Militaristic games set in contemporary times benefit greatly from incorporating as much realism as they can. Real-world weapons, vehicles, and tactics bring an air of authenticity that doesn't require risking life and limb for. However, add what many claim to be a plausible plot based on current events and the fictionalized "real world" hits a little too close to home for some.
The Venezuelan Solidarity Network is asking for help to stop production of Pandemic Studios' upcoming game Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. The game follows guns for hire as they help topple a "power hungry tyrant" in Venezuela. While no real names are used, protestors see the plot as a clear parallel to the Unites States' troubled relationship with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and are labeling the shooter as anti-Venezuela propaganda.
The organization is seeking to gather the signatures of various religious leaders for a letter (PDF format) intended for the one man they feel can and should stop the game from going to market--U2 frontman Bono. The Irish crooner and part-time activist is one of the board members of Elevation Partners, the venture capital firm that is a majority stakeholder in the partnership between Pandemic and BioWare, which brought the two independent game developers together under the name BioWare/Pandemic Studios.
The letter from the Venezuelan Solidarity Network to Bono reads: "The aim of the video game is full devastation, so any 'person' who moves should be 'shot,' and all the buildings, such as the headquarters of PDVSA, the Venezuelan public oil company, can be 'destroyed.' Our concern is that this game will only deepen an already antagonistic relationship between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Millions of Venezuelans fear an invasion from the U.S.; knowing that a company that works for the US military has created a game in which their country is completely destroyed will increase those concerns."
The reference to Pandemic working for the US military stems from the studio's work on an Army-commissioned military-training program, which later was polished for retail as Full Spectrum Warrior.
The deadline for signatures to be included to the letter is March 31, 2007. The network plans to send the letter to Bono the following day.
This isn't the first attempt by the group to reach out to Bono to stop the game from being made. The organization pleaded with the artist to stop production of the game last July. One month before that, a member of the Venezuelan government publicly decried the game, calling it a "justification for an imperialist aggression."
In response to the protest, Pandemic sent GameSpot the following statement from cofounder Josh Resnick: "While we're flattered that people think Mercenaries 2 is a commentary on the real world, it is just a video game--and as they say in the movies, all characters and events are purely fiction. 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."
The statement continues: "It's common practice in the entertainment business, both movies and video games, to set fictional storylines in real places. This isn't any different than setting a movie like Goodfellas in New York. And while we certainly hope Mercenaries raises the adrenaline flow, anyone wanting to experience or learn more about the real world, we recommend a good history book."
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is scheduled for release later this year on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and PC.