Playing a god: can religion and videogames mix?

Recently, a PlayStation 2 game has come under criticism – not for gratuitous violence or sex, but for religious reasons. Called Hanuman: Boy Warrior, the India-made and released game allows players to roleplay the adventures of Hanuman, a Hindu deity famous for defeating the villainous King Ravana.  At least one Hindu leader has taken offence:

“In a video game format, the player would control the destiny of Lord Hanuman while in reality, believers put their destinies in the hands of their deities, [Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism] wrote.

“Controlling and manipulating Lord Hanuman with a joystick, button, keyboard, or mouse is ‘denigration'”, he added.

It should be noted that the game follows the ancient Hindu scriptures; one cannot make Hanuman steal cars or shoot bazookas. remarks that the real offence being perpetrated is that the game is pants.

I find this interesting. We’re going to see increased dialogue about these kind of topics as today’s interactive media is becoming more and more used as narrative devices. Is this truly different than tribal elders in ancient times, reenacting the great achievements of their gods in front of a raging bonfire?

Mind you, I’m sure Americans would be up in arms if you could roleplay Jesus in a video game – although no one raised an eyebrow when George Burns played you-know-who in the film Oh God!

Would the ancient Greeks have taken a dim view of God of War?

It will be a long road until videogaming is perceived from “callous pastime enjoyed by lazy youths” to a recognized genre of art. Until then, remember this – even the Gutenburg press was accused of the same, since people were busy using it to make pictures of naked people with it.

GeoCities: Pioneer town to ghost town

Before Facebook or blogs or cheap web hosting, netizens had GeoCities – the guiding light for those who wanted a website but couldn’t afford their own.

It quickly became the self-publishing printing press of the online world – there were personal pages, and sites on people’s favourite TV shows. Animated GIF backgrounds, blink tags and crackpot ramblings were par for the course. Let’s just say people often referred to it as “GeoShitties”, and it wasn’t an unfair moniker.

Perhaps PC World sums up most peoples’ reaction with the title of their article, “So Long, GeoCities: We Forgot You Still Existed“.

But, as a kid in the proto-WWW of 1996, I cut my teeth on HTML with the help of Geocities. Back then, GeoCities didn’t even have FTP access – you uploaded files via online form, one at a time. They only supported JavaScript – no SQL databases or widgets. We started out with a formidable 1 MB of webspace. And it was good.

That was 13 years ago. I hear Yahoo! has decided to put GeoCities to pasture later this year. I can’t say I blame them. I do have to thank them, for introducing me to the online publishing world.