Opinion: PETA’s criticism of video games unjustified, ridiculous
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 22:03
Last week, Ubisoft announced that this fall they will be releasing “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” the sixth installment in the popular series. I have an opinion regarding the game’s announcement, but that isn’t what caught my interest. In the announcement trailer, there is a scene where the protagonist is chasing a whale while on a ship. This sparked PETA to come out and criticize the game for condoning whale hunting. This isn’t the first time PETA has had a video game related outcry, but it is equally absurd.
To be clear, PETA’s exact criticism is as follows, “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. PETA encourages video game companies to create games that celebrate animals—not games that promote hurting and killing them.”
This criticism is incredibly misguided on the part of PETA. Firstly, there is the assumption that whaling will even be part of the game. Since it hasn’t been released yet it is hard to know whether whaling will be a big part of the game, if at all. Assuming there is some type of whale hunting feature, there is also the assumption that people who play the game will suddenly gain a newfound interest in whaling. The past five games have centered on stabbing and assassinating people and there is no current epidemic of assassinations. So naturally it’s hard to believe that illegal whaling will suddenly become a new past time of gamers. Finally, PETA’s opinion shows that they do not understand the series. As Ubisoft pointed out in a response, “Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is a work of fiction that depicts the real events during the Golden Era of Pirates. We do not condone illegal whaling, just as we don’t condone a pirate lifestyle of poor hygiene, plundering, hijacking ships and over the legal limit drunken debauchery.” PETA is essentially up in arms over Ubisoft presenting a part of history. Game developers shouldn’t be discouraged from striving for historical accuracy just because a part of history is ugly to some individuals. This would be like if the NAACP spoke out against Assassin’s Creed III for including slavery even though the game was set during revolutionary America.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time PETA has criticized a video game. They have criticized Call of Duty for killing attack dogs and criticized Battlefield 3 for killing rats. A few years ago they also came out against every gamer’s favorite Italian plumber. Surprisingly, PETA’s problem with Mario wasn’t that he promoted mass turtle genocide. Instead, they were upset over the Tanooki suit, a power up that allows Mario to fly, because, through their line of logic, it promoted the skinning of actual tanukis for their fur. After the fact, however, PETA said their criticism of Mario was merely tongue and cheek in an effort to raise awareness. Even if the organization wasn’t serious in their criticisms, there is an overarching issue.
All of these criticisms could very well just be publicity stunts for PETA. The media loves controversy and criticizing a popular video game could be a way to gain some attention. PETA also focuses on very popular household names like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, Pokemon and Mario in most of their critiques of the game industry. I support PETA’s basic mission to improve the treatment of animals, but it is hard for me to take them seriously when they complain about actions in video games as if those are where the true injustices are happening. As an organization, I think it would be better for their cause and credibility if their efforts stayed in the real world and out of Assassin’s Creed’s historical universe or the Mushroom Kingdom.