After being sued by the Church of England over the appearance of Manchester Cathedral in the hit FPS Resistance: Fall of Man it’s understandable that Sony would go out of its way to avoid offending religious sensibilities. So when a post showed up in the official European Playstation forums pointing out that a song in the soundtrack for LittleBigPlanet contained verses from the Qur’an and thusly could be considered offensive to Muslims, they opted to err on the side of caution and delay the launch of the game so it could be removed. Now they’re being criticized by a different Muslim group over that decision:
M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president of the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy told Edge on Monday, “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted.
“The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive.”
Jasser, who has also appeared on CNN, in the Washington Times and National Review, said that not only does the First Amendment support freedom of expression, but Mohammed also “defended the rights of his enemies to critique him in any way even if it was offensive to his own Islamic sensibilities or respect for Koranic scripture.”
[…] Jasser said that the demand to censor, as well as Sony’s willingness to bend at the request, is counterproductive to freedom of speech.
“…To demand that [the game] be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.”
Jasser added, “The fact that the music writer is a devout Muslim should highlight that at the core of this issue is not about offending ‘all Muslims,’ but only about freedom of expression and the free market.”
He still said that he does not endorse the use of Koranic verses in non-educational videogames, calling the literature “the words of God.”
But he took a clear stance in upholding First Amendment rights.
“AIFD stands against any form of censorship in the marketplace of ideas whether imposed by government or by corporations intimidated by the response of militants or those with an inappropriately sensitive level of political correctness,” Jasser said.
Needless to say, I agree with him. I can totally understand why Sony opted to play it safe, but I still think they should have kept the song. I also think we need more Muslims standing up and saying things like Mr. Jasser here.
Apparently it’s considered offensive to Muslims to put passages of the Qur’an to music. One track licensed for the game has two lines straight from the holy text as lyrics so Sony decided to delay LBP’s release so they could remove the song:
During the review process prior to the release of LittleBigPlanet, it has been brought to our attention that one of the background music tracks licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Qur’an. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offense that this may have caused.
We will begin shipping LittleBigPlanet to retail in North America the week of October 27th. Sorry for the delay, and rest assured, we are doing everything we can to get LittleBigPlanet to you as soon as possible.
Needless to say I find this silly, but it’s probably in Sony’s better interests to cover their ass and avoid the controversy that would otherwise result. The song itself is Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabate and can be heard on his MySpace page if you’re curious. I thought it was rather pleasant myself.
I had intended to get some blogging in this weekend, especially after seeing headlines that the Big Three might become the Big Two which would be huge news for us Michigan people, but I couldn’t think of what to say that would be all that interesting. In fact I’ve been in a bit of a blogging malaise lately. Maybe I’m just burned out from all the political drama what with the upcoming election and all, I’m still astounded that the Presidential race is going to be close, or maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Not sure, but I know several of you have sent me some very good links lately hoping I’d write something on them and so far I’ve had little to nothing that seemed worth saying. It probably doesn’t help that I’m currently participating in both the Wrath of the Lich King and LittleBigPlanet beta tests and both ate up a good chunk of my weekend. So I’ll write a little bit about those for now:
With regards to Blizzard’s expansion to World of Warcraft all I can say is: Wow! As far as I know they haven’t updated the graphical abilities of the client in any way, but you’d almost swear that they did with just how gorgeous the WotLK expansion looks. The designers have really learned how to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the client. If I had to guess I’d say that most of the improvement comes from improved texture use, but it’s also clear that they’ve learned a few tricks to making the low-polygon models look like they’re more detailed than they really are. Of particular note are some of the special effects. Fire, for example, has always looked a bit cheesy in WoW so when I first stepped foot into the Ember Clutch and saw all the trees caught in the midst of a fairly realistic looking forest fire I was, to say the least, impressed. There’s another effect when fighting the ghosts of a Norse looking race new to the game on the beaches of Riplash Ruins that caught my eye immediately. When the ghosts die they explode into a pile of seaweed. The expansion just looks fantastic all the way around and the variety in landscape is higher than I thought it would be given the frozen theme of the expansion.
It’s also obvious that Blizzard has learned a lot over the years in how to tell a story in a MMO and make people feel a part of the world. The main villain of this expansion, Arthus aka The Lich King, shows up early and often rather than just sitting in his dungeon waiting for players to get high enough to take him down. Not only do Death Knights interact with him quite a bit during their first two levels of experience—you have to go through a quest line to free yourself from being his slave—but he also shows up in at least one of the two starting zones for people arriving in Northrend. Reportedly he shows up through various quest lines all the way through the different zones of the expansion. Did I mention the expansion is huge? I’ve been playing the beta since shortly after it opened up and I’ve only gotten to level 72 on two of my characters, my hunter and my mage, and I’ve only made it to three of the different zones so far, not counting Dalaran which I got portaled to at one point. I’m sure someone will power level their character to level 80 in just a day or two, but for those of us who actually play the game for the content it should take a couple of months at the least to get to 80. It’s amazing to see how much stuff they’ve crammed into the game and I’m looking forward to seeing client 3.0.2 drop tomorrow bringing a good chunk of the user interface and game changes along with it. It’ll basically contain everything except for the new Northrend content to the current game.
The LittleBigPlanet beta has been a blast. The first few platform levels you’ll go through teach you everything you need to know about how to play the game and control your sackboy as well as getting you started on your collection of items you can use to customize the game. It feels a little simplistic at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that it has a lot of hidden depth. Already there are a ton of user created levels available all of which it was recently announced will be carried over to the live game. The game is as gorgeous and cute as the screenshots have shown and it can be surprisingly difficult to snag all the collectibles in a level. I’ve not created much of anything myself yet, but I’ve had a blast seeing what others have come up with. One person managed to put together a fully functional electronic calculator in the game using the available parts. It’s a surprising creation that leaves one to wonder what else might be possible. I think this one is going to sell a lot of PS3s.
So that’s what I did with my weekend. How about you guys?
The folks over at ArsTechnica.com have been playing around in the LittleBigPlanet beta and they’re very impressed indeed:
Even this early into the game’s public beta (which has been going on for the past few days) the depth of some of the user-created levels is impressive. We raced in a WipEout-themed level, played one long ode to Naruto with custom characters and backgrounds, fought monsters constructed from scratch, and tried to master some dexterity-demanding deathtraps. Some of the levels we played even had special player-created rewards for completing their levels, adding the content they laboriously created to our own roster of usable in-game items.
Admittedly, the variety of tools can be daunting, even if the amiable British tutorial narrator makes learning the ropes a relatively painless affair. Still, the possibilities are staggering. Players can pass materials to one another, create switches that trigger explosives or gears, even script enemies to move in certain ways or set scripted events to occur at certain points. These options create so many possibilities that one cannot help but be excited by the prospect of unleashing these simple-to-use tools on the masses.
There’s no question that Sony is on to something with LittleBigPlanet. The YouTube-like design used for creating levels, sharing them online, and finding new ones to play lends itself to a perpetual play experience that isn’t any more likely to grow stale than YouTube is to draw less and less attention with each passing day. And, while the game may create a bit of a barrier for entry that YouTube lacks, it won’t take much in the way of social spreading for the game to catch on with others.
I’m looking forward to the game myself, though I must confess that I haven’t a clue what I’ll create once I get it. Still I look forward to seeing all the cool stuff other people come up with. More importantly, this could be the killer app Sony’s been waiting for to really kick off PS3 sales. Assuming folks out there still have enough money to buy one with all the financial turmoil out there at the moment.
For those of you who’ve pre-ordered and are anxiously waiting, we’ve received great news from Media Molecule – the game code has gone ‘GOLD’ and we’ve started manufacturing the PS3 cases, manuals and most importantly Blu-ray discs. Meaning, LittleBigPlanet will hit stores in North & Latin America on October 21 (With Europe releasing the same week). But trust us, you’ll want to be there with us during the first week. Why you ask?
During the first week only, to celebrate “Launch”, LBP fans everywhere will be able to download a FREE, Limited Edition Spacesuit costume for your SackBoy on the PLAYSTATION Store. (Get it…Launch…Spacesuit…o never mind)
In addition to the freebie, there will also be a rare “I was there Week One” T-Shirt available – to prove that you were… well… “there Week One.”
I think collecting SackBoy costumes is going to be a big hit with fans of LBP. They’re already offering different SackBoy outfits for folks who pre-order depending on which store you pre-order at and now theres two more outfits for folks who get the game on launch day. The spacesuit outfit is particularly impressive:
Click to embiggen!
So if you’ve been waiting for this title to come out you may want to get a pre-order in ASAP.