While many of us played through Ubisoft's latest Prince of Persia with nothing on the mind other than being entertained, the New York Time's Seth Schiesel calls out the game for willfully disregarding reality.

Schiesel does understand that Prince of Persia is a work of fantasy, set in a Persia that doesn't exist in our world, but questions whether the magical setting is enough to absolve the developers from accurately depicting aspects of Persian culture.

What are we to make of a "Prince of Persia" who talks and behaves like a 17-year-old American mall rat? A "Prince of Persia" with blue eyes, fully Anglicized facial features and what looks like a tan he picked up on spring break? Is it taking a video game too seriously to shrink in distaste from such characterizations? In fairness, the new Prince of Persia does not claim any historical or cultural authenticity; the game is set in a fantastic magical realm rather than in a rendition of any real place. But does that absolve the game of any responsibility?

I can certainly see the point he is making. The same sort of point could be made for television shows and movies. Before I moved to Georgia in the mid-80's, my entire notion of what it is to live in Georgia was based off of The Dukes of Hazzard - the only cultural reference I had available to me at the time. I was certainly surprised. As surprised as any Westerner would be going to Persia expecting to see English faces and hear English voices.

Now I am mature and intelligent enough to know the difference, but that certainly wasn't always the case.

Prince of Persia is a great game, but simply being a video game is no longer sufficient to earn a pass from being held to account for shaping the perceptions and attitudes of its players. Not anymore.


Even Escapist Fare Can't Escape Some Real-World Questions [New York Times via Evil Avatar]