There’s a great line in Chris Rock’s standup comedy movie Never Scared. In it, he was talking about current rap music and he says, “I love rap music, but I can’t defend it”.
That’s kind of how I feel about video games lately.
About a month ago, as we of course all remember, there was an unspeakably horrific shooting in Newtown, CT in which 26 people, including 20 children, were murdered. Naturally, the mass media pounced on video games as the likely cause of this. Developers, journalists, bloggers, and fans all jumped up onto the soapbox and yelled about how games are being scapegoated yet again, and they are as relevant as any other form of media/art/whatever. This exposure resulted in a parents’ group calling off a planned ‘game burning event’, and hopefully injected some common sense in a group of people who are clearly (and justifiably) freaked out by recent events.
I believe that the best of what video games have to offer is challenging, thoughtful, and unique. It makes me proud to see this community stand up to bullies who continue to demonize us as psychopaths-in-waiting.
And then, I see something like this and all that goodwill gets flushed down the toilet.
As a promotion for Dead Island Riptide, its publisher Deep Silver unveiled its ‘Zombie Bait’ package. Its centerpiece is a replica torso of a busty woman in a bikini, with limbs and head ripped off.
Video game industry; what the FUCK is wrong with you?
Look, here’s the deal: Optics matter. Maybe it is ‘just a joke’, and maybe it is just a poorly executed publicity stunt by a publisher. However, between this and that stupid Hitman Absolution Facebook game, video games do not need this kind of publicity. Having special editions of video games being sent out with a fake bloody bikini babe torso makes us all look like the immature, twisted manbabies that outlets like FOX News make us out to be. Not only that, but it makes it that much harder for those of us who want to defend games to do so.
This isn’t a new occurrence either. In the past few years there have been other offensive publicity stunts; a God of War II Sony event in 2007 which featured a freshly decapitated goat, or a promotion for Bulletstorm in which a USB containing a trailer was sent to outlets in boxes of rotten meat.
Seriously. Are we not better than this?
The bottom line is this: If publishers didn’t think there was an audience for this kind of bullshit, they wouldn’t do it. WE are responsible for this because we have given them the message that this is the kind of marketing that we get off on. If you really…really…think video games are worth defending as a legitimate media format that deserves treatment as fair as anything else out there in the culture, then send a message to publishers that put out garbage like the bikini torso or the Hitman Facebook game. Send this message:
GROW THE FUCK UP, AND GIVE US A REASON TO DEFEND YOU!
Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who had a problem with this. It’s nice to see that Deep Silver did the right thing and apologized for its ill-conceived promotion. Let’s hope that in the future, publishers try to be proactive about these kinds of things and have somebody on staff who says, “You know, maybe this isn’t such a great idea…”
A boy can dream…