Dead Space 2 — the sequel to the acclaimed sci-fi/horror/survival game — is here, and the PR machine is in high gear. For example, an article in the most recent issue of Wired covered the research and ingenious methods that went into making the infected humans that serve as the game’s cannon fodder as disgusting as possible. But that’s nothing compared to the game’s latest advertising campaign, entitled “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2“.
As part of the campaign, EA has released several videos that supposedly show real mothers watching and reacting to footage from Dead Space 2, and we see their disgust and discomfort at the game’s violent, gory imagery. At the end of one such video, the announcer intones “It’s revolting. It’s violent. It’s everything you love in a game. And your mom’s going to hate it.”
It’s tasteless, juvenile, and offensive to be sure, and I was reminded of the (in)famous PR campaign for Daikatana. But this is EA that we’re talking about here, the same company that hired fake Christian protestors to “protest” Dante’s Inferno, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the tackiness. However, as troubling as the campaign’s lack of taste and propriety may be, it’s also bothersome because it conveys such a low amount of faith in its own product.
Offending parents (and other members of previous generations) is like shooting fish in a barrel — and I don’t say that flippantly. I know that I’ve offended my parents in the past, and I know full well that my kids will almost certainly listen to music, watch movies, etc. that will, at some point, reveal me to be a stick in the mud — regardless of how hip or cool I might think myself to be right now. Indeed, one could even say that it’s impossible for new generations to not offend their predecessors, such is the way of society, for better or worse.
EA implying that Dead Space 2‘s unique selling proposition, to use the classic marketing term, is that it grosses out moms actually undercuts the game. By focusing on such a low standard, e.g., grossing out parents, the game seems far less interesting and more ho-hum, especially given that other games, e.g., the God of War series, have already done their part to up the gore.
Dead Space 2 could very well turn out to be a great game, one where the gore and viscera aren’t simply gratuitous exercises, but rather, necessary elements in a compelling story and experience. It could even turn out to be something approaching a work of art (yes, I’m one of those who that believe video games can, indeed, be art). But you’d never think that from this fatuous marketing campaign that’s driven more by mean-spiritedness and cynicism — is revolting content and violence really “everything you love in a game”? — than promoting the game as something truly interesting.
And if the game does turn out be little more than what the advertising claims — if it’s only selling point really is that it does a good job of making moms hate it — then yawn. There’s little that is more boring and pointless than that which sets out to offend that which can be easily offended.