Justin’s Words of Wisdom: My Take on the Dead Space 2 Marketing Campaign
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
Take a look at the video above. Go on, I’ll wait…you back? Good. Now that you are familiar with the marketing angle of Dead Space 2, you might be just as bothered by it as I am.
I suppose it will help if I gave you a little background on one of my main grievances related to video games. I absolutely can’t stand it when an individual who doesn’t play video games dismisses it as a violent medium marketed towards children. The game industry has come far, and it is more widely accepted, but an attitude like that shows it does not get the respect it deserves. I realize that there are several horrifically violent games out there, Dead Space being one of them, but it is simply unfair to say a game like that is representative of the entire industry.
My problem with the marketing of Dead Space 2 is that is makes the industry seem very juvenile. Why would anyone be shocked that mothers who aren’t familiar with video games would be offended by a game as graphic as this one? Maybe I’m reading too much into this, as the marketing is designed to amuse older gamers, but to me it comes across as appealing to younger gamers.
In the good ol’ US of A, Mature-rated games are classified for being appropriate for 17 year olds and up. The game industry claims that if a child wants a Mature-rated game, it is up to a parent to determine if it is okay for them to play. Obviously, a child can’t go purchase a game without a parent doing it for them using that setup.
I won’t mince words. While some mature games don’t exclusively market to people less than 17 years old, you would have to be delusional to think that companies don’t hope to get a good chunk of profit through young teens that somehow got their hands on a mature title. The movie industry pulls the same tactic with R rated movies that are violent sometimes. Okay, yes, studios are usually good about getting a PG-13 rating, but there are a few exceptions.
So my problem doesn’t lie with that type of marketing so much as how I feel it presents itself to be marketed only for gamers under 17. I feel this type of advertisement only reinforces the opinion for critics that the game industry is a medium that only tries to bring graphic content to children.
I’ll admit that the marketing angle is brilliant. What’s the best way to make a teen want something? Offend the parents! But I can’t ignore or fear how this campaign will be used against the game industry in some way. If some idiot decides to file a lawsuit because a child played Dead Space 2, it’s not going to look good in court when they show how the game was marketed. In addition, it doesn’t look good for the industry as a whole.
What bothers the most about this is that there are far more creative ways to market a mature game. Back when the first Mortal Kombat was headed towards Super Nintendo and Genesis, many gamers were hyped beyond belief. In those days, most gamers were mainly children or young teens. Porting a violent, controversial game was a move that irked a lot of moral guardians on its own, so releasing a TV ad glorifying the violence would not fly.
So instead of focusing on the gameplay itself, the ad had cool looking teens gather on the streets screaming the game’s title. The footage spliced in the ad didn’t show anything graphic at all, and it did a great job keeping the hype for the console arrival going strong while making more gamers aware of the ports themselves.
Sure, you can say that ad was marketed towards children in the same spirit that Dead Space 2 is being pushed, but the key difference to me is that the Mortal Kombat commercial wasn’t trying to generate any more controversy in order to sell units. They could have easily gone that route since that game was such a hot button issue in those days, but they chose not to. Dead Space 2 could easily stand on its own without trying desperately to generate controversy, and by resorting to such juvenile tactics cheapens the game itself.
This may seem like an odd comparison, but stay with me. When I was going through my angry goth phase in high school, I listened to a lot of Marilyn Manson. Part of what drew me to his music is that each album tried to make some sort of statement, and he stood behind it. He was a controversial figure that didn’t abuse that angle too much in my opinion.
With his last album, The High End of Low, instead of talking about the point of it, he bragged to the press about how it’s going to offend people, which of course came off as childish. Even parts of the album itself came across like he was trying harder to offend people rather than make enjoyable music. It was very disappointing that Manson resorted on trying to generate controversy instead of simply releasing an album that fans would enjoy. He failed to realize that people who actually listened to him enjoyed the music, not the controversy.
I feel the same type of disappointment when I see the ad for Dead Space 2. The original game stood on it’s own without focusing on the violence itself, and the way the sequel is being marketed only tells me that the game might not be that good. It’s kind of like the developers are admitting that it won’t be as good as the first title, and they are compensating by focusing on such a shallow aspect.
Again, maybe this is just me, and I am reading too much into it. Perhaps I’m even borrowing trouble? No matter the case, I just can’t help but feel the marketing campaign for Dead Space 2 is a juvenile, damaging way to sell the game.
Front page image from gameinformer.com.