Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Call of Juarez: Cartel controversy

THQ's open-world western series takes the drama of the 1800s to the modernized world of Mexican drug cartels. Numerous websites balked on the idea of basing a game on a perhaps too relevant the Mexican drug cartels. But the issue of playing as an organized crime member is not unique to gamers as other video game titles, Scarface, Mafia, and the Godfather dealt with modern day organized crime.

As with the controversy with EA's Medal of Honor portrayal of the War in Afghanistan is it synomous with the even closer drug cartel wars of Mexico? Should video game creators shy away from the violence when other mediums dabble in? Music, movies and literature do not shy away from the violence in Mexico, with each medium having multiple expositions on the subject. Would a video game trivialized the events when blood is spilt each day be insensitive for consumers?

In Mexican music, the rise and fall of narcorridos (think of a modern day Johnny Cash) is an example of mainstream consumers to be accepting of. In later years, mainstream audiences have rejected it, while radio stations adhering to a self-ban of narcorridos as the bloodshed grew. While the demand of narcorridos may have dropped the songs still remain hugely popular with young adults.

Movies have been critical on the drug cartels, Steve Soderbergh's Traffic stands above the rest, as it portrayed the level of violence and corruption Mexico faces. Certain characters in Traffic are straight from the headlines while the Roberto Rodriguez films, El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the lowbrow Machete all have dealt with cartels and their violence. Perhaps, THQ greenlit the project based on the popularity of Machete.

In regards to literature, Roberto Bolaño's cryptic 2666 deals with the horrors of 21st century. The multiple murders of woman or femicides commited in the city of Juarez still remain unsolved and were part of the plot of Hollywood movies starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas.

Does the video game publisher THQ and developer Technoland have no right to take on the subject? The answer becomes diffcult to answer as the cartel violence continues and as the Mexican government struggles to bring the war to an end. If the uproar of a video game in 2011 is a big deal, why no uproar in 2010 when Machete came out?
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