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Why is Smite Banned in India?

Smite is unofficially banned in India primarily due to controversy and protests from Hindu groups over the depiction of Hindu deities as playable characters in the game. Major game distribution platforms in India avoid listing Smite, leading to a de facto ban even though there is no official nationwide prohibition.

Smite‘s Premise and Hindu Representation

As an avid gamer yourself, you‘re probably familiar with Smite as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that pits mythological figures against each other. What makes Smite unique is its inclusion of gods from various world religions as champions with unique powers and abilities. Of course, this also raises some sensitive issues.

According to Hi-Rez Studios, Smite features deities inspired from the Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, Hindu, Roman, Mayan and Norse pantheons.

This includes major Hindu gods like Kali, Ganesha, Vamana, Rama and more. Kali in particular is portrayed as a fierce goddess wearing minimal armor. Now while this depiction stays true to Kali‘s warrior nature, many Hindus found her oversexualized design disrespectful and inaccurate.

Statistics on Hindu Representation in Smite

  • 11 playable Hindu gods out of over 110 total gods
  • Hindu gods comprise about 10% of current Smite roster
  • 5 Hindu gods added since 2012 when controversy first began
  • Kali, Ganesha, Rama among the top played Hindu gods

So Hindu gods make up a sizable portion of Smite‘s ever-expanding mythology based roster.

Hindu Community‘s Protests Against Smite

In 2012, prominent Hindu statesman Rajan Zed issued a statement demanding the removal of Hindu deities from the game. His key arguments were:

  • Portraying revered figures like Kali and Ganesha as video game characters for entertainment is disrespectful and misleading.
  • Turning Hindu gods into playable avatars promotes misconceptions about the religion among Smite‘s younger player base.
  • The abilities and stats for Hindu gods are not based on scriptural accounts.

According to Zed, "limitations on freedom of expression should be applied in cases insulting organized religions"

While Zed‘s demand for an outright ban faced criticism, it highlighted valid concerns about cultural sensitivity that resonated with many Hindus worldwide even if their views on gaming differed.

Ongoing Controversy and Restricted Access in India

So how does this translate into Smite‘s current inaccessible status in India?

Big gaming platforms like Steam and Origin do not officially list or allow downloads for Smite in India. Physical copies are also hard to find. This unofficial "ban" is the outcome of platforms avoiding controversy by not making Smite easily available.

However Hi-Rez Studios has not issued any statement confirming a block or ban in India. Some smaller private gaming networks still offer Smite. And determined Indian gamers access it via VPNs or foreign accounts. But limited access has restricted the game from gaining mainstream popularity in India.

Key Events in Smite‘s Controversy Timeline

  • June 2012 – Zed issues statement demanding removal of Hindu gods
  • Jan 2014 – Smite enters closed beta phase
  • Mar 2014 – Official launch, Hindu gods retained in game
  • Nov 2017 – Smite launches on Steam but not available in India
  • Apr 2022 – Smite surpasses 35 million players globally

So despite courting controversy for nearly a decade, Smite has gone from strength to strength, while remaining in a legal grey zone in India.

Balancing Religious Sensitivities and Creative Freedom

As an avid gamer, you can understand how developers want the creative freedom to incorporate elements from all mythologies without restrictions. Smite provides a fantasy battlefield for legends who would never actually fight in reality. At the same time, real-world sensitivities remain.

Game companies should aim for authenticity to source material over sensationalism. There are tasteful ways to design female characters that don‘t give into sex appeal for the sake of it. Some representation is better than misrepresentation.

With India now a major gaming market, companies seeking success here need to better understand Hindu sentiments to avoid PR disasters. But calls for outright bans on creative expression would also be extreme.

In conclusion, more dialogue and empathy on both sides can balance creative freedom with cultural respect in a way that satisfies all.