I can understand why anthropologists have become a wee bit more defensive about their profession in recent years. But this reaction to a popular i-phone application over at Savage Minds strikes me as a clinical case of overcompensation:
I just wonder how it is that Apple finds an application in which people can throw shoes at a virtual Bush unnacceptable, but find the virtual torture of Pacific Islanders perfectly OK? And how is it that after weeks of being one of the bestselling iPhone games, hardly anyone has commented upon the game’s racism? Just imagine, for instance, a game in which one were presented with a virtual shtetle filled with Jews one could torture, or a plantation full of African slaves? How is it that such applications would certainly be rejected by the Apple Store, and yet Pocket God does not even provoke controversy?
Um, maybe because it’s a cartoon set on an anonymous island with cartoon characters that are not identifiable by race or culture.
Be sure to check out the comment thread at Savage Minds for responses from the game’s creators. They don’t see the “racism” (obviously) and I don’t either.
Most of those commenting are also horrified by the game. Some, however, do display flickers of self-awareness:
There is no doubt a certain amount of colonialist guilt and corrective in this concern over the meaning of Pocket God.