PETA satirical browser games
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization based in the United States, has released a number of browser games on its website that have parodied existing video games. Various PETA parodies have taken on games such as Super Mario Bros., Cooking Mama, and Pokémon Black and White. PETA creates these games to spread attention about real-life animal rights and animal welfare concerns and advocate vegetarian and vegan diets. PETA has received mostly negative press coverage for its efforts, with critics variously finding the games to be under-researched, logically inconsistent, or heavy-handed with their messages.
Some of PETA's earliest forays into gaming include Flash-based games such as Make Fred Spew (2001) and Save the Chicks (2003), which were included as part of PETA's anti-dairy and Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaigns. Although these received some coverage in academic and news sources, and PETA's head of online marketing, Joel Bartlett, has identified their 2004 Revenge of the PETA Tomatoes and the Frogger parody, Lobster Liberation, as some of the organization's earliest released games, it was not until 2007 that PETA began to attract wider attention within the gaming community with its release of Super Chick Sisters, a parody of Super Mario Bros. Controlling two female chicks named Nugget and Chickette, the player sets out to rescue vegetarian actress Pamela Anderson, who has publicly revealed animal cruelty endemic to KFC's food production, from KFC's mascot Colonel Sanders. In 2009, the game was met with a sequel, New Super Chick Sisters, an homage to New Super Mario Bros. In this game, McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald kidnaps Anderson with the intent of using her as a Happy Meal ingredient, and the Chick Sisters must rescue her again.
In 2008, PETA released an adaptation of the cooking simulator Cooking Mama called Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals. In it, PETA encouraged users to write to Cooking Mama developer Majesco Entertainment to create a version of the game with only vegetarian recipes. Mama Kills Animals consists of minigames related to the preparation of animal carcasses.
Edmund McMillen from Team Meat, the developer of the indie game Super Meat Boy, created various accounts on PETA's official forums to try to get his game parodied by PETA. PETA developed Super Tofu Boy and released it in December 2010. It stars Tofu Boy, an anthropomorphic cube of tofu whose goal is to rescue Bandage Girl, the girlfriend of the original game's protagonist Meat Boy, from Meat Boy. It plays as a standard platformer and is peppered with inter-level pro-vegetarian messages and facts about meat consumption and the livestock industry.
After releasing Mario Kills Tanooki, a parody of Super Mario Bros. 3, PETA released a statement that the game was "meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur." The organization also stated that "by wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur." It is an action game in which the player controls a skinned but living raccoon dog that chases Mario to retrieve its fur.
PETA took on the Pokémon series with Pokémon Black and Blue, a parody of Pokémon Black and White that focuses on animal fighting and experimentation. In role-playing-style battles, the player controls a Pikachu who escapes its Trainers, Cheren. Pikachu first fights Cheren and then moves on to other Trainers in order to rescue their Pokémon from ownership. Pikachu recruits these Pokémon to its cause, as well as the sympathetic Nurse Joy. A sequel, Pokémon Red, White, and Blue, followed in 2013. The game suggests that Nintendo's continual releases of Pokémon games reduce humans' empathy for animals. Also a role-playing game, it stars Pikachu and Miltank, who battle McDonald's characters like the Hamburglar in a crusade against the rare but ongoing practice of meat production in the Unova region.
Also in 2013, PETA released Cage Fight: Knock Out Animal Abuse, a beat 'em up game in the style of River City Ransom. The player controls vegetarian mixed martial arts fighters Jake Shields, Aaron Simpson, and Georgi Karakhanyan and attacks animal testing practitioners to rescue confined animals.
Reception and impact
PETA's games have received mainly negative opinions from video game journalists. Forbes writer Erik Kain summarized the series in general as "a long parade of silly protests." He also considered PETA's failure to satirize well-known hunting games like Duck Hunt and Big Game Hunter as well as the general message that video games encourage real-life violence, to be illogical.
Response to Mario Kills Tanooki has been negative, generally holding that it was under-researched. While PETA's protest focused on Mario wearing a raccoon dog's skin rather than harming them himself, Gaming Union stated that "from any gamers' perspective, it's clear to see that PETA have missed their mark on this one; Mario squishes hundreds of enemies in each of his games, but is never seen harming a tanuki." Kain called the game "ludicrous" given that gamers had long adored the Tanooki suit and would not be encouraged to kill real-life raccoon dogs.
Jessica Conditt from Joystiq found the messages of Pokémon Black and Blue to be contradictory: "while it's terrible to punch, kick, cut or hit fictional animals with bats, it's perfectly acceptable to electrocute humans". Jason Schreier from Kotaku called it "ridiculous". Kotaku's Mike Fahey wrote a mostly negative piece about Pokémon Red, White, and Blue; he stated that despite its occasional humor, "mostly it just wanders about, beating its message into your brain with heavy hands."
Not all critical response has been unfavorable. Fahey opined that New Super Chick Sisters "manages to be a rather capable little platformer despite its heavy-handed message." Nikole Zivalich of G4TV called Super Tofu Boy "actually a pretty good time waster" and, as she is a vegetarian, claimed to be "on Team Tofu." Overall, Mike Splechta from GameZone stated that "some are a little less flattering than others, but they do tend to get their point across." He also called Cage Fight "kickass", praising its gameplay and chiptune soundtrack, and encouraged readers to play it.
In some cases, the creators of the original games have responded to PETA's parodies. In response to Super Tofu Boy, Super Meat Boy developer Team Meat added Tofu Boy as a playable character in a Super Meat Boy update. Majesco responded to Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals that the Mama character, while not a vegetarian herself, supports treating animals humanely and "would never put rat in [her] Ratatouille."
PETA's games — and the games they parody — that have received press coverage include:
- Super Chick Sisters (2007) – Super Mario Bros.
- Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals (2008) – Cooking Mama
- New Super Chick Sisters (2009) – New Super Mario Bros.
- Super Tofu Boy (2010) – Super Meat Boy
- Mario Kills Tanooki (2011) – Super Mario Bros. 3
- Pokémon Black and Blue (2012) – Pokémon Black and White
- Cage Fight: Knock Out Animal Abuse (2013) – River City Ransom
- Pokémon Red, White, and Blue: Loosely Connected to McDonald's (2013) – Pokémon Black and White
- Original Make Fred Spew game page. Internet Archive. Archived 4 June 2001. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Original Save the Chicks game page. Internet Archive. Archived 7 February 2003. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Frasca, Gonzalo. KFC Cruelty Game. www.bogost.com. 18 February 2004
- Jackson, Rachael. "PETA dials back diatribe, edges into the mainstream." Orlando Sentinel. 11 May 2008.
- Smith, Wesley J.. A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. (2010) Encounter Books, ISBN 978-1-59403-346-9
- "An Interview with PETA: Game Developer." Gameranx. 21 October 2013.
- Original 2004 lineup of 4 games. Internet Archive. Archived 10 September 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- Fahey, Mike (November 12, 2009). "PETA Releases New Super Chick Sisters". Kotaku. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- PETA (2007). Super Chick Sisters. PETA. "Description: Colonel Sanders and his minions have kidnapped Pamela Anderson for revealing to the world that KFC's secret recipe is cruelty to chickens! Help the Super Chick Sisters save Pam before it's too late!"
- PETA (2009). New Super Chick Sisters. PETA. "Description: Princess Pamela Anderson has been captured by evil Ronald McDonald, who plans on making her a part of his unhappy meals along with the chickens who are tortured for McDonald's restaurants. Help free Princess Pam and rescue the chickens from McDonald's cruelty!"
- Fahey, Mike (November 19, 2008). "Cooking Mama Responds to PETA". Kotaku. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
- PETA (2008). Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals. PETA. "Message: Urge Majesco to make a vegetarian recipe version of Cooking Mama!"
- PETA (2008). Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals. PETA. "Objective: Remove the Internal Organs: Using your mouse, stick your hand inside the turkey, remove the organs, and place them in the mixing bowl."
- Ransom-Wiley, James (October 26, 2010). "If you think Super Meat Boy is hard, try developing it". Joystiq. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- Zivalich, Nikole (December 2, 2010). "Team Meat Responds To PETA's Super Meat Boy Parody, Super Tofu Boy". G4TV. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- PETA (2010). Super Tofu Boy. PETA. "Tofu Boy: I must save Bandage Girl from Meat Boy's bloody, jealous rage!"
- PETA (2010). Super Tofu Boy. PETA. "Tip: Tofu doesn't scream when you cut it!"
- PETA (2010). Super Tofu Boy. PETA. "Tip: Red meat can lead to impotence, obesity, and loss of girlfriend."
- Horn, Leslie (November 17, 2011). "PETA Claims Mario Dig Was 'Tongue-in-Cheek'". PC Magazine. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- PETA (2011). Mario Kills Tanooki. PETA. "Objective: Save your skin! Press the space bar to jump."
- "Humans Are The Enemy In This Ridiculous PETA Pokémon Parody". Kotaku. October 8, 2012. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Black and Blue. PETA. "Nurse Joy: I heard what you said to Cheren. I want to help you. As a nurse, I've seen how mistreated and exploited Pokémon are. Like all thinking and feeling beings, Pokémon must surely suffer terribly when they are cut up in experiments or forced to fight."
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Black and Blue. PETA. "Objective: You have escaped from your trainer—get ready to fight!"
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Black and Blue. PETA. "Objective: Defeat all the trainers to free all Pokémon!"
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Black and Blue. PETA. "Pikachu: Pokémon are not yours to abuse, Cheren. We exist for our own reasons."
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Black and Blue. PETA. "Tepig: Let's get going, Pikachu. I haven't had a good walk in a long time!"
- Fahey, Mike (October 11, 2013). "I'm Not Sure, But I Think PETA Is Upset With Pokémon.". Kotaku. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Red, White, and Blue. PETA. "Description: For generations, humans have claimed to love Pokémon, but if Pokémon came to our world in real life and saw how we treat animals, would they love us back? Would they feel that Pokémon games have a part in reducing our empathy for animals? Would they feel like it's completely ridiculous that Nintendo releases two versions of essentially the same game and then has the audacity to release a slightly different version a couple of years later?"
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Red, White, and Blue. PETA. "Pikachu: I can't believe you think it's OK to feed Miltank to people. Prepare for trouble!"
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Red, White, and Blue. PETA. "Mysterious Stranger: The people of Unova eat Pokémon, do they not?"
- PETA (2012). Pokémon Red, White, and Blue. PETA. "Pikachu: Only occasionally, and we're fighting to change that. Everyone knows it's gross."
- Splechta, Mike (June 25, 2013). "PETA has MMA fighters free animals in kickass River City Ransom clone". GameZone. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
- Kain, Erik (October 10, 2012). "PETA Pokémon Protest Isn't A First - 5 Other Silly Anti-Video Game Protests From The Animal Rights Group". Forbes. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "PETA parody 'Pokemon Black and Blue' fights for fictional animal rights". Joystiq. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- Full list of PETA's browser games