The Universal Society of Hinduism is calling on QuakeCon organizers to withdraw Smite from this year's lineup.
Smite, Hi-Rez Studios' arena battle game featuring deities from various pantheons, is not making too many friends among Hindus. Back in June, the Universal Society of Hinduism called upon the developer to remove the goddess Kali from the game, saying that making her a playable character in a videogame trivializes and denigrates the Hindu faith. Hi-Rez refused to do so, but last week it did agree to remove an image of Kali from its website.
Society President Rajan Zed called the move a "step in the right direction," but since Hi-Rez declined to actually take the Hindu deities out of the game he's now asking the organizers of QuakeCon, which currently has Smite on its roster of playable of games, to drop the whole thing. "Hindus have urged internationally renowned gaming festival QuakeCon 2012, being held at Dallas from August two to five, not to allow play of Smite videogame, which they say trivializes highly revered deities of Hinduism," the group said in a statement.
"Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that such a prominent international computer gaming convention officially sponsored by AT&T and Intel among others, should show responsibility and respect the feelings of upset Hindus," the statement continued. "Hindus are upset at this online video action game Smite in which the players assume the direct control of Hindu deities of Kali, Vamana and Agni. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, has already urged Alpharetta headquartered developer Hi-Rez Studios to immediately remove the Hindu gods from the game stressing that in a videogame set-up, the player would control the movements of goddess Kali and other Hindu deities, while in reality the devotees put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities."
"Videogame makers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, as these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly impressionable children, teens and other young people," Zed added.
Joining the Universal Society in its criticism of Smite is the Hindu American Foundation, which likewise requested the removal of Hindu gods from the game. Hi-Rez actually gave the foundation a beta version of the game to play, which didn't do anything to change any minds but did provide some hope that the Hindu deities would be portrayed accurately and respectfully.
"Surprisingly, the majority of the comments on the forums were appreciative in nature of the inclusion of Hindu deities," said Hindu American Foundation Board member Rishi Bhutada. "A number of beta testers remarked that they took time to look up more information about Goddess Kali and Hinduism after testing the game, and we took those comments into account as we worked with [Hi-Rez COO Todd] Harris."
Hi-Rez has promised that a coming update will provide more accurate descriptions of all Hindu deities in the game and also posted links to relevant information about Hinduism on the Smite forums. The studio also agreed to make changes to the "imagery and actions" of Kali and the avatar Vamana.
QuakeCon, by the way, begins tomorrow and runs until August 5.