[Rant] We Get the Games Industry We Deserve

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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!

Epilogue

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…

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

Born in 1844, I bring a lot of gaming experience to the table. In my day-job, I work for a public library which carries, amongst other formats, video games. I'm very interested in observing and documenting the growing pains this industry is experiencing as it is dragged kicking and screaming towards something resembling maturity. Join me!

  • http://www.twinfinite.net/ idsanty

    Well said, Mike. I find that I’ve been saying for years that the marketers involved in video games need to go back to school. Always fun when I’m not proven wrong. I think the frequency in which I say “game industry, what the fuck is wrong with you?” these days is alarming.

    • MikeEaton

      That’s the thing – FOX News, Jack Thompson, people like that — they aren’t really the enemy. We as an industry do such a better job of sabotaging ourselves.

  • Jayborino

    Fantastic article Mike. You got your point across in just the right way.

    • MikeEaton

      Thanks! I really appreciate that.

  • Matthew_Stevens

    I understand where you are going with this Mike, and I agree while also disagreeing here.

    In this instance, they knew exactly what they were doing here. They could have alleviated the issue by having a male torso with it, but they didn’t They could have stemmed a little of the outrage by making the female torso a little less endowed, but they didn’t. Simply put, they could have done a fair amount here to not go through this, but they didn’t and they didn’t because it was planned.

    Lets look back at their first game and the trailer to go with that. It was a guy wrenching trailer that made people pass it around to discuss how a developer could do that in its press materials. It ultimately had a positive effect on sales because people were interested in that dynamic and then didn’t get it, which fueled a little backlash of its own. The game was buggy and pretty mediocre in general and was forgotten about.

    Now here we are with the sequel and they need people to remember them. They need people to think about the game they haven’t played in a fairly long time and generate a little buzz about it. They could do another trailer, but its been done and it wouldn’t have the same bite. Well, what better way than a little sexy scandal like this? It gets the prepubescent boys thinking about boobs and violence, which is perfect for that group. It gets grown adults thinking about when they played the first game and looking into this version, which is a good thing. Since the first was a title that was on the fence of being really good, people are going to be willing to try this one out as well, they just needed a little reminder that it was still happening.

    TA-DA! Here is that reminder and I have to say that it was a good one. I had forgotten completely about the game until now just like most of you did. Whats best about it is that they haven’t even produced the figurines, so it cost them literally nothing.

    Is it shameless? Absolutely! But if they can follow up with some good teasers about the game, some solid interviews and gameplay videos and a really solid game… they have a hit all of a sudden where there wasn’t one before.

    • MikeEaton

      You’re absolutely right that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff decision. It would have taken months of development and production to get it all together. I think calling this kind of thing out is important, but what’s equally as important is for people to let their wallets do the talking. If people end up going, “Well, it’s a fun game so whatever” and buying it without taking this type of practice into consideration, then none of this means anything.

      Fans of video games seem to have very short memories when it comes to being treated like idiots by publishers.

      • Matthew_Stevens

        Oh I completely agree with you there Mike, but its marketing as well. If we banish all marketing stunts then we are left with nothing anymore as every medium does this exact type of thing to generate buzz. It would have been cool just to see them release in-game footage and all, but that isn’t how life really is. Ultimately, this hurt no one, it cost nothing and will quickly be a blip on the radar of anyone. The only people it really affects are the idiots that don’t recognize this as a stunt.

        Now, if they went in a gun route for their marketing, I would be enraged because that very much ties us to a real world tragedy and would immediately draw a ton of interest from other media in a negative way. This, its just boobs in a bikini and the outrage is more about how it will be perceived outside of our industry as opposed to how we all actually feel about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ClockworkKnight Ashiedu Nwadiei

    Bulletstorm is in my top two favorite shooters this gen, I kind of see why it failed with such bad marketing. It wasn’t an immature game at all despite the fact it was marketed that way.

    • MikeEaton

      Indeed. The fact that they felt compelled to go in that direction at all says a lot about the general mindset of Marketing in this industry.

  • muazimusprime

    That Chris Rock quote fits so perfectly!

  • RobinSparkles

    This article sums up exactly how I feel. A great read, thanks Mike!

    • MikeEaton

      Thank YOU! :)

    • MikeEaton

      Thank YOU! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andres-Ruiz/1349119083 Andres Ruiz

    Well, they’ve revealed what they’ll be releasing in lieu of the bikini torso. Now it’s a briefcase and a little zombie hula girl bobblehead, which is kinda cool. It’s a little uninspired, but it’s a hell of a better idea than Zombie Bait. They had to have known something like that would spark up the controversy it did. I don’t want to overestimate people, but it’s hard to believe anyone can be that stupid. I suppose I shouldn’t put that past them though.

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