EA(‘s Marketing Department) Hates You

Extra Credits have today devoted an episode of their often-brilliant show to EA and their often egregious marketing campaigns. They raise many valid and interesting points of discussion and if you haven’t already clicked that link and watched the thing you should probably do that before reading on.

As you have progressed to Paragraph 2, I assume you’ve followed my previous instructions and are now ready for the rest of the blog. With that in mind, let’s talk video game marketing. EC focus their attention on the high-profile campaigns behind Dead Space 2 and Dante’s Inferno in particular, both of which weathered plenty of air on gaming blogs and news sites and probably managed in their baseline intentions to get the name of their products out to a big market. After all, that’s the very definition of marketing and advertising and if EA had no other goal, at least that must be written down as a success. We’re still talking about them, after all.

But as EC rightfully points out, these campaigns also manage to drag the public perception of video gaming back the few inches its managed to progress the past few years, but they also manage to do something even worse and damaging: they don’t even sell the actual games. Say you know nothing about Dead Space 2 and the first confrontation you have with the game is the infamous “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2” commercial. What does this really tell you about the game? We see some quick peeks of monsters and maybe it’s set in space or an awfully spacious basement complex at least, so is it a serious action game? Horror? Torture simulator? What’s the tone? Is it atmospheric or action-packed? All we’re ever told is that you – the basement dwelling loser/pre-teen boy – will like it exclusively because it pisses off “Mom.” Apparently that’s all we’ll ever need, us boys, living with our mums, playing or videoma gaming things. How the game plays and what it has to offer us in terms of atmosphere, story and gameplay is evidently not of any concern to their target audience.

And what exactly is that target audience? These campaigns don’t just patronise and regress the medium and its audience, they are willfully and self-referentially loathing towards the both. There is absolutely nothing to suggest in these trailers that the people behind them think the game itself is worth anything, the ads are entirely based upon what third parties think about them – even if they don’t actually think anything about them, considering both campaigns relied heavily on fake outrage. Who is this aimed at, exactly? If you already play video games you are probably not going to be swayed by the fact that some fictional women find it frightening, nor that Dante’s Inferno let’s you kill babies in droves, and if you don’t already play video games you’re hardly going to be impressed by what is essentially a company standing up and proudly announcing “we, as an industry, are just as bad as you think we are.” We are juvenile boys – and only boys – we are either little kids or middle-aged man-children and we like violence, titties and to anger our maternal guardians (who, by the by, are all roughly the same and all hate games and boy’s stuff).

This isn’t strictly an argument about art versus marketing, as EC paints it, because at the end of the day these campaigns can’t possibly have done anything apart from harm the games or the industry itself. A brand or product name is only as valuable as the associations people make with it and EA are willingly associating their products with self-loathing. Do you honestly think that the company who put together the “Sin To Win” campaign liked Dante’s Inferno? The ads themselves all focus on spectacle and we are usually smart enough as consumers to understand that anything that has to advertise with spectacle has little else to boast about.

So what do we want instead? I fear it might be too much to ask EA and other publishers to respect us as an audience and consumers but I would like them to at least respect their own goddamned products if they expect anyone to do the same. Feel some kind of pride in what you do and don’t let your advertising arms sell yourselves short. I understand that the people who worked on Dead Space 2 has fuck-all to do with how the game is sold on TV and I have to imagine that a lot of them must have been displeased that the fruits of their hard work was sold on the basis that a lot of people will hate it. It’s the invisible ruling forces that has to allow for these two individual cells of the corporate body to mediate and not actively work against each other in this way. After all, the best adverts and trailers are those that let the audience find it, rather than go out and gratuitously try to please a very specific demographic and alienate pretty much everybody else. Sell your game on its merits and allow us to decide if those are worthy our attention and subsequently money instead of pandering to a non-existent demographic and drag what little dignity you and your medium have in the dirt at the same time.

Or we can just go back to this.

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One Response to EA(‘s Marketing Department) Hates You

  1. I was researching other things and stumbled upon this. Love it!

    James Portnow from Extra Credits

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