Nov. 14, 2011 at 4:09 PM ET
You have to give it to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — they know how to leverage a pop culture event to promote their own agenda.
You see, Nintendo has just launched its highly anticipated game "Super Mario 3D Land." The game — which you play on Nintendo's new handheld 3DS game machine — features the famed plumber Mario making his way through a cartoon land filled with cranky mushrooms, man-eating plants and nefarious turtle creatures. On occasion, the mustachioed plumber dons a furry raccoon-like "Tanooki suit" which lets him float in the air and swat this colorful host of bad guys with a tail.
PETA, however, thinks Mario's fur-wearing ways are offensive and has — just in time for the launch of "Super Mario 3D Land" — launched its own campaign pegging Mario as a killer of innocent animals.
To be clear, the E-rated "Super Mario 3D Land" never suggests that Mario slaughtered an animal for its fur. In fact, the magical Tanooki suits that he wears in the game typically spring from magical squares that magically hover in the air. These squares magically give up the suits (which at first look like magical leaves) when Mario bumps his head into them.
But according to PETA's new "Mario Kills Tanooki" website, in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it's OK to wear fur."
The site then offers visitors a chance to play a game called "Super Tanooki Skin 2D" in which you try to help a skinned Tanooki chase down Mario and reclaim his fur. (Don't bother, gamers, it's pretty lame.)
It's hard to believe that the folks over at PETA truly believe that a video game starring tiny man in a magical children's costume actually contributes to worldwide fur wearing. If they did believe Nintendo's new game had that kind of impact on behavior, then they should have also mentioned Mario's abuse of the turtle-like Koopa creatures.
But this is not the first time PETA has skewered video games as a way to grab attention. A few years back it spoofed the popular "Cooking Mama" game with its own game "Cooking Mama Kills Animals" to bring attention to the Thanksgiving slaughter of turkeys. And last year the non-profit created the game "Super Tofu Boy" as a parody of hit indie game "Super Meat Boy."
Of course, if you watch this PETA video about what happens to real tanuki racoon dogs, you can certainly see why the organization is up in arms about the fur business. (WARNING: The video is graphic and horrible and sad.)
If only PETA didn't feel the need to drag innocent bystanders through the mud to make its point.
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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.