Friday, October 17, 2008

Little Late Planet

For those who haven't heard, the much-anticipated Little Big Planet is being delayed. What could cause Sony to delay the release of a title they expect to get so much out of? Apparently one of the background music tracks contained two lines from the Qur'an, and the mixing of music and lines from the Qur'an is offensive to some Muslims.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that this is an obvious or simple situation; offense for no reason is unconscionable, and we should respect all people whatever their beliefs. That said, I think Sony has terribly overreacted. A couple considerations.

1) The people that brought this to Sony's attention had asked for a patch to be released that would remove the offensive track. Sony actually went beyond this request and recalled all of the units that they had already shipped.

2) A statement along the lines of "we didn't mean to offend anyone," along with an optional patch to remove the track, would probably have been sufficient to appease Muslim players without upsetting the game's core audience.

3) This kind of response probably wouldn't have happened if the game had offended a similarly-sized contingent of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, or the like. I'll admit that I don't actually know how big the conservative Muslim LBP player contingent is, but the response isn't just for them - it comes from a general fear of upsetting Muslims. There's no doubt that incidents such as the Mohammed comic controversy are informing this decision.

4) I think it's relevant that the music was written by a Muslim artist, and wasn't at all demeaning to Muslims. This kind of work actually has a lot of positive work to do for the Muslim community - the possibility for art and music by Muslims, and even words from the Qur'an, to enter the mainstream American cultural consciousness. As long as vague fears keep this kind of expression at bay, Muslims will find it that much harder to stop being seen as the archetypal "other" in the minds of many Americans.

Basically, the situation makes me sad.

-Silent Ellipsis

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