Bono, Computer Games, and Venezuela ... imagine how they all connect

March 22 2007

This is just so absurd it is funny

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his supporters have been quite vocal in their dissatisfaction that the events of Pandemic Studios' free-roaming destruct-a-thon Mercenaries 2: World in Flames--set for release this fall on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC--take place in a virtual recreation of Venezuela. With those past complaints having little tangible effect, the Venezuela Solidarity Network is now asking religious leaders and secular-minded individuals to petition a seemingly unlikely target: U2 lead singer Bono.

Why Bono? The singer is a partner in Elevation Partners, the firm that acquired Bioware and Pandemic Studios in 2005, meaning Bono is in part funding development of the game. The VSN hopes that Bono's connection to Pandemic and his "efforts to erase the plagues of debt and famine from our planet" will give them the edge in their goal to "to see that 'Mercenaries 2' is pulled from stores and not sold anywhere."

Citing that "behavioral science research demonstrates that playing violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior," the VSN's letter states "a game like 'Mercenaries 2' in which the player assumes the role of killer in scenes that appear very life-like is even more likely to provoke aggressiveness." The group is also concerned "that the game inevitably will provoke increased tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. Pandemic Studios has made a similar training game for the U.S. military. This fact is not overlooked by Venezuelans, who see this as further evidence of U.S. government hostility toward their country."

Mercenaries 2 "is just a video game--and as they say in the movies, all characters and events are purely fiction," Pandemic cofounder Josh Resnick told GameSpot. "Our setting provides gamers with the overall look and feel of Venezuela, although it is not an accurate street by street depiction and the characters as well as the storyline are completely made up. More to the point, the characters are categorically not based on any real political figures in Venezuela or elsewhere."

Resnick went on to describe the practice of setting fictional storylines in real places as a "common practice in the entertainment business [of] both movies and video games," claiming the situation "isn't any different than setting a movie like Goodfellas in New York."

I am not sure which to do ... fall off my chair in laughter or shake my head off in disgust


4 Responses to “Bono, Computer Games, and Venezuela ... imagine how they all connect”

  1. 1) Steve Tsuida says:

    I suppose the difference right now between Mercenaries 2 and Goodfellas is that the people of 1970's New York don't feel as if the current US administration has it in for them somehow. Whether the VSN are right or wrong in their beliefs, they are their beliefs. In Venezuela they have a nightly TV show called 'Hello President' where President Chavez takes calls, gives rants, etc. so they're sort of used to the line between products and policy being blurred.

    Maybe the easiest way to see it from their side is to imagine if Squaresoft developed a RPG in which you play the part of a sympathetic young Persian man, teleported through time, and now on a mission to blow up the Sears Tower on St. Patick's Day. [All set to the requisite, tinny Tokyo Pop disco.] We'd all know it was just a game but we'd also wonder what exactly 'Japan' was trying to say to us.

  2. 2) John Head says:

    Steve - you must not understand my position on content then (not just games, but movies, music, magazines, etc). I firmly believe that parents have a right to determine what minors see and support the tools that do that ... requiring IDs to by mature games or movie tickets, content control software on PCs, etc. I also support the right for the government to put a system in place to rate content and keep mature content away from minors. I get pissed when I see a 14 year old boy by The Sopranos DVDs at Best Buy ... they should be fined for that. But I am 100% anti-censorship in any manner. Some of that stuff offends the hell out of me, but I fight for a person's right to make it. Grand Theft Auto for instance ... I find that game so over the top I can not play it, even if the game design its is stellar. But I would fight and defend Rockstar's right to make the game.

    So let someone make that game about blowing up the Sears Tower. I wouldn't buy it. I would probably write something about how I think the content choice was wrong and minors shouldn't have access to it. But I would respect their right to make it and support that.

    Yeah, I know, coming from me, that is not the opinion most expect. LOL

  3. 3) Simon says:

    With all do respect, I think Mr. Head is missing the point.

    The game is post coup d'etat and post an attempt to totally shut down the Venezuelan economy (December 2002/January 2003), both events were obviously orchestrated by the United States administration (to not say government, because that would give them too much credibility). This may seem like ancient history to some but it was just yesterday for a few others.

    Give me a break. Are we going to pretend that this game is not about promoting the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. Do you really think that people are so stupid as to presume that this is "just a game." Give me a break!

  4. 4) John Head says:

    Wow Simon ... just wow. I am sorry, but yes, it is just a game. Sometimes people make games just for fun, even if the background is based on real life. People take things way to serious.

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