Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the LBP delay

I have mixed feelings about LittleBigPlanet being recalled by Sony worldwide because of a song that includes a verse or two from the Koran.

The song in question was written by a Muslim musician who supposedly cares himself about being respectful. Even if he considers his action honorable, the other Muslims who disagree should also be listened to. But the key here is who has the most reasonable argument. There will always be people who are offended only because they are being unreasonable, short-sighted, or selfish. Such people should be engaged in conversation, but it is only reasonable objections that should be acted upon.

To some extent, I agree with this guy, also a Muslim. He does not like to see holy verses used in songs not of praise or in frivolous games (as opposed to educational games), but he also does not like to see censorship for the sake of guarding someone from conflicting beliefs. Speaking as a deeply religious person myself (orthodox Catholic), I can see the balance that must be found between open expression and sacrificial respect.

If someone insults a person I love, it's right for me to stand up for that loved one, but (in most cases) that person should be free to insult. We don't want to encourage people to be harmful or callous, but free will should be honored and people should often be allowed to act with even unreasonable disrespect. It's complicated when that loved one is your King, Savior, and Creator, but the same principle basically applies. People should be generally free to insult God. God is the giver of free will, so to undermine free will is to disrespect God.

Free will is not an absolute freedom, of course. Some censorship is justified. But it's right to generally rely on self-censorship. It's right to allow informal interventions to ensure interactions between persons and peoples are respectful. In that article, Jasser calls these informal interventions the "free market", but that seems to me a limited view of our informal interactions.

So what do we have so far? (1) Act only on reasonable objections. (2) Honor free will and allow informal interactions to filter discourse. What else needs to be added?

Well, we also need to recognize Sony's freedom to govern its own operations and determine what works will represent it in the market. Whether or not we believe the Muslims who objected to this song in LBP are reasonably offended does not matter as much as whether or not Sony agrees with their objection. Even if Sony's thinking is flawed, it is still that company's decision to make. As a publisher, it has a duty to honor the free expression of its artists, but those artists reflect on Sony and the publisher has a right to filter them within reason.

Ultimately, I think it's good if Sony decided to delay LBP because they agree the objections are reasonable and LBP is not intended to be a game that challenges ideas, though the disappointment of thousands of anxious fans should certainly have been a factor in the decision (as I'm sure it was). I only think this reflects poorly on Sony if the decision was more political than sincere. Like Tipa, I have to wonder if Sony is just following the popular trend of protecting Muslims while caring nothing for Christians and Jews.


  1. I think more thought (not on your part, you have thought this through quite a lot) on the part of the people who censor needs to occur and just as your saying, see the merits of religious things instead of just the dangers and faults.

    People are very scared of offending Muslims for various reasons these days and not scared of offending Christians and Jews as much. That's what leads to your wondering situation.

  2. Alot of fuss about nothing which doesn't harm Sonys PR machine or LBP. More talk = more covrage - i do agree that it's just convience that the muslim religion is very reactionary.

  3. I too have been thinking hard about the LBP situation, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do for Sony, from a business standpoint.

    The argument that holds the most water in my mind is the fact that Sony is basically the sole player in the Middle Eastern market; Microsoft and Nintendo have effectively no presence there and Sony only gains by not giving Middle East consumers a reason to look elsewhere for entertainment. Couple that with the press received (no press is bad press) and the fact that 99.9% of people who were excited about the game are still going to buy it, and it appears to be a sound financial decision.

    Now as for caring nothing about Christians and Jews, to be frank, Christians and Jews can take it. Our country was founded on the premise that we can practice whatever religion we want, no matter how crazy, so we are used to plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of abuse regarding whatever we believe. The same sense of freedom now goes for nearly any country in the developed world. Hell, I’m more concerned with the war against Christmas than I am with Sony potentially not caring about offending Christians and Jews (I, for one, really like X-mas!).

    I thought today’s Penny Arcade strip was especially relevant.


  4. Good point about the Asia Minor market.

    Jews and Christians are used to disregard and hostility (Jews especially), but the fact that an injustice is common as can be doesn't make it less serious. We can bear it, certainly. Only half of maturity is doing; the other half is handling what's done to you, and whining obviously isn't helpful. But everyday errors are still worth mentioning.

    Thanks for the PA link. It's right on the money. EA and Maxis were amazed by what Spore players could do with the editors (which was both good and bad). Sony's in for some big shocks, too, I'm sure.


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