It is hard to believe there was high demand for another entry in Ubisoft's Call of Juarez series. The two previous games, while playable, didn't exactly fly off the shelves. Yet despite average reviews and lackluster sales, Ubisoft is set to release the third entry in the series this summer. Call of Juarez: The Cartel could be the first example of a game that has more people wanting to ban it than wanting to buy it.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel is set in the real-life city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and the residents of that city are not exactly thrilled to see a video game that allows players to act out situations that mirror the city's real life issues. According to State Congress Leader Enrique Serrano, the drug-related crime is so prevalent that the children of Juarez are trained to "duck and cover" if a firefights erupt outside their school or home. Having a game that translates Juarez's real-life issues into a video game for entertainment is too much for some in Juarez, and it has lead to city officials calling for a ban.
During 2009 - 2010, there were 6,000 deaths in Ciudad Juarez from drug-related violence. Ricardo Boone Salmon, a congressman for Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located, argues that crime is something that they are struggling with, and that they don't need a video game glorifying the unfortunate situation that Juarez currently has:
"It is true there is a serious crime situation, which we are not trying to hide. But we also should not expose children to this kind of scenarios so that they are going to grow up with this kind of image and lack of values."
Enrique Serrano also reiterated that this call for a ban is based on their desire to protect the children of Juarez. Using the old argument that violent games will lead to violent children, Serrano claims that with the current situation, children may have trouble differentiating what is normal and what is wrong:
"Children wind up being easily involved in criminal acts over time, because among other things, during their childhood not enough care has been taken about what they see on television and playing video games. They believe so much blood and death is normal."
Currently, Ubisoft doesn't seem to be to be too worried about this potential ban. The company has released a statement saying that the game is a work of fiction, and is not meant to take a stand on the current issues Juarez is facing:
"'Call of Juarez: The Cartel' is purely fictional and developed by the team at Techland for entertainment purposes only. While 'Call of Juarez: The Cartel' touches on subjects relevant to current events in Juarez, it does so in a fictional manner that makes the gaming experience feel more like being immersed in an action movie than in a real-life situation. Ubisoft is an entertainment company and our intention is to create a unique experience for video game fans."
In my opinion this is a tough one to call. On one hand, artists should be allowed to make and create whatever they want. Too many times in this industry game companies back down to pressure, like EA did with the Medal of Honor Taliban controversy. Hopefully Ubisoft sticks to their principals and keeps the game the way it was originally intended. Whether or not that original vision turns out to be a good game remains to be seen.
On the other side of the argument, I can see why Juarez officials would want to ban this game. Given the current situation in Juarez, special attention might be justified. The city's children could actually end up dealing with situations similar to those portrayed in the game. Still, it seems that parents, and not the government, should be the ones making the call on what games their kids play.
So readers, what are your thoughts on this issue? Should Juarez officials let the parents decide what their kids play? Or is this a serious enough issue in Juarez that the government should look into it?
Call of Juarez: The Cartel is currently scheduled for a summer release for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC