Horrifying Mothers To Sell Videogames

What mom wouldn't like THIS?

This month’s Games Magazine’s column “Inside the Box” has some exemplary ethics commentary from video game reviewer Thomas McDonald, who took “Dead Space 2” makers Electronic Arts to task for its advertising campaign for the horror game, to which he had given a rave review.

The campaign’s theme is “Your mom hates this game,” and the company set out to prove it. “A mom’s disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool,” the company explains on its website, as it offered a viewing of the gruesome game to 200 members of an all-mother focus group recruited from “the heart of conservative America,” seeking horrified reactions, and almost unanimously getting them.
EA boasts that none of the mothers knew what was in store for them, and the company showed them the most frightening, disgusting, violent, carnage-packed sequences it could find on giant monitors. Success! They were all thoroughly traumatized by the experience, and they all hated the game. You can see some of their reactions here.

McDonald has several ethical objections:

•    The game is rated M, meaning that it is not supposed to be marketed or sold to anyone under 17. Is the game company serious about keeping the most violent  games out of the hands of children, or not? McDonald believes the campaign suggests “not.”

•    The test was rigged by EA’s only picking mothers from the Bible Belt. “Am I the only one bothered by the fact that they chose to stereotype an entire gender, region, age, and political ideology to hawk their products?” he asks.

•    “Attempting to exploit the generational divide in order to sell a few more copies of its games is crass marketing at its worst,” McDonald complains.

•    Noting that many gamers are not blood-thirsty, idiotic kids (some are even moms), McDonald says the ad campaign reinforces the common misconception that video games are “silly, offensive kid stuff.” He notes that EA’s “Dead Space” games are in fact complex and intellectually stimulating, and the campaign stigmatizes fans who don’t deserve the cretin label.

•    Exposing unsuspecting people to something horrible just to film their horror and ridicule it, McDonald says, “is just wrong.”

Finally, he concludes, the campaign is “dumb and cruel,” with a “tearing the wings off of flies” aspect that he finds reprehensible.  Taking pleasure in showing mature entertainment to an audience that is certain to be offended by it, watching their revulsion and then jeering them, McDonald writes, “speaks to the worst aspects of our personalities.”

McDonald’s ethics alarms are in superb working order. Good job.

[Thanks to Games Magazine reader Tom Fuller for the tip.]

6 thoughts on “Horrifying Mothers To Sell Videogames

  1. Kids aren’t always the brightest and most discerning sector of the human race. God knows! But they can see through such blatant attempts at manipulation. And if there’s one thing that kids hate, it’s being played for a fool like that.

  2. Dead Space was complex and intellectually stimulating? Have I walked into Bizzaro World?

    At any rate, that was just a stupid ad campaign.

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