Little Big Outrage

21 10 2008

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or this is the only source you look to for videogames industry news, you’ll probably have heard that Little Big Planet is delayed, and all copies recalled, due to there being phrases from the Koran in the soundtrack.

Copies are still available in some places, with pre-cut versions fetching more than double the retail price on ebay. Fairly redundant, since they patched the music out of it as soon as they knew and the game is largely dependent on being online.

The BBC have the most interesting coverage of this, though already, Sony seem to have handled it well and it’s turning into a non-issue:

Manzoor Moghal, of the Muslim Forum think-tank, explained that words from the Koran should not be set to music because the words are seen to have come directly from God.

He added: “We must compliment Sony for taking decisive action by withdrawing these games immediately, and releasing a version that is not offensive to Muslims.”

It can’t be a good place for Sony and Media Molecule right now, though ultimately I expect this is all good mainstream marketing for the game. The really interesting thing about this crisis is that it underlines just how atrocious and unfounded the past religious hoohah surrounding Resistance was.

The BBC piece reminds us of the ire Sony once attracted, by way of Resistance developer Insomniac including Manchester Cathedral in PS3 launch title Resistance. After throwing a double barreled ecumenical ninny-fit and blathering on about gun crime for months, the church found that visitor numbers and interest in the cathedral had been boosted, no doubt due to the large amount of PR baiting they did during the “controversy”.

Given the tropes built around videogames in the 80s and 90s, it was understandable for them to be concerned about power fantasies involving shooting up churches, and I can see their outrage beginning with that assumption. However, I think it was inexcusable for them to willfully ignore that the content of the game wasn’t built around such ideas, even when it was repeatedly brought to their attention.

I wonder how the British tabloids will handle this, if at all? The gutter press have been vilifying both videogames and muslims for years now; and despite that muslims have a much more legitimate cause for complaint than Manchester Cathedral did, will the press suddenly jump to the side of games now they’re fashionable? Alternatively, will there be “Games company appeases Islam, yet ignored our dear old Church of England!” headlines? I really hope not, but could see hacks going for exactly that angle.

All very consternating, and poor Media Molecule are stuck in the middle of it through no fault of their own: The music they licensed has been around for longer than the game. Phrases from the Koran in LPB are an honest mistake, with Media Molecule in fact trying to do a very good thing in licensing music from small artists and labels. Nonetheless, the offence it could accidentally cause is genuine, much to MMs consternation.

(CC image by rutty)

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