Before Jake Shields faces Tyron Woodley this Saturday in Winnipeg, the UFC welterweight has to destroy an underground animal-experimentation ring populated by mad scientists and other assorted rabbit, cat, and goat tormentors.
Anyway, that's the story behind a new online video game from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called Cage Fight: Knock Out Animal Abuse. Done up in the two-dimensional eight-bit style of the early 90s, Cage Fight features MMA fighters (and vegetarians) Shields, Aaron Simpson, and Georgi Karakhanyan kicking, punching, and kneening their way through university labs, military bases, and pharmaceutical testing facilities in an effort to spread the bad word about animal testing.
Cage Fight might not be the highly anticipated new EA UFC game, but it does feature Octagon Girl and devoted animal activist Arianny Celeste as the fighters' own personal Beatrice, and the opportunity to kick bloodythirsty torturers in the head. How many video games make you feel like you're actually doing something good for the world?
We talked to PETA Director of Marketing Innovations Joel Bartlett about how the group came up with the idea for the game and what it means having professional fighters on their team. Read the interview here and then give the game a try below.
Fightland: How did you come up with this idea?
Joel Bartlett: PETA has a long relationship with a number of MMA fighters. People are horrifed when they hear how dogs are intentionally poisoned to death with pesticides, how monkeys are addicted to cocaine and heroin and needles in needless laboratory experiements. So I thought, “How can we combine these things to help reach people with more information about animal experimentation?” So the game gives players the opportunity to fight back against cruel animal testing at universities, pharmaceutical companies, and even U.S. military bases. In addition to the pixilated action, we link to real-life action, where people can then take action and send messages to actual PETA campaoign targets.
How did you build these relationships with fighters and Arianny Celeste?
Arianny just sent an email to PETA a couple of months ago while we were already working on this game, saying that she wanted to get involved and do her part to help animals. It was a perfect opportunity that we were able to integrate her into the game we were already working on.
Our relationship with Jake has been going on for a while. Many people who know they have an audience reach out to PETA saying they want to use the attention they get to do good things. But we also reach out to people. If we know that an MMA fighter is a vegetarian, we’ll defnintely send him an email saying, “Hey, we’d like to talk to you.” So a lot of these relationships started with PETA having a conversation with fighters about their vegetarianism, their veganism, their passion about animals. We’ve filmed many PSAs with fighters, everything ranging from "Stop Abusing Animals" to "Here’s Why You Should Go Vegan."
Are people involved with PETA surprised you're working with MMA fighters?
I think that there’s sill an unfortunate stereotype that to be a strong, tough guy, you need to eat meat. And these fighters all prove that to be false. You would not want to be in a fight with Jake Shields, and he doesn not need meat to be strong. So I think that PETA’s relationship with these fighters is great because it tears apart those stereotypes.
Do you think having people from the MMA community involved will open up a new market for spreading your message?
Absolutely. On any given day, people aren’t going to think about what's happening to animals in labs. This is happening behind closed doors. And thanks to these fighters who are working with us on this game, hundreds of thousands of people are being exposed to these truths. And once people learn about what’s happening in labs, they are horrified; they want to see change. When people hear that the military is cutting the limbs off of live goats when there are approved alternatives, people want to see that changed. So getting this information out is the most important step in working toward change.
Does PETA make distinctions between types of experimentation done on animals, say medical vs. cosmetic?
PETA believes that animals are not ours to use for experiments. All of the experiments that we portray in the game actually happen to animals, all the violence. Cats have holes drilled into their skulls. Pigs are shot and have their skinned burned off. Rabbits are given crippling spinal cord injuries. And for all of these, there are non-animal methods that are more advanced and completely possible. No animal experiments are necessary.
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