The Indonesian government may ban the multi-player video game Fortnite over disputed allegations that Islam’s holiest site was desecrated in a user-generated setting, but players of the game say the government is overreacting.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the world-famous battle royale game could be outlawed in Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim but governed under a secular democracy. Uno wants to discourage children from playing it, saying it promotes violence and is potentially blasphemous.
“I have been told that players must destroy an icon that is deemed to resemble the Kaaba so as to get new weapons and advance to the next level,” Uno was quoted as saying in local media. “Therefore, we will instruct our team to evaluate this game and issue a ban.”
The allegations first emerged last month with what appeared to be screenshots from the game. They were taken seriously enough for Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University to warn that the game “affects young people's beliefs and self-respect and underestimates the importance of their sanctities.”
But fact-checkers quickly identified that the claims were inaccurate and had stemmed from a Creative mode in which users can add their own elements and challenges. Creative mode allows users to create their own “islands” or gaming environment.
The Middle East division of Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, said in a Facebook post that the Kaaba was not desecrated as part of the game because it could not be destroyed on the island designed by a user in Creative mode. It added that it respects all religions and tries to provide a safe gaming environment for all players.
Epic Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But players in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, are already pushing back against the threat.
“Banning the game is way too extreme, since Fortnite has a huge fan base in Indonesia,” Hisar Sinambela, a 25-year-old player who lives in Jakarta, told VICE World News. “There’s always a possibility that the objects in the game resemble a building or something, but it doesn’t mean it represents specific objects.”
“It would be better for the government to cross-check with the developer first,” he added.
Ardiyanto Putra, a 20-year-old Fortnite player from the city of Yogyakarta, explained to VICE World News how the allegations may have surfaced in the first place.
“There are three categories in Fortnite. Battle royale is the basic mode, where up to 100 players survive and fight each other [on an island]. Then there’s ‘Save the World,’ where you can go on an adventure based on the story narrative. The last one is Creative Mode. In this mode, you can play however you want, but you need a code to enter the game,” Putra said.
He said the uproar over the Kaaba allegation clearly derives from that mode.
“So if anyone is to blame, then it’s the creator who made it,” he said, adding that although the developer could exercise more oversight, the government should also do more research before deciding to ban anything.
Additional translation by Annisa Nurul Aziza