An Alpharetta online video game developer has removed Hindu deities from some of its marketing for a new game due out next year but said the deities will remain in the product when it goes on sale.
A Nevada-based Hindu devotee, Rajan Zed, launched a personal crusade against Hi-Rez Studios’ new game SMITE because he said it trivializes his religion by putting players with “joysticks, buttons, keyboards and mouses” in control of “mythical” Hindu gods and goddesses. The Hindu American Foundation called inclusion of the deities “disrespectful and offensive to Hindus worldwide.”
Hi-Rez’s Chief Operating Officer Todd Harris acknowledged Wednesday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “some portion” of the Hindu community objected to the inclusion and depiction of deities in SMITE.
“We have since removed the images of Hindu deities from our marketing web page,” Harris said. “However, for those who choose to download and play the game, those Hindu deities are still included and continue to be very popular.” The deities include Kali, Vamana, Agni and Bakasura.
Zed said Hi-Rez gives the Hindu goddess Kali “the appearance of a porn star.” He said the goddess personifies Shakti, or divine energy, and is considered the goddess of time and change, and is widely worshiped in Hinduism.
“As these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly impressionable children, teens and other young people, such inappropriate depictions would create more misunderstandings about Hinduism, which was already a highly misunderstood religion in the West,” Zed said in a release.
Harris, however, said that while his company recognizes and respects that there are over 1 billion Hindu followers, the deities will remain in SMITE.
“SMITE is entertainment, not theology,” Harris told the AJC, “That said, feedback from our players is that they appreciate those gods being included. In fact many SMITE players have been motivated to learn more about other cultures and religions including Hinduism based on the inclusion of those gods.”
Harris said the game features information about each deity and the “lore” has been approved by a Hindu advocacy group. The Hindu American Foundation, which reviewed the game, provided feedback on the deities’ descriptions, the group said, although it still opposed their inclusion in SMITE.
Harris said SMITE is in closed beta testing and is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2013. The game currently has more than 400,000 players worldwide with a waiting list of over 200,000 players, Harris said. Hi-Rez released its first game, Global Agenda, in 2010 and this past April, it released its second game, Tribes: Ascend.