Space Invaders Leipzig exhibit sparks 9/11 controversy

Although the latest and the greatest games are making the biggest buzz at the Leipzig Games Convention this week, one classic arcade staple is finding itself in the spotlight again, thanks to a controversial piece of art. The installation, Invaders!, juxtaposes an adapted version of Space Invaders...

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Although the latest and the greatest games are making the biggest buzz at the Leipzig Games Convention this week, one classic arcade staple is finding itself in the spotlight again, thanks to a controversial piece of art. The installation, Invaders!, juxtaposes an adapted version of Space Invaders against a backdrop featuring the World Trade Center towers destroyed in a September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

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Created by French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley, Invaders is at the Games Convention as part of Space Invaders: The Anniversary Show, a 30th anniversary homage to the touchstone Taito game. The exhibit also features an original Space Invaders arcade game and "comprehensive documentation" of the game's historical significance.

The Games Convention write-up of Invaders explains a bit of the exhibit's message. "In [Stanley's] interactive large installation, the players must prevent the catastrophe by controlling the well-known cannon at the lower screen border with their bodies and firing it using arm movements," according to the convention's official site. "Like the original, this trial is ultimately unsuccessful, thus creating an articulated and critical commentary about the current war strategy. In this regard, Douglas Edric Stanley sees Space Invaders as 'a social tale that can be related to historical tales without losing its poetic power.'"

The New York Daily News asked some people who lost relatives in the September 11 attacks what they thought of the game. One firefighter called it "very, very distasteful," and a woman who lost her adult son in the tragedy labeled it "disgusting." They weren't the only people put off by Invaders, judging from the multiple posters wishing Stanley's death in the comments section of his own blog.

As for Taito, which owns the rights to Space Invaders, the Square Enix subsidiary today released a statement distancing itself from the entire affair. The company said in a statement, "Taito Corporation...today stated unequivocally that the Invaders installation by Douglas Edric Stanley and displayed at the Games Convention held in Leipzig, Germany was produced entirely without Taito's knowledge and that the use of the world-famous Space Invaders content was wholly unauthorized."

Furthermore, Taito is "seriously considering all available options--including legal actions against the infringer and, if necessary, the Games Convention exhibitor involved--in order to end this unauthorized and impermissible misuse of the Space Invaders content..."

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