Dog fighting is definitely never OK, both ethically and legally. But what about digital dog fighting?
Kage Games' Android app Dog Wars has stirred up a lot of controversy in the last couple of days, with animal rights organizations and activists calling on Google to pull the app from the Android marketplace. For the record, Google has still yet to make a comment regarding the game.
Just as media coverage reached its peak yesterday afternoon, Dog Wars suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the marketplace. The developers have since confirmed, via their Twitter account @DogWarsApp, that they only temporarily removed it.
“It lives......Dog Wars lives! Making some updates we'll be back up shortly!”
The game's tag line is “raise your dog to beat the best.” To play, users train a virtual pit bull to fight other virtual dogs to make money. Players also have a “gun for police raids and can inject the dog with steroids.”
Critics of the game argue that it glamorizes heinous, cruel and illegal acts, perpetuates negative pit bull stereotypes and encourages the same kind of violent behavior.
The developers are saying that those opposed to Dog Wars are missing the point.
In an email to The LA Times, signed by firstname.lastname@example.org, an official for Kage Games said proceeds from the game would benefit animal rescue organizations and the Japanese tsunami relief effort.
Pitboss did not give his real name, citing threats of violence by animal rights activists.
“We are in fact animal lovers ourselves,” the email reads. “This is our groundbreaking way to raise money/awareness to aid REAL dogs in need, execute freedom of expression, and serve as a demonstration to the competing platform that will not allow us as developers to release software without prejudgment.”
It is a really interesting way to raise awareness of a problem, I'll give them that.
What's not up for debate though, is that regardless of how senseless, upsetting or disgusting a person may find this game to be, the developers have a right to free speech. The cost of freedom is that we will occasionally be offended by games, music, art or organizations. When these situations arise, we can turn around and protest these opinions using the same principle.
There's an ongoing debate about whether or not violent video games desensitize kids to violence or even inspire them to commit similar acts of murder and mayhem. The truth of the matter, though, is that this has never been proven. The fact that violent games only might have an affect on people isn't reason enough to censor them. This is where education should come in. The remedy for bad speech is more speech, not censorship.
While censorship is not an option, good judgement is necessary. It's really up to the developers to use their heads and make responsible, tasteful decisions.