Sunday, January 16, 2011

What If Ellen Ripley Was My Mom?

I love advertising.

No really, I love advertising.

In my time spent studying sociology in school I quickly learned just how fascinating advertisements could be. Beyond the obvious “what are they selling?” question there are multiple other factors to consider such as, “who are they trying to sell this to” and “what type of lifestyles and values are they promoting?”. All good advertising takes this into consideration when they try to sell a product and if you sit and both really listen to and watch the 30-second shtick flashing on your screen you’ll be surprised at what you find.

If you’ve ever studied film then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Now, I’ve brought up video game advertisements on this blog before but until now they’ve always been focused on Sony. I’m happy to say that as of today I’m shifting my critical eye to EA.

This ad for “Dead Space 2” was just released:

So, what exactly is this commercial suggesting?

One, moms hate violence. Moms especially hate violent video games. And two, children and adolescents are the primary consumers of video games.

No Now, while I do think the bulk of this commercial is playing into humanity’s desire for what is deemed verboten, there is a lot more to think about here in terms of how gamers and non-gamers are being represented.

First, there is the obvious: mothers – women – are repulsed by violence and are appalled that anyone would feel the urge to play such a violent game. Think that’s a stretch? Imagine that same commercial with a group of fathers reacting. It’s difficult to picture isn’t it? It’s not easy to imagine because a man who would disapprove of violence would then be failing to properly perform his gender. Think about the expression “be a man” and “man up” for a moment. You probably wouldn’t associate that with, “be a man and stop playing Dead Space 2!”.

Then, there is the idea that gamers are young people who are generally more apprehensive of their mother’s opinions. I love my mother but as a 25-year-old I’m really not terribly concerned if she knows I love Dead Space or Grand Theft Auto and my mother, likewise, knows I’m an adult woman. However, by saying “it’s violent, it’s repulsive, your mom’s gonna hate it” the advertisers are implying that there is no way your old, conservative mother would approve of this game but you, hip young fellow, are gonna love slicing off necromorpth limbs. You kids like violence right?”

Ironic considering this is an “M” rated game, huh?

All of this is despite the fact that as of 2008 60% of gamers were male and 40% were female with 72% percent of gamers ranging in age from 10 to 44 with the average player being in their mid 20s.

As for the violence of the game being a selling point well, yeah, we do love violence. But understand that when I say “we” I mean people, not gamers. Violent music, violent film and violent video games have always sold well and made their producers lots of money. Our love of violence is why we’ve had a new Saw movie out every year for the last 700 years (that seems around right). As such, it’s not really fair for me to critique this commercial for its enticing use of violence but I will anyway because, damn it, it’s cheap.

Come on, EA! Dead Space was a gem in the survival horror genre. It was horrifying and effective both in its clever use of sound and shadow and its systematic use of hostility. It got your spine tingling with its creepy use of lullabies and overwhelming sense of isolation. Now you’re telling me I’ll like the sequel because my mom won’t.


If the comments on this video are any indication though, it appears I’m not the only one who thinks so.

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