When Religion and Games Intersect

Sistine_arsMichael Thompson in Ars Technica:

Christianity isn't the only religion to appear in games, nor is it the only one where spiritual leaders have been offended by their faith's presentation on consoles and/or PCs. Sony recently learned this with the launch of LittleBigPlanet, which was delayed when it was revealed that one of the game's background music pieces —”Tapha Niang,” performed by Toumani Diabate's Symmetrical Orchestra— featured quotes from the Qur'an, the Islamic religion's holy text.

When an Islamic gamer heard the song and noticed some Arabic words from the Qur'an, he verified that he wasn't hearing things and then notified Sony via the company's forums. After pointing out the specific instances of the Qur'an quotes, he explained the problem this represented for Muslims. “We Muslims consider the mixing of music and words from our Holy Quran deeply offending,” he explained. “We hope you would remove that track from the game immediately via an online patch, and make sure that all future shipments of the game disk do not contain it.”

Sony took the issue very seriously. After investigating the claim, the company wound up delaying LittleBigPlanet's worldwide release for and then releasing a patch that removed the vocals from the song track. Media Molecule, the game's developer, publicly apologized and stated that it the studio felt “gutted” for the controversy it caused.

Funnily enough, this action was loudly criticized by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted,” the group said. “The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive. But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.”

Of course, it isn't only religious content from Islam that has wound up getting developers in hot water; recently, on game in particular managed to raise the ire of the Hinduism community. The first PS2 game to be exclusively developed and released in India, Hanuman: Boy Warrior, was criticized by Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.