Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dead Space 2: Stupid Advertising

Once I get a little further in the game, I plan to write about Dead Space 2. Short version: I'm liking it a lot. It's certainly sick and gross, but in a good way!

Right now, however, I want to write about the stupid "Your Mom Hates This" advertising campaign, in which EA shows clips from the game to unsuspecting middle aged women and films their horrified reactions. It is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

First, this is an M-rated game, which means it's not supposed to be sold or marketed to people under the age of 17. So who exactly is the target audience for this ad? Are there that many 17-and-ups who still want to cheese off Mom with a violent video game? What exactly is the message they're sending? Are the game companies serious about keeping violent content out of the hands of minors, or just "serious" in a wink-wink, you-really-need-this-game-to-be-cool way. The question answers itself.

Second, there's the idea that EA targeted "conservative" women for the ad. Here's their own description:
A mom’s disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool. So Dead Space 2 was put to the test.
At an undisclosed focus group facility in the heart of conservative America, over 200 moms were recruited to participate in market research. Only, this wasn't market research. The facility was rigged with hidden cameras, microphones, and a crew sitting behind the glass ready to document very single reaction, opinion, and emotion.
Upon arrival, the moms were individually ushered into a room and confronted with three massive monitors, a single chair, and a disembodied voice coming over the speaker system. They didn’t know what they were going to see. They were only instructed to be completely honest.
We then subjected each mom to the most action-packed, violent, disturbing footage Dead Space 2 has to offer.
Some were disgusted. Some were shocked. Others couldn't believe what they were seeing. And every single mom hated it.
It's so nice when hipster marketing twats stereotype an entire region, class, gender and political ideology in order to hawk their products.

Third, it plays on the most trite methods of reinforcing a generation's sense of their own coolness. Rational adults should balk at such shameless manipulation. Attempting to exploit the generational divide in order to sell a few more copies of a game is crass marketing at its worst.

Fourth, I'm frankly not all that keen on surprise "shock video" reactions. I remember when "2 girls 1 cup" reaction videos were going around, and thinking, "That's just wrong." Some little punk showed it to his grandmother, who looked like she was pushing 100, and the woman just seemed to fall apart. She shouted "What's wrong with you?" and it wasn't an idle question: she really wanted to know how and why such things could be, and why a child she had loved would subject her to it. (Little did she know that he would post it to Youtube in order to hold her horror up to the world for mockery.) It was heartbreaking. What is the value in this? What does it say about our humanity?

Fifth, it simply reinforces the stereotype that games are only for hip kids. We've come a long way in mainstreaming electronic entertainment. Many gamers are adults, women, and, yes, moms. The entire campaign just reinforces the notion that games are silly, offensive kid stuff. This is particularly odd for Dead Space 2, which not only has visceral, violent content, but also some mature psychological and character elements. It's the opposite of a cheap exploitation game, yet that's how it's being sold.

Finally, it's just dumb and cruel. There's a "pulling wings off flies" quality to it that speaks to the worst aspects of our personalities. It's one thing to enjoy certain kinds of mature entertainment, but quite another to drag them out into the public square and then jeer at those who are offended.

Here's the whole stupid ad for your perusal.


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