Hindu Outrage Part of PR Campaign for SMITE?
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 27th Jun 2012
This may be a case for remembering the old saying: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me...
According to a press release issued by self-styled Hindu Statesman Rajan Zed, Hindus are angry at the use of deities from their religion in the upcoming free-to-play game SMITE, from Hi-Rez Studios, and in particular with the use of the goddess Kali and other Hindu deities.
In the press release, which was issued by Rajan Zed via his gmail account, he speaks of himself in the third-person and actively quotes himself, declaring that "reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees. Controlling and manipulating goddess Kali and other Hindu deities with a joystick/ button/keyboard/mouse was denigration."
Considering the past efforts of Rajan Zed, which have included email campaigns against movies like Angels and Demons and and Mike Meyers epic fail, The Love Guru, the press release he issued today is perfectly in keeping with his world view... Save for one small problem. It may be a hoax or more likely a willing part of a PR campaign on behalf of the game SMITE.
A careful review of previous press releases by Rajan Zed shows well articulated if hyperbolic rants against the various issues that he is, well, against... But all of his efforts are properly structured and make their point, and in none of them does the man actually promote the issues or products that he is railing against -- until now.
While the release -- which was sent to a large list of games journalists who attended the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo -- starts out in a perfectly consistent manner, stating the facts as he sees them and making his case that the depiction and use of Hindu gods and goddesses is improper, the press release ends in a fashion that is typical of the sort sent out by PR firms to promote upcoming video games!
Quoted here, in full, are the problematical paragraphs that raise major doubts as to the authenticity of the declared outrage:
"Website of online video game developer Hi-Rez Studios describes this video game SMITE as an online battleground between mythical gods in which players choose from a selection of gods.
"Upon release, SMITE will be a free-to-play game but gods will be priced, ranging between $2-$4. SMITE Beta, currently a Closed Beta, began on May 31 last and its full release is claimed within eight months. Before its general release, it will be balanced and polished with the help of Beta community, allowing users to play it early and provide feedback. Besides Hindu gods, other gods listed are: Greek, Norse, Chinese and Egyptian. It can be pre-ordered now.
"Hi-Rez Studios, established in 2005 to provide online interactive entertainment, has already released Global Agenda and Tribes titles and is now developing SMITE. SMITE tutorial video was released on June 20. Erez Goren and Todd Harris are Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer respectively.
"Goddess Kali, who personifies Shakti or divine energy and considered the goddess of time and change, is widely worshipped in Hinduism. Vamana is the fifth avatar of Vishnu (the preserver in the Hindu triad with Brahma and Shiva as the aspect of the Supreme, who had ten incarnations to establish dharma). Agni is one of the most significant Vedic deities, second most frequently invoked in Rig-Veda. Moksh (liberation) is the ultimate goal of Hinduism."
A Jury Weighs In
The world of PR is a confusing one in which sometimes what you think you see is not what you are actually seeing, and it is one in which seemingly unlikely events are the norm -- so the question that is raised by this disturbing press release is a simple one -- did Hi-Rez buy the pulpit of Rajan Zed?
Whenever something like this crops up and a value judgment is called for, I prefer to consult people who have broader experience than I do; mostly editors I have worked with who have years of experience and whose opinions I trust. One of them currently runs a paper in Texas, and when I sent him a copy of the release I received today from Zed along with my questions, his reply was a simple paragraph that pretty much says it all...
"Well. That dog don't hunt."
Another friend, a section editor at a Florida paper offered the following opinion:
"When it comes to PR programs there's no such thing as bad publicity, that is a given, but the way that that press release reads the end matter was clearly written by someone else and tacked onto the bottom, and it is wrong. So I agree, there is something fishy here, your nose is working fine."
These are opinions that happen to agree with my own; something is not right about this release, starting with the fact that it was sent using an industry mailing list, that it contains promotional material that contradicts its stated purpose, and that Zed is not making himself available to discuss it. Of all of those issues it is the latter that most concerns me, because Zed is infamous for being willing to talk about his press releases.
It looks like a lot of people bit at this and treated it as if it were legitimate -- Google the subject "Hindus upset at online video game" and you will see just how many games journalists bit. Too many, clearly.
Sometimes it pays to ask questions, so I called the Hare Krishna Temple and Headquarters in Los Angeles and, after discovering that the Krishna have caught the multi-level phone system bug, and working my way through that to get a few other numbers to call, I ended up speaking with a few anonymous members of the Hindu faith who, while they explained to me that they do not as a rule speak to the press, offered the opinion that concerns like those contained in the press release that I read them are not consistent with the teachings of the Hindu faith. How the image of a god or goddess is used by a non-believer does not even qualify as a blip on their radar.
Of even more interest to me though, was the observation one of them made just before we rang off: "The end of what you read us sounds more like an advertisement for that game than part of a press release condemning it."
Why yes... Yes it does.