The political-machine of the third-world strikes out at the humanitarian who would save it. How Pandemic’s Mercenaries 2 landed U2’s Bono in hot water.
In mid-2004, rock-star Bono joined the capital firm Elevation Partners. EP formed VG Holding Corp. In November of 2005, VG Holding put together the $300 million merger of developers BioWare and Pandemic Studios, forming BioWare/Pandemic Corp.
Ten months before their acquisition, Pandemic released Mercenaries, an open-world future-present game depicting conflict along the North-South Korean border. The game would be subsequently banned in South Korea.
A sequel is in the works, titled Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, with a projected release in 2007.
On May 24th, the Associated Press ran a story quoting Venezuelan lawmakers. Gabriela Ramirez was quoted saying that Mercenaries 2 gives a false vision of President Hugo Chavez as a tyrant and Venezuela as being on the verge of chaos.
“I think the U.S. government knows how to prepare campaigns of psychological terror so they can make things happen later,” Venezuelan Congressman Ismael Garcia added to the article.
The piece was picked up by the gaming press, but largely met with the same reaction that other political citations of game content receive.
On June 2nd, a group calling itself the Venezuelan Solidarity Network wrote an open letter to Bono, “who has appealed to the world on many occasions for peace and poverty reduction, to apply those same values to block the manufacture and distribution of this videogame.”
On July 5th, the VSN sent out a press release, calling for the canceling of Mercenaries 2. They headlined “U2’S Bono backs insidious propaganda: Videogame with Venezuela invasion theme.”
This time, in addition to game press, the release also was picked up by the Belfast Telegraph: “Bono drawn into dispute over computer game.”
The story received further British and international coverage. The press and gossip outlets were interested in the polarity of a humanitarian who sponsors such a game, further noting Bono’s inability to be reached for comment. Though the News Room did get a statement from a Pandemic spokesperson:
“Pandemic Studios is in the business of entertainment. It has never been contacted by any U.S. government agency concerning the development of Mercenaries 2. All persons, storylines and events are purely fictional and bear no relation to real events. As with any number of games, movies and books, the decision to choose interesting events and locations is purely designed to tell a compelling story, as well as provide a fun and rich experience for the gamer.”