Last year, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia opined in a majority decision that video games are as much a protected art form as any other creative medium. As a result, Scalia reasoned, no matter how vile the message in a game, censoring games based on message alone would have to be practically impossible - after all, the right to freedom of speech has very few exceptions.
Justice Scalia was right. However, we think we may have found a video game that could pass even his test of what can be constitutionally censored. Why? Because the entire game essentially reduces to a digital death threat against one person.
Readers with a long memory regarding acts of Islamic extremism may recall that in the late 80's, British novelist Salman Rushdie authored a novel inspired partially by the life of Muhammad titled "The Satanic Verses."
The novel received critical acclaim of several varieties, but its quality was ultimately overshadowed by a larger story when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then-Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a "fatwa" against Rushdie for supposed blasphemy against Muhammad. For those who don't know, a "fatwa" in these terms essentially reduces to an execution order. This is what Khomeini said at the time, roughly translated by the BBC:
We are from Allah and to Allah we shall return. [Quranic verse] I am informing all brave Muslims of the world that the author of The Satanic Verses, a text written, edited, and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam, and the Qur'an, along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents, are condemned to death. I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. And whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, Allah Willing. Meanwhile if someone has access to the author of the book but is incapable of carrying out the execution, he should inform the people so that [Rushdie] is punished for his actions.
Rushdie went into hiding after this fatwa was released, and indeed, is still very much alive. One would thus assume the story was concluded.
That assumption is apparently incorrect, because an Iranian student group has now seen fit to begin production on a video game that lets players track down and kill Rushdie. Titled "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict," the game is the brainchild of the Islamic Association of Students, who apparently want to inform newer generations about the fatwa against Rushdie and the importance of its being carried out. Never mind that the fatwa was made 24 years ago and the man who issued it isn't even in power anymore.
No screenshots of the game itself have been released yet. More to the point, it is quite unlikely that it will ever see release in the United States, or in any Western country. Nevertheless, this is clearly a problematic usage of the medium.