Activision's Gun painted a gritty picture of vengeance and gunplay in the Old West when it was released last November. However, that grittiness is now drawing accusastions of racism.
The Association for American Indian Development has started a boycott of the game, saying it contains "derogatory, harmful, and inaccurate depictions of American Indians." On the boycott's Web site, the group is hosting a petition and demanding that Activision clean up various aspects of the game before rereleasing it to retailers, or simply issue a worldwide recall of the game.
"One of his earliest tasks that the game player must complete before advancing to the next level is to slaughter, not once, but on an ongoing basis, Apache Indians," the site notes. "Not only slaughter (and this is the terminology used in the game) but to scalp (terminology also used in the game) them as well with a 'scalping knife'..."
"Yes, we understand that this game is rated 'M' for mature audiences, and yes, we understand that historically, this kind of violence occurred all too often," the group says on the Web site. "No one knows this better than this organization and indigenous people from all tribes throughout the continents of North, Central, and South America. In fact, the repercussions of such acts of genocide are why there is a desperate need for the Association for American Indian Development today. What is of the greatest concern and outrage is the outright, unabashed and implied righteousness of [Gun's] genocidal nature toward Native Americans."
The site goes on to suggest that a game in which players were required to kill members of specific racial groups like African-Americans, Irish, Mexicans, or Jews would never be tolerated, "but apparently, killing Indians is still fair game." The site also mentions events and revelations that take place later on in Gun's story, but says they do nothing to excuse the earlier portions of the game.
An Activision representative provided GameSpot with the following statement regarding the boycott:
"Activision does not condone or advocate any of the atrocities that occurred in the American West during the 1800s. Gun was designed to reflect the harshness of life on the American frontier at that time.
"While Gun depicts scalping and killing, these actions are not directed exclusively toward any race or gender but are used against a variety of opponents, reflecting the realities of that time.
"It was not Activision's intention to offend any race or ethnic group with Gun, and we apologize to any who might have been offended by the game's depiction of historical events which have been conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books, and other media."
This isn't the first time a game publisher has drawn protests as a result of racial depictions in a game. In 2003, a pair of Haitian-American community groups demonstrated outside of New York's City Hall, calling Take-Two Interactive's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City racist for ordering players to "kill all the Haitians" in one level. Take-Two responded to the groups' concerns by pledging to remove the offensive content from future copies of the game.