Activision is feeling the heat this morning as it's on the receiving end of a brand new petition against its Wild West shooter GUN - which debuted on Xbox 360 and all current-gen formats just before Christmas.
The Association for American Indian Development, has started an online petition at BoycottGun.com protesting against the way they think the game portrays the Apache nation. The group is demanding that Activision "edit and remove all derogatory, harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians from the videogame gun, including but not limited to the slaughtering of the 'renegade' Apaches, the atrocity of Indian scalping and the misinformation of Indian traditions of killing sacred white animals."
The petition also demands that Activision either re-edit or re-release the game "in a manner that is responsible to the great Apache people and is culturally and historically accurate to the struggle and plight of all people of American Indian ancestry." If Activision fails to comply AIDD is calling for a boycott of all Activision products.
The game, which had something of a mixed reception on release, features a script by award-winning Hollywood screen writer Randal Jahnsen. Although GUN certainly features scenes in which its hero Colton White fights Apaches, he also rescues some too, eventually discovering that he has indigenous Native American heritage in the process.
However, AAID believes this is merely a sop saying "that does NOT make the preceding chapters any easier to accept." Perhaps most damaging of all though is AAID's claim that "Activision (and scriptwriter Randall Jahnson) have just written a game that says killing all Apaches is the right thing to do and in the game you not only have to slaughter the Apache to advance in the game, but you can purchase a "scalping knife" to "scalp them all!" This is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in a "civilized" society."
We have contacted Activision for an official response and they replied with the following statement:
"Activision does not condone or advocate any of the atrocities that occurred in the American West during the 1800s. GUN was designed to reflect the harshness of life on the American frontier at that time.
While GUN depicts scalping and killing, these actions are not directed exclusively toward any race or gender but are used against a variety of opponents, reflecting the realities of that time.
It was not Activision's intention to offend any race or ethnic group with GUN, and we apologize to any who might have been offended by the game's depiction of historical events which have been conveyed not only through video games but through films, television programming, books and other media."
The petition certainly raises some interesting points. However we also have to ponder that issue of balance - Randall Jahnsen and NeverSoft seem to have made genuine efforts to address that in their script and as they point out the game does not exclusively target Native Americans but a broad range of opponents.
There's no doubt this was a violent and brutal period in American history, but is singling out GUN in this manner - when other movies and games have used the same historical source material for years - entirely fair either? We'd be delighted to hear your thoughts in the comments below.