(Updated 11:16 a.m.)
A Nevada-based Hindu devotee has launched a personal crusade against an Alpharetta online video game developer over its newest battleground offering, which the follower says insults Hindu deities and their millions of followers.
Rajan Zed, who identifies himself as president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said Hi-Rez Studios’ new game SMITE trivializes his religion by putting players with “joysticks, buttons, keyboards and mouses” in control of “mythical” Hindu gods and goddesses.
In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chief Operating Officer Todd Harris on Thursday defended the inclusion of the deities in Hi-Rez’ newest game. He said the company hasn’t spoken to Zed about his concerns, nor has Zed reached out to the company.
“SMITE includes deities inspired from a diverse and ever expanding set of pantheons, including Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, and Norse. Hinduism, being one of the world’s oldest, largest and most diverse traditions, also provides inspiration toward deities in our game,” Harris said.
“In fact, given Hinduism’s concept of a single truth with multiple physical manifestations one could validly interpret ALL the gods within SMITE to be Hindu. And all gods outside of SMITE as well.”
Harris added that “going forward SMITE will include even more deities, not fewer.”
The Hindu deities Kali, Vamana, Agni and Moksh are among the deities represented on SMITE.
The company describes SMITE as a free-to-play, multiplayer online battle arena with gods competing against enemy gods. The game is played by two teams, who control the deities.
“In reality, the devotees put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities” and not the other way around, Zed said in a widely-distributed statement.
Kaushal Tripathi, president of the India American Cultural Society of metro Atlanta, said he tries to be open-minded when it comes to video games given his background in software development.
Game creators, however, must be sensitive to feelings about religion when using deities, Tripathi said.
“Hopefully, the creators of the game understand the feelings of people,” Tripathi said. “ Religion is a very sensitive thing. You are walking a fine line.”
Privately-held Hi-Rez was started in 2005 by Erez Goren and Harris. Goren, Hi-Rez’ chief executive officer, co-founded Atlanta-based Radiant Systems, a provider of checkout terminal hardware and software for the hospitality and retail industry. Harris worked as director of product development at Radiant Systems, which is now a part of NCR Corp.
Hi-Rez released its first game, Global Agenda, in 2010 and this past April, it released its second game, Tribes: Ascend. Harris said no released date has been announced for SMITE. He said “tens of thousands of people” are playing the game online in closed Beta testing every day.
“The waiting list to play is over 200,000 and growing daily at a double digit percentage,” Harris told the AJC.