The popular iPhone game Pocket God has come under fire as degrading and racist for the way it portrays a primitive group of islanders who wear grass skirts and bones in their hair.
The Brisbane Times says Pocket God, which lets players become an "all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders," is one of the most popular games available for the iPhone, with one review describing it as "an entertaining application that lets you explore multiple ways of tormenting your cute little islanders." But while developer Bolt Creative says the game is not meant to depict any particular nationality, not everyone is convinced that the islanders, who can be set on fire or tossed to the sharks, are harmlessly cute.
Bolt's claims are "ridiculous," said Elaine Howard of the Pacific Women's Information Network. Calling it an "arrogant slap in the face to our people," Howard, who lives in the U.S., continued, "How do you think people would react if you created a game where you were God and you could create and kill as many Mexicans as you wanted? Or Asians? People would be outraged."
"I hope you don't decide to advertise your application in New Zealand or Australia because you will get a backlash of the same intensity," she added.
Dr Malakai Koloamatangi of New Zealand's Canterbury University agreed with Howard's assessment, calling the game "totally degrading" and saying it reinforced widely-held stereotypes about Pacific people. "To claim they are not Pacific islanders is ridiculous. Everything about them is Polynesian. How can they justify encouraging the torture of a race in this way? It's disgusting," he said. "I'm not saying let's bring in the thought police but there needs to be limits on what is acceptable, and this surpasses those."
Bolt issued a letter to the PWIN apologizing for any offense but maintained that such offense is "misplaced." "The fictional characters in Pocket God do not directly or indirectly represent any human nationality, race or cultural people," the studio said. "Bolt Creative does not intend and has never intended to offend or marginalize any nationality, race or culture in any of its video games, including Pocket God."
Peter Molyneux, who actually has nothing to do with this, was not available for comment.