Video game advertising has never, ever been known for being tasteful, but the latest scheme from the marketing geniuses at EA (whose previous efforts include pretending Brutal Legend was an action game instead of some kind of gonzo RTS) have found a whole new way to be offensive. And without any tits, even!
In an effort to coax impressionable 12-year-olds into buying M-rated shooter Dead Space 2 (something the ESRB really appreciates, I’m sure), EA has produced a commercial in which real-life mothers are invited to view grisly footage from the game while their reactions are filmed. The tagline is “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2”. The implication here, of course, is that this automatically makes it AWESOME because moms are so LAME, dood.
I won’t be embedding the commercial here, nor will I be linking to the campaign’s website. You can find it yourself if you want to.
The women are filmed unflatteringly, often in extreme closeup as they recoil from the implied gameplay footage (it remains completely unseen by us) and as they try to articulate their objections to it. After a bit, actual gameplay breaks up the rapid-fire reaction shots and an announcer sneers, “It’s revolting. It’s violent. It’s everything you love in a game, and your mom’s gonna hate it.”
I want to be plain. This is virtuosic horseshit. In a time when public debate is raging about the artistic validity of video games and the industry is struggling to be taken seriously in any way other than financially, we DO NOT NEED idiots like EA trying to set us back to the mid ’90s like this. It’s irresponsible, it’s outdated and it’s juvenile.
I think that the most asinine thing about it is that you can easily see where this concept could’ve been taken different direction and gotten the same point across without being so insulting to these people or potentially damaging to mother-son relationships everywhere. Imagine a scripted commercial in which a mom walks by her son playing video games in the living room. We cut to the screen where he’s blowing up aliens with stylized, over-the-top gore flying. The mom’s brow furrows as the kid continues playing, juking around on the floor in front of the couch, getting into it. She raises an index finger and starts to say something, but stops as an alien head explodes on the screen in a shower of brains. She shakes her head and walks away, going about her business. The kid smiles and keeps playing animatedly while an announcer says “It’s violent, it’s action-packed, and your mom doesn’t get it. Dead Space 2, rated M for Mature.”
But, no, they’d rather scare these unsuspecting women to tears in a darkened room and slap it on TV for us to laugh at. Remember kids, your mother–whose only purpose in life is to look out for you–doesn’t approve of this, so that means you must disobey her, circumvent the ESRB ratings system, and get this game however you can. Disrepect for your elders is fun! And profitable for EA!
The commercial ends with a shell-shocked mom asking the camera, “Why would they even…make something like this?” Because they’re morally and creatively bankrupt, ma’am. Because they’re too unintelligent and unskilled in their craft to make a product that is both cultured and profitable. Because the easiest way for them to make money is to exploit the worst in young men.
I played the first Dead Space and thought it was a serviceable, albeit pretty shameless rip-off of Resident Evil 4 and Bioshock. I had a mild interest in Dead Space 2. Now, I couldn’t give less of a fuck.
Just after posting this, I found the Youtube channel for the marketing campaign which featured longer segments with the mothers from the TV commercial. And you know what? I lied to you; I am going to embed one of these. Watch this garbage and tell me how it makes you feel.
I watched all the videos and it is crystal clear that these spots were edited to highlight the least flattering and intelligent moments of these women’s responses. Two of the six moms with their own segments were obviously chosen because of their ethnicity, and their somewhat-broken English is used to make them seem stupid. In a behind-the-scenes video, we see that the setup for the viewing/interview involves confusing the women with multiple screens playing the game simultaneously, the cryptic interviewer not being present in the room so as to make them less comfortable, and flat-out lying to the moms about the nature of the footage, the interview and and the identity of the host. The making-of narration takes great pride in the ambushing of these women, and details the hidden nature of the cameras and that the test is taking place in “in the heart of conservative America”.