On numerous occasions at This Is My Joystick, I have defended the gaming industry from what seems like wave after wave of attacks from the media that are intent on blaming much of societies ills on our beloved pastime. Sure, there are violent games on sale but they carry an 18 certification so the only issue up for discussion should be that of parental responsibility. With all this in mind it was somewhat of a surprise to see EA appear to be marketing their new 18 certificate game Dead Space 2 at underage children as #yourmomhatesthis became the top trend on twitter recently.
The games website your mom hates this features what I can only describe as mature mum-like ladies being asked to watch video footage of Dead Space 2, followed by their horrified reactions of how nasty the game is and their declarations that people shouldn’t play games like this. You can almost visualise the media types that we all know and love in Starbucks with their low-cut vests and roll-up cigarettes saying “let’s make it go viral” but isn’t it all a little irresponsible?
“It’s Revolting, it’s Violent, it’s everything you want in a game… and your Moms going to hate it!” is what the trailer tells us, and although it is mildly amusing I cannot help but think that behind the fun lurks a sinister campaign to market an adult game to under-age children. Slightly irresponsible and not to mention frustrating when I have been saying ”adult games are for adult gamers” until I am blue in the face for what seems like forever. I wonder how long we get the Daily Mail type headlines of “ban this sick filth” and the same tiresome debate in return again. Although it would appear incredibly reckless of EA to run an advertising campaign like this at kids, I’m afraid the cliché of “no such thing as bad publicity” springs to mind, in which advertisers will deliberately make something controversial to guarantee a few headlines in a perfectly orchestrated marketing campaign. That is, however, with the all important apology ready to go once the job of spreading the word has been completed. You only need to look back at the “Medal of Honor features the Taliban!” fiasco to see how it all works.
Although the series of adverts are aimed at American gamers, we all know that people no longer watch TV like they used to, and the best way to get around strict advertising guidelines, especially in countries like Australia and Germany where video-game banning is not uncommon, is to publish these viral videos around the world available at the simple push of a button. The positive side of the internet is that we are truly becoming “one world” but as the media learn how to exploit the holes in cyber space, I fear that the internet could end up being heavily regulated to ensure companies act responsibly. Responsible, yes, but a sure fire way to contribute in taking away the beauty of the online world.
As a survival horror fan, I am looking forward to the game Dead Space 2 and reviews have so far been fantastic right across the board, even though I bite my tongue when I read the words “Game of the year” in January. The game has so many positive aspects to sell which proves how it is incredibly lazy to market a dumbed down and stereotypical campaign at 12 year olds saying buy it and your mom will hate it.
In these sensitive times where violent video-games are the scapegoat for so many problems, it also seems quite odd that rather than wait for the tabloids to jump on board, EA have attempted to create their own controversy bandwagon and demonstrate to the world just how offensive it will be to parents and that’s cool kids. You also have to wonder if the mums used in the campaign really are from a real focus group like the adverts suggest and is it right to use mock them to market the same game?
Here we are in 2011, we live in a world where the average gamer is not a child but are much more likely to be in their twenties or thirties. A campaign that continues the stereotypical myth that violent games are played by children is not only dangerous but insulting to gamers who will be purchasing the game. Maybe this is just another example of how corporate gaming has become and what happens when you hand over your marketing campaign to the wrong people. To me, this whole debacle feels like a step backwards for the gaming industry.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Is it a harmless and fun advert or is it a step too far with sinister undertones?