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Sense and Sensibility

Yesterday was a historic day for India – we are going to the moon. Yup – we’ve cocked a snook at the so-called first world nations and done it without their help. How about that we are a part of the elite nuclear group? Our economy is floundering in the global financial crisis but we’re still better off than some other countries because we have a sound base. We’ve achieved a lot in the 60 years of freedom and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are one of the countries poised to take a lead in the race for world supremacy. For perspective – that’s reaching the highest stage in Civ IV.

On one hand, we’ve made amazing leaps in the field of science and technology and industry, but on the other hand, we have politicians who would rather throw the most respected company out of a state for trying to provide cheap transport to the country. We have politicians who would start riots over whether a citizen should be allowed to work or study in the city of their birth or the city of their choice. We espouse erotic architecture as long as it’s on a temple carving, but if a couple holds hands in a park that’s immoral and against our cultural sensibilities.

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Which one leads to a video game ban?

Cultural sensibilities – what does it mean? It’s a bastardised phrase used by people when they are afraid that someone with a pea sized brain will come and pelt their building with stones. The latest to hide behind the phrase is Microsoft when they pulled back from releasing Fallout 3 in India because of not wanting to offend “cultural sensibilities”. They haven’t given details on which one of our many cultural sensibilities would be offended by Fallout 3, but I guess it’s the ability to blow up two headed mutant cows in the game, which are called Brahmin. If that’s the reason, then:

a. Shame on you Microsoft for being a wimp
b. Shame on all the people who are definitely going to make this an issue in gaining an apology from Microsoft/Bethesda.
c. Shame on us as a nation for voting the people in ‘b’

Honestly, I don’t blame Microsoft too much. If I was in their shoes, I would rather skirt controversy instead of taking a stand for a few thousand dollars. It boils down to business.

I do blame people for not using their senses – cows are animal and fair game to be killed in video games as are other animals. They are not copyright India. Brahmin – we are not going around shooting the Brahmin people. It’s just a name in a game. I don’t believe that Bethesda or Interplay had any ulterior motive to undermine our culture.

Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for a lot of people to gain cheap popularity with the masses. The majority of people will not know the facts behind what ‘cultural sensibilities’ are offended. They will be told that Brahmins are being shot by Microsoft! And this close to elections, that’s all that will matter. The norm of the day is to go against the big companies by siding with the ‘downtrodden’. I pity ourselves that we vote for people who would rather take the country backward because of the untold riches promised to ministers.

And if you think that it’s a situation that’s only in India, you’re so wrong. LittleBigPlanet and Resistance come to mind – LBP because of a quote from the Quran, and Resistance because they used a model for the Manchester Cathedral. Assassin’s Creed starts with a disclaimer that Ubisoft respects all faiths. And what’s worse – games which espouse murder and mayhem are cleared and advertised without raising an eyebrow.

We are increasingly becoming less sensitive to others – and the definition of others keeps on increasing. We divide on the basis of colour, location, faith, weight, height, age, where we work, whether we work or not. We pick on the irrelevant issues to fight over. Let’s do it for issues that are important – right to food, right to respect, right to speak.

As for the gaming industry in general, they are going to get flak for a long time. It’s easy to target games because the target audience is teens and geeks – not the best loved demographic – and it makes a lot of money. And as for gaming in India, the best deal we’ll get for a long time is that Play-Asia ships to India for free.

Best of luck and game on!

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