50 religious leaders signed a letter earlier this month imploring superstar, philanthropist and Pandemic Studios investor Bono to pull support for an upcoming video game, Mercenaries 2, because it depicts political violence.
The religious leaders, based in the US and hailing from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, asserted in their April 1 letter that Mercenaries 2 is a thinly-veiled attack on Venezuela's presiding government that would increase military tensions:
"Mercenaries 2" is an extremely realistic and vicious game in which the player leads a mercenary team to kill a "power hungry tyrant" that has taken control of oil supplies in Venezuela. Images of downtown Caracas are depicted as being completely destroyed during the game, and any "people" on the streets are to be killed.
The signatories also chided Bono for investing in Pandemic Studios because some of its software has been used by American military agencies in light infantry training:
Of equal concern is the fact that the game inevitably will provoke increased tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. Pandemic Studios has made a similar training game for the U.S. military. This fact is not overlooked by Venezuelans, who see this as further evidence of U.S. government hostility toward their country.
Bono is part of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm which has invested $300 million in Pandemic.
Neither the firm nor Pandemic have commented on the petition, which was generated by an apparently left-wing "solidarity group" that supports Venezuela's current president, Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan leader has been at fierce odds with the Bush administration since he was first elected in 1999.
Slated for release on a variety of platforms and picked up by publisher Electronic Arts, Mercenaries 2 bills itself as "an explosive open-world action game set in a massive, highly reactive, war-torn world" in which "a power-hungry tyrant messes with Venezuela's oil supply, sparking an invasion that turns the country into a warzone."
Military themes have long been a part of video games, ranging from past conflicts to hypothetical future battles and even re-imagined wars.
One such title was Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2, produced by Westwood Studios. Though created before the Sept. 11 attacks, the game included graphic depictions of a Pentagon and World Trade Center captured and destroyed by Soviet forces spawned in an alternate universe in which Hitlerism was nipped in the bud.
After Sept. 11, the publisher removed the names of landmarks and redesigned the box's packaging in later iterations.