As a Megami Tensei fan, I’ve been following news of the most recent game – Shin Megami Tensei IV Final – ever since it was announced in October of last year. But there’s one recent bizarre story about the game that unfortunately I completely missed until this week: the story of how Hindus have apparently gotten pissed off that game.
There’s a Hindu “statesman” called Rajan Zed who doesn’t like the fact that Krishna appears as a major character in the game. Specifically he doesn’t like that Krishna looks very different from his traditional depiction, pointing out that his fedora and brown skin (particularly the fedora), and the fact that in the game Krishna is one of the deities and demons that you can summon and thereby command within the game, which of course contradicts the beliefs and tenets of orthodox Hindu tradition. The fact that there are other Hindu deites in this game and previous games that you can summon and control seems to have missed him, as has the fact that there are two games in the series with heavy Hindu themes that have you play as characters who can turn in into versions of Hindu deities and wind up fighting major deities and eventually kick the ass of Brahman (the Hindu concept of the Absolute, or God) itself. In this game, Krishna is the leader of a new faction of polytheistic deities who interrupt the conflict between the forces of Law and Chaos and oppose both in order to “save” mankind by manipulating humans and having them relinquish their souls to basically use as ammo against both factions.
Naturally, Zed demanded that Sega (who currently own Atlus, the series’ developers) not include Krishna in Shin Megami Tensei IV Final. Considering the game has already been released in the days after he began complaining, with Krishna still in it, that’s an impossibly tall order for Sega to fill, as if they care about what some religious butthurt who isn’t even part of the game’s target audience thinks.
A little something about Rajan Zed: this guy tends to get butthurt over depictions of Hinduism and Hindu entities in non-religious entertainment media. He’s previously protested the depiction of the goddess Kali in a game known as SMITE, he’s protested Angels and Demons because of it’s age-rating and for playing with religious beliefs (which is odd considering the movie has nothing to do with Hinduism), he’s protested the bomb of a movie known as The Love Guru by waging a spam email campaign, and more recently he’s complained about how the villain of the upcoming film X-Men Apocalypse compares himself to Krishna. He even tried to appeal to the state of Arkansas to get a statue of the Hindu deity Hanuman built on the grounds of Arkansas State Capitol in response to the Ten Commandments being erected in Oklahoma. Also, much has been made of Zed’s status as a Hindu statesman, particularly back when he was at the center of some kind of controversy about a Hindu prayer being invoked at the US Senate, but the Indian Embassy states that Zed has never held any sort of diplomatic office at all. And for all his talk about Hindus in general being outraged at entertainment media for their Hinduism-related content, and about his biggest gripe being about supposedly playing the sensitivities of believers, other Hindu leaders suggest that all the commotion is coming only from Zed himself and his Universal Society of Hinduism in Nevada.
Now back to Shin Megami Tensei IV Final. There’s something odd about this whole thing. The Christians and Jews have pretty much not caused a fuss about the Shin Megami Tensei games like Zed has, despite the notable presence of YHVH – the Jewish and Christian God – as a major antagonistic force and as an extremely negative personality, with Lucifer having a comparatively positive role. A lot of religious people managed to be cool about it enough not to throw a hissy fit and urge Atlus to change the games to suit their religious sensitivities, so why’s Rajan Zed been urging Sega to change Final to suit Hindu sensitivities (or rather his own)? I’m a Satanist/Luciferian and I don’t necessarily agree with the way I know that Lucifer, and Satan, are depicted in the game, but I don’t give enough of a rat’s ass to complain to Sega or Atlus about it, partly because I actually like the games and generally find myself forgiving of the developers anyway. I think it never occurred to Zed that the game is not about Hinduism, and has little to do with Hinduism (at least alone) other than the inclusion of Hindu deities and demons as characters whom you can summon or fight. The games are not really about any of the religions of the world either, despite the presence of major themes from those religions. They are about the gods and the demons of those religions and other mythologies to be sure, but they are moreso about mankind’s relationship with them, particularly the relationship of the individual, and about the never-ending competition between deities, demons, religions, philosophies, and ideas. Those concepts ares more important in the games than what hat Krishna is wearing. But more importantly, it’s about taking names and kicking ass with gods and demons. What’s not to like?