Game Theory: Stupid Advertising Tricks

Maximum PC Staff

"Hey kids! Wanna cheese off Mom? Then play an M-rated video game!”

That’s the juvenile, completely irresponsible message of EA’s “Your Mom Hates This” advertising campaign for Dead Space 2, which was inexplicably approved by the ESRB. Whenever gaming begins to earn a modicum of mainstream acceptance and respectability, something remarkably stupid and pointless comes along to make us look like twits and make a farce of the ratings system.

The commercial, which quickly went viral, shows moms (“from the heart of conservative America”) reacting with horror to video of the game.

In other words, EA is stereotyping an entire gender, class, political ideology, and region in order to sell a few more copies of the game. I guess news that women, moms, conservatives, and middle-Americans play games hasn’t yet reached Redwood City.

Who is the audience for this ad? Are there that many adults who still want to provoke their moms by their choice of video recreation, or is this just a direct appeal to underage gamers? Are game companies serious about keeping violent content out of the hands of minors, or just “serious” in a wink-wink, you-really-need-this-game-to-be-cool way?

This is just a trite way of reinforcing a generation’s sense of its own coolness, and rational adults should balk at such shameless manipulation. Attempting to exploit the generational divide in order to sell a few more copies of a game is crass marketing at its worst. The idea of “consumption as rebellion” is nauseating in itself.

But I think I’m most bothered by the implicit message that games are only for hip kids. I’m 42 and I loved Dead Space 2. It’s a game that has no need whatsoever to demean itself with this kind of childish appeal. The ad actually sells the game short.

I’m sure people would be offended by all kinds of things that I enjoy and believe. Who cares? It’s one thing to like certain kinds of mature entertainment, but quite another to drag them out into the public square and then jeer at those who are offended.

Thomas L. McDonald is an editor at large for Games magazine and blogs at . You can follow him on Twitter at StateOfPlayBlog.

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