Your Mama Plays Dead Space 2

Mum and gamer Winda Benedetti writes why she's not a big fan of Electronic Art's mum-centric Dead Space 2 marketing campaign.

I have four words for Electronic Arts: Leave the mums alone.

That's right, I've got my mum jeans in a pinch thanks to the new "Your Mom Hates This" advertising campaign the company has launched to promote their forthcoming "Dead Space 2" game.

"Dead Space 2" is the sequel to "Dead Space 1" and as the word "Dead" in the title may suggest, the game deals with death a lot - as in, it's a game in which players must fend off a seemingly endless horde of horribly mutated undead creatures hell-bent on stabbing, disemboweling and otherwise ripping them limb from limb.

To promote this horror game, it seems EA corralled a bunch of aging mums into a room and then showed them the most terrifying parts of the game (and there are a lot of those parts to choose from). They then captured the moms' shocked reactions and quivering facial expressions and have now turned it all into an advertisement and associated website meant to pimp out the game.

Yes, you too can watch as the mums cringe and say things like: "This game is an atrocity," and "I think it'll make a person become insane!" A male announcer's voice then chimes in to tell us: "It's revolting. It's violent. It's everything you love in a game. And your mum's going to hate it."

The thing is, this ad campaign misfires in so many ways, it's hard to know where to start. But I'll start with the thing that irks me most:

I'm a mum and I don't hate "Dead Space 2". You know what I hate? Stereotyping.

I get it. I get it. It's supposed to be funny. "Look at the mums freaking out over a violent video game! Isn't that a hoot!" (And yes, I realise, only a mum would use the word "hoot".) And yeah, I'm the same person who defended the controversial "Call of Duty" advertisement not so long ago. But this ad - yeah this ad really chaps my stretch-marked hide.

That's because this mum is tired... no exhausted... from seeing video game marketing campaigns that treat those of us who've given birth or adopted a child like gaming numbskulls. If you follow the line of thinking from these particular marketing geniuses... mums don't play games. They certainly don't play violent video games. They simply cringe and cower and make overwrought statements about protecting the children.

But you know what. Mums are gamers too. And yes, we even play violent horror games.

After putting my four-year-old son to bed at night, I've been playing "Dead Space 2" (thanks for sending me the advance copy, EA). And I've been enjoying the hell out of slicing-and-dicing the game's space zombies (aka Necromorphs). I get a kick out of hearing the fleshy crunching sound they make when I stomp their body parts to pieces. And while I may have cringed when the child mutants jumped out at me... I cut them down just like the rest.

And I'm not alone. Times have changed and continue to change. Mums play video games - all kinds of video games - these days. In fact, many of us grew up playing games.  There are mums out there who play games professionally. There's this mum who helped her son build a hit iPhone game. Gamer mums have blogs and websites all their own, and so do gamer dads.

Yeah, EA pretty much lined up every out-dated stereotype of a mum they could find - older women who may have never played a game in their life. They showed these poor women some scary images knowing full well how they would react. (Though kudos to the EA employee's mum in the video below who didn't react as expected.) And now they're using this to drive a wedge between parents and their children.

And that's another thing that makes me feel like gettin' stabby. While some parents have had it out with their kids over their video game habits, more and more these days video games are becoming a great way for kids and their parents to bond.

Check out this mum who doesn't play games herself but who was thrilled to help her son become the first person in line to buy "Halo: Reach". And check out this heart-warming story from a kid about bonding with his dad over the game "Portal". That's right, many of us parents can't wait to play games with our kids.

Sure not every mum (or not every dad for that matter) is going to want to play "Dead Space 2" with their son or daughter. But why fan the flames of misunderstanding? Is it all just a tongue-in-cheek joke? Are these women really actors? You know what, it doesn't matter. Ultimately EA seems to want younger players to try to upset their parents with this game. They are actively trying to make a divide between one generation and another larger - rather than smaller.

Speaking of which, here's another head-scratcher. EA is making mums everywhere the fall gals so that they can sell their game to... who exactly? Rebellious teenagers? Don't make me go all mum on you, but I'm pretty sure the vast majority of teenagers aren't old enough to play this M-rated game. You're supposed to be at least 17 years old to buy "Dead Space 2". EA wouldn't be promoting an adult-rated game to kids now would they?

Meanwhile, if you're still rebelling against your mum by buying scary games when your 17 or 18, then that's just sort of pathetic. That's right. Ultimately this campaign is insulting not just to mums but to gamers in general. As Ben Kuchera at Ars Technica puts it:

"Are there gamers out there who purchase games based on what their mothers think?... It seems like we're all working to rid ourselves of the sophomoric 'adult in mother's basement' reputation gamers have among some people. Stuff like this doesn't help." 

As a final note, I'm going to echo something one of the mums said in the "Dead Space 2" ad: "Why would they even make something like this?"

Why indeed would EA have made this ad? You know why? Because, as Helen Popkin reports, they thought it would be a clever viral marketing tool. And in this way they have succeeded. Here we are, talking about their ad campaign and spreading it like the seasonal flu that it is.

But shame on you EA … your mums raised you better than this.

Republished with permission.

Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.


Comments

    Can't you see, Winda. This is exactly what they want you to do.

    It's a stir campaign. They do something that raises the ire of a particular segment of the community, segment speaks out, segment gets press, game gets press, advertiser wins.

    Well done, you just completed the circuit for them.

    You have just helped promote their viral marketing by writing this essay.
    It's really not that serious, I'm guessing you don't have much of a sense of humour.

    Well written response to this stupid marketing campaign. Nope EA was not baiting Mum bloggers into commenting. Its not that deep.

    This is just EA trying to shock and be stupid once again.

    "I’m a mum and I don’t hate “Dead Space 2″. You know what I hate? Stereotyping."

    Maybe you guys didn't read the article at all, but that quote shows that what Winda's response is hardly what EA are aiming for. They want mums to hate the game, not the ad campaign, and she herself says she is a gamer. In the wake of the R18+ debate and the legislation in California, it's a stupid time to run a narrow-minded, simplistic and insulting-to-the-intelligence ad campaign like this. It's shallow and in 2010 it'd be nice if games could try being a little less, well, dumb, in their marketing. EA have proved with this and their Dante's Inferno ad campaigns that they still don't know how to market to their audience.

      I have to say Matt is spot on with one point here. We are trying to get an r-rating in Australia and convincing those who make the decision that this is to protect children and to allow adults to play adult oriented games. If I didn't know games and just saw this footage I would wonder why the hell I would make blind misguided gore available. The story line is not touched on and the context is not revealed so thanks a lot. We all now look like puerile goraphiles. This was an ad aimed at fifteen year olds no matter what they try to say and it has set back our cause in Oz.

        Somehow I don't think that EA had the debate about Australia’s gaming classification in mind when they decided upon this marketing approach.
        From a Marketing point of view, with all the controversy it seems to have stirred up I believe it has been a success.

    I'm just wondering who WOULD buy the game because of the ad?

    My mum would LOVE to watch me play this game. She's getting bored of harvest moon. There's not enough action for her liking.

    My mother would react like that, so would many mothers I know, including my sister who is only a few years older than me.
    I know fathers also, and the same correlation could have been made, but they chose this one for effect.

    Some stereotypes are based on fact, and just as youve chosen to take it one way another may be that they feel the majority of parents are ignorant to what their children play, and would be horrified if they chose to actually pay attention.

    I think you chose to read whatever you chose to read into this campaign, and I think thats why its so good.

    Also, I chucked in red dead redemption as my Dad was leaving our weekly dinner and he complained I hadn't chucked it on sooner so he could watch. He watched me head shot some zombies (it is undead nightmare) and he enjoyed the story as it progressed without even playing. To try to widen that gap between parents and kids is horrible. I'm glad I stumbled on to another thing I can enjoy with him. I'm saving my game play of this particular title for Tuesdays so we can enjoy it together.

    One of my friend's girlfriend works for EB games doing marketing, and the only game we've ever seen her play is fashion boutique on the DS and a little guitar hero.

    The problem is that most of these people doing marketing aren't gamers, otherwise they would be too ashamed to make this sort of crap.
    It is wholly imbecilic and insulting. And I will not be purchasing or playing dead space 2
    (though that doesn't mean much as I wouldn't have in the first place)

      So you know one person who does Marketing for EB and now "The problem is that most of these people doing marketing aren’t gamers"?

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