Dog Wars, a new free app for Android smartphones that encourages users to “feed, water, train, and fight” virtual dogs, is being condemned around the world by dog lovers, animal rights activists, and law enforcement.
Why? For starters, check out the top of the description on the Dog Wars app page:
“Raise your Dog to Beat the Best! A GAME THAT WILL NEVER BE IN THE iPHONE APP STORE!!!”
Dog Wars teaches users how to condition a dog using methods that are common in organized dogfighting, Activists are calling it a “virtual training ground” for would-be dogfighters.
Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said he believes the game should be taken off the market and the creators should be fired.
Weber calls the game “absolutely sickening,” according to KTLA News, and said it “absolutely the wrong message to send to our children.”
He’s far from the only one who is upset. As of Tuesday morning, more than 10,000 have signed a petition at change.org asking Google, which owns the Android market, to block Dog Wars and stop condoning animal cruelty. (Click on this link to add your name to the growing list.)
The head of the Los Angeles police union is also calling for the game to be yanked because it encourages “sickening cruelty and immoral behavior.”
Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects, said in a statement that, “Anything that in any way appears to promote or condone the serious, violent crime of dog fighting is cause for concern…This ‘game’ comes at a time when public outrage and law enforcement concern about dog fighting is at an all-time high, and the public should make this outrage known to those who promote it.”
Even Michael Vick, who served 21 months in prison for his role operating a dogfighting ring, is ripping it apart. (Not that most Dogsters care to hear his words, but they’re worth mentioning in a news story about the issue, whatever you think his motives may be.)
“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dog fighting is a dead-end street,” Vick said in a statement. “Now I’m on the right side of this issue. It’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app.”
KTLA reports that in an email to the Los Angeles Times signed by firstname.lastname@example.org, an official for Kage Games claimed the game’s proceeds will go toward animal rescue organizations and the Japanese tsunami relief effort.
Philanthropy? That’s not something they advertise on the app site. (How many rescue organizations would want money raised by glorifying dogfighting?)
The email continues, “We are in fact animal lovers ourselves,” and “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.”
Contrast that with words from the app developers on the Dog Wars page:
If you have a bug up your b*tt about the game concept, remember:
1. It is just A VIDEO GAME
2. Perhaps one day we will make gerbil wars or beta fish wars for people who can’t understand fantasy role play games
3. 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 (looking at you XDA Developer Forums… deleting our beta testing thread and banning our account?!)
4. Just go slingshot some virtual birds to kill some virtual pigs.
5. Go complain to someone who cares about Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Weed Farmer, Smoke a Bowl (these two are listed in the top 15 of casual games on Android Market) and maybe even Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry from 1987.
Somehow Angry Birds (they’re the slingshot mention above), the cute and devilishly addictive app that has taken smartphone users my storm, just isn’t the same as a game where the point is for dogs to maul each other to death – just as happens in real-life dogfighting (which is illegal in all 50 states).
And yes, there are some super violent and disturbing apps out there. So why the uproar about Dog Wars? To answer the question I give the floor over to app expert Matt Peckham, of Time magazine’s Techland. He writes:
When it comes to violent video games, gamers often live with contradiction. In the just-released revamp of Mortal Kombat, super-powered humans do extraordinarily inhumane things to each other. Cartoon humor aside, in Angry Birds you’re sending birds to their death, kamikaze-style, to first bruise, then crush to death mobs of smirking pigs. And in games like Call of Duty, the game’s metrics often cold-bloodedly reward players for pulling off tricky maneuvers like “one-kill” shots to the head. Generally speaking, no one complains about these.
Dog Wars is different. It celebrates the illegal culture of dogfighting, a tragically real and indescribably cruel practice, for which football star Michael Vick spent nearly two years in jail (he’s calling for Google to drop the game, if it matters). Imagine a realistic game that celebrated molesting children or sexually assaulting someone. Imagine another that let you corral people in death camps, starve them, march them into gas chambers, then send their bodies to crematories. Imagine a third that let you single out certain ethnicities for torture, then hang them from trees. Just because some games traffic in violent activity doesn’t make anything conceivable ethically justifiable.
This isn’t a first-amendment issue. It’s not censorship of free speech. As Digital Life notes, Google is a business, not the government, and first-amendment does not apply. Business bends to the will of the customer, and if enough customers cry out against something, the business can change its mind about something. A few years back, a “baby-shaking” app for iPhone was pulled after a similar rally against the app. (Apple is notoriously tough — if somewhat ambiguous — about its app standards.)
Supporters of the app offer this advice in comments on articles like the one in Digital Life: “If these apps offend you – DONT GET THEM. If Google pulls this app, it is nothing short of discrimination, hypocracy, and sellout.”
Does simply not getting the app make the problem go away, or send a message? What do you think of this issue, Dogsters? Will you be taking action? Or would you rather let the dust settle on its own? Let us know!