Hey Google, Ditch the Android OS Dogfighting App

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Look out, it’s another app trawling for attention by mimicking felonious real-world activities. Meet Dog Wars, a game designed to play just as it sounds: Pit your virtual pooch against others in violent, bloody pit brawls.

“Raise your Dog to Beat the Best!” reads the description, boasting that Dog Wars is “A GAME THAT WILL NEVER BE IN THE iPHONE APP STORE!!!” The gameplay sounds like it takes more than a page from real-life dogfighting, too, letting you feed, water and train your virtual dog to battle with other players online. The game includes a chatroom, multiple characters and dogs to choose from, and a virtual store.

Anticipating backlash, the designers remind passerby that it’s “just a video game” and point to other games that involve acts of violence like Angry Birds and Call of Duty. They stress that Dog Wars is listed as a “high maturity” app, and write that it “does NOT violate the Terms of Use with the Google market in any way!!!”

When it comes to violent video games, gamers often live with contradiction. In the just-released revamp of Mortal Kombat, super-powered humans do extraordinarily inhumane things to each other. Cartoon humor aside, in Angry Birds you’re sending birds to their death, kamikaze-style, to first bruise, then crush to death mobs of smirking pigs. And in games like Call of Duty, the game’s metrics often cold-bloodedly reward players for pulling off tricky maneuvers like “one-kill” shots to the head. Generally speaking, no one complains about these.

Dog Wars is different. It celebrates the illegal culture of dogfighting, a tragically real and indescribably cruel practice, for which football star Michael Vick spent nearly two years in jail (he’s calling for Google to drop the game, if it matters). Imagine a realistic game that celebrated molesting children or sexually assaulting someone. Imagine another that let you corral people in death camps, starve them, march them into gas chambers, then send their bodies to crematories. Imagine a third that let you single out certain ethnicities for torture, then hang them from trees. Just because some games traffic in violent activity doesn’t make anything conceivable ethically justifiable.

And lest someone raise the censorship flag, as Digital Life rightly notes, this isn’t a First Amendment issue. Google isn’t the government, it’s a private corporation with a right to pull whatever it likes–just as it did a baby shaking app in 2009. It’s really Google’s prerogative–just as it’s yours to lobby a company like Google to either keep such an app, or remove it.