I like to think I’m a good person, with a decent set of morals. I’ve already commented on my hatred for the lack of manners, but I also like to believe that, despite what people may think, advertisers can be good people. I want to believe that I wouldn’t have to sail my entire way of life out of the window just for a brief. I’d like to think that if I was offered a campaign for a client I disagreed with, I’d politely decline and ask to be moved to another brief (I’d probably cave if my job was on the line, but that would take me in a whole different direction on how much one has to value their own decency). I can’t say I want to make the world a better place, because I haven’t exactly tried doing that, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to make the world a worse place.
There are obviously some ground rules when it comes to advertising, and I imagine they’re quite straight forward. Don’t sell cigarettes to kids. Don’t sell sex to kids. Don’t sell drugs to kids. Don’t sell horse to k… I can carry this on for a while, but most of them are about not selling things to children. There are also boundaries of taste, decency, and common sense that need to be adhered too in the advertising world. For anything that doesn’t meet those stringent rules, there’s the ASA.
Now as we know, moderating advertising when it comes to press, TV and most digital campaigns is easy, but what happens when it’s a viral campaign? A Viral campaign with no particular audience, and available in the public domain, in the correct section of video sharing website. What I’m getting at, is EA’s new campaign for Dead Space 2. A primarily American aimed campaign, entitled ‘Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2’.
Video games already get a bad run in the press. They’re violent. They’re rude. They’re disgusting. They also have the uncanny ability to breed criminals. Grand Theft Auto turns your lovely straight-A student into a mindless killing machine. Manhunt turns your ten year old daughter into a knife wielding hooker. Sonic the Hedgehog makes your son run really fast and steal gold from fat balding men with orange moustaches. All of these statements are deadly true. I promise I’m not making any of them up. I’d call you blind if you haven’t read an article somewhere that blames a random act of violence on some form of video games. The thing is, it’s not people who enjoy video games that turn out to be criminals, it’s the people with problems who turn out to be criminals. Of course to some idiotic people who believe anything the press say, this is all untrue, and video games are the spawn of the devil and need to be destroyed.
The past few years have been good to the video game industry. The markets have expanded thanks to the Wii, DS, PS3 Move and Xbox Kinect. People of all ages and genders are finally playing video games and enjoying them. People who once might have believed that video games are the devil, have had a play on Wii bowling and realised it’s not all about dismemberment and shitting down people’s necks. Video games are finally a good source of family entertainment! They’re no longer lambasted for being violent, because not all video games are. Families are being brought together by having a jog on the spot, or shooting the breeze in a calming game of archery. It’s taken a long time for video games to shake their reputation as the breeding ground for next generation serial killers, and the last thing any one should want to do, is to regress that back any further!
What I can’t understand, is why the people at EA decided to do just that. One hundred Mums were canvassed into taking part in the viral ‘Your Mom Hates’ campaign. Yes, those women in the video are true to life Mums. I imagine they’ve been pulled out of the nearest republican party convention. You know the ones. The people who believe it’s all right for your kids to knock someone up who’s under-age, but god forbid if they use a naughty word, or see something that’s violent while doing it. They have no doubt been chosen to illicit the best kind of reaction as they’re shown footage of a heavily violent, overly shocking, 18+ only video game.
As stated, these mostly republican mums have probably never played a video game. After seeing this footage, they’re going to be walking out of that room thinking that all video games are like this. They’ll be thinking that all games consist of decapitation and horrific death sequences that can ripped straight out of a nightmare. Dead Space 2 is probably going to be one of the most violent mature rated video games available to buy, but how are they going to know that? They’ve been tainted in the name of cheap humour, and an easy marketing route. They’re never going to look at a video game again, let alone have their children play them. They’re going to be the kind of people who petition for the next generation of consoles to be burned at the stake for crimes against humanity. It makes me angry that people who make video games, play video games, and obviously have a passion for video games thought this was a good idea. Thanks guys, you’re ruining it for all of us.
My second gripe with the campaign is an obvious one. Who is the target audience? It certainly isn’t me, a twenty three year old adult with a twenty year background in video games. It’s not my mother, who was once addicted to Tetris and Columns. It’s definitely not my twenty three year old girlfriend who enjoys the odd dabble on Little Big Planet and Nintendogs. Well then, I’m running out of ideas! I wonder who it could be aimed at?! Maybe EA are aiming for a younger crowd? Folks who hate what their mum likes, and love what she hates? I imagine that narrows us down to about anyone! Anyone between the ages of ten and fifteen that is.
That’s funny, as I’m sure this video game has been certified as an eighteen plus? Surely you wouldn’t be targeting an audience who is actually too young to play your game would you EA? You wouldn’t be targeting an audience who are physically incapable of buying your product in a shop because they fail to meet the age range would you? Because let me tell you, if you were, that would be despicable. Games, like movies, have age ratings for a reason. Younger children aren’t supposed to be playing Call Of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt. That’s why we have the ESRB and BBFC! To stop unsuitable audiences being able to get hold of offensive material. You wouldn’t let your twelve year old child watch Driller Killer, or Clockwork Orange, so why would you let them play Manhunt, or in this case, Dead Space 2? The campaign is obviously targeting a younger audience, and for that reason I’m disgusted EA. I really am.
The kicker is this; I can’t wait to play Dead Space 2. I’m genuinely looking forward to being terrified and shocked by what I see on screen. That doesn’t matter though, as I’m legally allowed to buy it from a shop. What I don’t want to be considered as, is a plus one for the ‘success’ of this campaign. I don’t want to be considered as a statistic when the shareholders have their next sales meeting. If anything, I really shouldn’t purchase the game out of respect for my morality. Campaigns like this are wrong, and are one of the things I hope I get the chance to change if I/when I get a job. Advertising your ‘mature only’ product to anyone under the age range of ‘mature adult’ really is an atrocity, and I hope at least some of the staff at EA and Visceral feel the same way. I imagine their tune will change when they see the sales figures, but they’ll lose a piece of their soul in the process.
I really hope I’m not the only one who sees a problem here, but what can one person do. Especially one person with a pre-order for the special edition version of the game in question. A pre-order I fully intend on fulfilling. Damn you EA. Damn you.