The Venezuela Solidarity Network has issued a press release celebrating the delay of Pandemic Studios' upcoming action title Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, which it claims will foster increased hostility toward Venezuela by the U.S.
"It still isn't perfect," said Gunnar Gundersen, an Oregon-based activist who coordinated the campaign and is married to a Venezuelan. "I wouldn't want my sons to buy it and blow up neighborhoods that we can clearly recognize where their cousins, aunts and uncles live. Still, at least the villain is no longer a Hugo Chavez look-alike and the storyline no longer mirrors actual international politics."
In the original design, the player would take on the role of a mercenary sent to Venezuela to overthrow a "power-hungry tyrant" who is interfering with the nation's oil supply, which the group felt mirrored current reality a little too closely. Now, the player will instead take on a corrupt businessman who double-crosses the mercenaries, who then go on a mission of personal revenge. "At least no kid will be fooled into thinking he's learning something about the real word," said Venezuela Solidarity Network Interim Coordinator Chuck Kaufman. "However, the game is still incredibly violent and romanticizes mercenaries who, as we are seeing with the Blackwater scandal in Iraq, are not proper role models for children."
Earlier in the year, the group publicly called on U2 frontman Bono, a social activist who is also an investor in Pandemic, to stop production of the game. While he did not respond to the request, it did have an impact, according to Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns director Marie Dennis. "Bono never responded directly, but apparently our point hit home that financing a violent videogame that targets a government already targeted by the Bush administration is counter to the reputation as a humanitarian that he has earned with his work on AIDS in Africa and debt relief. Pandemics (sic) began to change the storyline soon after our letter was delivered," she said.
Not everyone is entirely pleased with the outcome, however. Jorge Marin, an activist in the Boston Bolivarian Circle and the VSN, said, "This isn't a victory because Bono and Pandemics (sic) are still telling kids it's okay to attack my home country, but it is progress and it wouldn't have happened without public pressure."
Originally planned for the 2007 holiday season, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is now scheduled for release in the early 2008. It has not yet received an ESRB rating.