one Pokemon finally becomes fed up and incites a rebellion. The game allows players to battle as Pokemon against their cruel trainers. So, apparently battling humans is perfectly acceptable.
Even Mario found himself in PETA’s crosshairs when he donned the raccoon suit (Tanooki) which enables him to fly in Super Mario 3d Land. Apparently, the tanooki is a real-life raccoon dog that is killed for its fur in parts of the world. They have also made a spoof of this game in which Tanooki attempts to reclaim his fur. Picture it: Mario is chased by a bloody, skinned dog through a fur farm where the dogs are skinned alive. That’s just sick. What’s next, is Bowser going to exact his revenge on Mario, too? Leave everybody’s favorite plumber alone. One can argue that Mario has been strictly vegetarian up until this point, with a diet consisting solely of flowers and mushrooms. In PETA’s defense, though, they did attempt to backpedal and claim that this campaign was, “just a joke.” Right, because it was so much more absurd than their other campaigns.
Let’s not forget Call of Duty. Yes, Call of Duty, where you are a soldier and your objective is to shoot and kill humans. However, there is that one kill-streak reward where you can unleash a pack of vicious attack dogs on your enemies. And yes, they can shoot and kill the dogs in order to defend themselves. PETA’s response to this outrage was markedly less disturbing; they simply sent Activision Blizzard a few complimentary copies of Nintendogs to show them how video game dogs ought to be treated. I’m sure their reaching out was well received.
Last and possibly most ridiculous, PETA has protested baby seal clubbing in World of Warcraft. They went so far as to encourage those with characters level 70 or above to transfer to a particular server and travel to Howling Fjord to battle the Horde and stop the mindless slaughter of these virtual seals. Never mind all the other animals in WoW that can be killed and skinned for leather and hunters’ pets that are forced to do battle for them (much like the Pokemon mentioned earlier). It’s worth noting that the server PETA picked to host the protest was not even a PVP server.
And the list goes on. PETA responded to Super Meat Boy with their own version: Super Tofu Boy. They protested when Michael Vick was in the running for the cover of Madden 2012. They were upset at Battlefield 3 for giving players the ability to kill rats. Yes, rats. Again, not a word is spoken of the hundreds of humans who are killed. They even petitioned video game publisher Majesco to issue a vegetarian edition of their game Cooking Mama, claiming that the latest installment (Cooking Mama: World Kitchen) featured too many meat-based recipes. Oh yes, they made a disturbing parody of that one as well: Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals.
All I can do is shake my head at PETA’s campaign to save the digital animals. PETA’s “campaigns” are akin to the arguments of those who try to trace every mass murder back to Call of Duty, only worse. I also have to wonder where PETA was when Nintendo’s Duck Hunt was released.