Hi-Rez Retains Hindu Deities in Video Game Despite Opposition, Dialogues with HAF
New York, NY (August 1, 2012) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) joined several Hindu American groups in strongly opposing the inclusion of three Hindu deities - Kali, Vamana, and Agni - in a soon-to-be released online video game, SMITE, created by Hi-Rez, an Atlanta based video game design firm. SMITE, which the makers say is an "online battle ground between gods," allows players to choose from Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, and Norse gods. While parts of the Hindu pantheon are featured, iconography from other major religious traditions are absent from the game.
HAF directly contacted Hi-Rez to request the removal of Hindu Gods from the game. In an extensive dialogue with Hi-Rez Chief Operating Officer, Todd Harris, HAF's Senior Director, Sheetal Shah, explained that "use of highly revered deities as killing machines in a video game is disrespectful and offensive to Hindus worldwide," and requested they be removed from the game.
As part of the dialogue, Hi-Rez provided HAF with a beta key to test the game and give feedback. In addition to testing the game, the Foundation visited popular gaming websites and the game's forums to glean the reaction of gamers.
"Surprisingly, the majority of the comments on the forums were appreciative in nature of the inclusion of Hindu deities," said Rishi Bhutada, HAF Board member. "A number of beta testers remarked that they took time to look up more information about Goddess Kali and Hinduism after testing the game, and we took those comments into account as we worked with Mr. Harris. While we vociferously disagreed with Hi-Rez's decision to retain Hindu deities, we did work strenuously to inform Hi-Rez about the necessity for accuracy and respect."
The Foundation's positions on the SMITE game were threefold: 1) Hindu deities should be removed from the game; 2) Goddess Kali's imagery was unacceptable and disrespectful; 3) HAF would provide Hi-Rez with a number of online Hinduism resources and descriptions of the three Hindu deities consistent with scripture and lore to share on the players' forum.
Despite intense deliberations with HAF, and over the protests of many Hindu Americans, Hi-Rez has decided to retain the Hindu deities in SMITE. Hi-Rez confirmed that this Friday's updated version will incorporate revised and more accurate descriptions of all three Hindu deities. Today, Mr. Harris provided links to learn more about Hinduism on the player's forum. Additionally, Hi-Rez agreed to make adjustments to the imagery and actions of Goddess Kali and the avatar Vamana in future updates.
"We are still distressed that the deities have not been removed from SMITE, since Hindu iconography is real and alive to us, and is worshiped and inspires a billion adherents globally," said Shah. "And while we do acknowledge Hi-Rez's sincere efforts in working with us to update the descriptions of the Hindu deities in their game and disseminate accurate information on Hinduism, we still hold that Hindu avatars should not be co-opted into the fantasy world of video game avatars."