A new app for the Android is stirring up controversy, and a once unlikely alliance is leading the cause to have the game removed. Dog Wars, a mobile app that is just what it sounds like, in which users fight dogs, has come under heated resistance led by reformed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and the United States Human Society.
Vick, who served time in prison for dogfighting-related charges, has since rehabilitated and spoken around the country educating people on the crime and his mistakes. He has looked to work with PETA and the Humane Society where possible, and is strictly opposed to the recently released game.
In a statement released in conjunction with the Humane Society, Vick said, “I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street,” Vick said in a statement. “Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app.”
A detailed description of the game can be found here, but in summation, users feed, train, and fight his or her virtual dog against other user’s dogs. An about the game concept tries to stress, with some very apparent hostility, that it is indeed just a video game. The game makers go on to add some specious reasoning and inane analogies: “Just because something is illegal in real life in certain countries, does not mean it is illegal to make a song, movie, or video game about it,” and “Just go slingshot some virtual birds to kill some virtual pigs.” The latter is of course a reference to the mighty popular Angry Birds, a game that is cartoon-ish and childlike in sight and sound, while Dog Wars is gritty, dark, and not without blood.
In an email correspondence with the Los Angeles Times, an official for Kage Games, maker of Dog Wars, said the following: “We are in fact animal lovers ourselves,” the email said. “This is our groundbreaking way to raise money/awareness to aid REAL dogs in need, execute freedom of expression, and serve as a demonstration to the competing platform that will not allow us as developers to release software without prejudgment.”
So where do you stand? Should there be a game on the phone called Dog Wars, and would you download and play? In the past there have been games such as Drug Wars and Mafia Wars, but is there a difference?
What is clear is that the arguments defending the apps by those who made it are poor and misguided. They cite free speech, and equate Google Android as bastions of such, but that is not really the case in the business world. If either company feels they will lose money from this, they won’t hesitate to take down the app, so free speech isn’t at stake. Plus, it is hard to defend free speech when you condone the people speaking out against you.
Moreover, equating Dog Wars with Angry Birds, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto is as well erroneous. The first is fun romp, the second is about war, and the third, albeit violent and filled with illegal activities, is an established game with credibility in our culture. Grand Theft Auto, however filled with drugs, guns, and death, has earned its spot in society-it is accepted for what it is and it possessed immense quality. It’s not that people don’t want to play games with violence or illegal activities; it’s that they don’t want to play poorly designed games that are dumb and boring.
Dog Wars looks as bad and cheap as it sounds,and has tried to enter into a society that simply deplores dog fighting no matter where on the political spectrum someone sits. It seems rather apparent that Kage Games is happy to get headlines for ‘shock value,’ in the mindset that any news is good news. Still, it’s hard to imagine people actually being interested in playing the game, and there is no educational value: dog fighting isn’t an esoteric concept such as absolute zero or the theory of relativity. It’s simple, and educating people on it takes a matter of second with something along the lines of, ‘it’s wrong.’ Whether due to conceding to the outrage, or because it simply doesn’t gain any popularity, this app doesn’t look to last long.