EA’s new ‘Your Mom Hates This‘ ad campaign for Dead Space 2 is one of the stupidest, most short sighted marketing moves I’ve ever seen. It will come back to bite EA almost without question, but more importantly it will come back to bite all of us who want to see the gaming business mature and garner respect.
Back in the late 90s there was a huge broohaha when the FTC said RJ Reynolds’ Joe Camel ads were a deliberate attempt to market cigarettes to minors. That single ad campaign quickly created a perception in the American mind that cigarette companies were flatly evil and astronomical tobacco settlement cases are part of the 90’s zeitgeist. What EA is doing with this ad campaign is even more blatant and is likely to launch a whole new barrage of class-action lawsuits from the folks who are already convinced that video games create Columbines.
I’ll skip past the question of wisdom in making a game whose main selling point seems to be the wide number of ways a player can dismember his enemies – my beef here is strictly with how they are choosin to pitch this thing. If you haven’t seen the ads, check this out.
0:01 – This game is rated M – meaning it’s not supposed to be for anybody under 17 years of age.
0:11 – VO: “A mom’s disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool…”
remainder: [show various mothers’ shocked reactions and condemning comments]
Synthesis: If you’re of an age where minor acts of filial rebellion are important to you (read: if you’re about 13-15) then Dead Space 2 is what you want your parent to buy for you…because obviously it’s illegal for a store to sell the game to you directly.
What are you thinking EA? You are poisoning the well!
For one thing, the ESA has done great work to show that the average gamer is not a rebellion teen-aged boy but in fact a 30-something adult and almost as likely to be a woman as a man. And as such, there have been great strides made in the way we tell stories in this medium to recognize and appeal to our grown up audience. Yes, there will always be kids game, but that’s not where the age curve is right now. So why would they choose to market this game specifically to the demo off the centerline?
Second, have you completely forgotten the gigantic mess the Hot Coffee controversy caused for the entire industry, not to mention an estimated $50B in lost revenue for the entire industry? Do you really want Congress looking all of our collective shoulders again?
Will the ad campaign work? Yeah, it probably will. But it deliberately undercuts the self-regulatory nature of the ESRB. I’m pretty certain EA would assert that the ads target 17 year-olds but that line is plainly BS to anybody who sees the ad. 17 year olds don’t really care mom thinks any more – 13 year olds do.
EA – please – we are all working here to bring the game industry to a place where the broader social perception is that we are responsible adults who take our craft seriously. That we create both art and entertainment that respects and accounts for the fabric of American culture by policing ourselves and providing meaningful information (through the ESRB) to consumers and especially parents.
The controversy and class action suits that a foolish campaign like this can bring is a threat to all of us.