prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Your Mom’s Gonna Hate This

Posted by prof e on January 21, 2011

Electronic Arts has taken an edgy and controversial approach to marketing Dead Space 2, a videogame described as a, “third-person horror survival game in which players must battle an alien infestation” by “strategically dismembering” necromorphs. In a viral marketing campaign, [see clip below], 200 “moms” were invited to participate in “market research” that turned out to be a way to collect their on-camera reactions to some of the most horrific scenes from Dead Space 2.  Here’s the clip:

In case you missed it, the VO said, “A mom’s disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool.” But wait, this video game is rated M the by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), meaning it is to be sold only to buyers age 17 or older. Last time I checked that crowd wasn’t overly concerned about what their moms liked or didn’t like. Is it possible that EA is actually marketing a game rated “M” to kids younger than those allowed to buy it? This marketing campaign is going to give more ammunition to critics of video game violence: people like Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, who, according to Wired magazine, was quoted as saying that “the videogame industry’s self-regulatory efforts around the marketing of violent video games to minors are still ‘far from perfect.’”

There’s another issue here that centers on ethics of research. According to the video, “over 200 moms were recruited to participate in market research, only this wasn’t market research.” Obviously the moms were asked to sign a release form that gives EA’s market researchers permission to use the video from the hidden cameras, but the breach of standard research ethics is obvious and appalling. Beyond that, the moms may have legal recourse based on the emotional and psychological distress that they may have experienced in the process. I’m sure EA has a large legal team, but they may be well advised to “lawyer up” in order to defend this controversial example of ambush marketing.

29 Responses to “Your Mom’s Gonna Hate This”

  1. Alex said

    Wow, what a can of worms EA opened up with this ad campaign. I downloaded the trailer via XBOX Live before the AD campaign began and was impressed by the Dead Space 2 demo. This game, like many of the shooters presently on the market, is designed to provoke strong visceral responses to the subject matter by players — and it succeeds. I have to admit that I was made uncomfortable while playing the demo, but that’s the appeal. However, I’m well over age 17, and as you said, am not concerned with what my mother will think of the game. I think its plainly obvious EA is trying to capture the attention of younger gamers. I also think that because the first game wasn’t effectively marketed, yet was considered a great game by avid gamers, the EA AD Team ended up overcompensating for poor market penetration of the first installment with this antagonistic strategy. I also think its hilarious that the commentator admits that the “research” was intentionally conducted in the “Heart of Conservative America.” If social research could ever be mistaken as scientific, then this is certainly an example of confirmation bias on the part of EA, but one thing I noticed near the end of the commercial is that the producers supposedly told the mothers “what was really going on.” Whatever this means, the women shown in this commercial likely signed the release form, so any lawsuits are unlikely to succeed. I’ll bet EA’s legal team considered the angles.

    Now this is a game that is clearly science fiction. I’d be interested to see what those same women would say about any of the games in the Call of Duty series, or any of the other human on human shooters. The production value of these highly realistic war games often far exceeds the quality of the game play itself, and the violence becomes more believable and tied to current events with every new release. There have been stories in the media about how terrorists force young men to play violent games as a sort of training method. This is a moot point as it’s no secret that we’ve used game formats for military training in this country for decades.

  2. AJ said

    What better way to make young people want to buy a shoot-em-up game than to get mothers’ reactions of it? Violence and gore is like sex–it makes an excellent profit at the end of the day, regardless of it’s offensive qualities. Some might argue that this was done in poor taste, but how many commercials are made in “good” taste anymore?

    Also, I agree with Alex in that I’m sure the game company’s lawyers have every foxhole cleared, and a suit against them would prove futile.

  3. Brian said

    I wonder what would happen if you put fathers in front of this game,and had them judge it? You would probably be getting nothing but “oh damn!” And “Wow, did you see that!” Men and women are always going to disagree, and i am not a sexist person, i just believe we as men handle things as far as violence and dismemberment a little differently then, My point being, the team that put these games together put lots of hard work, art, and creativity into the project. I played the first one and it was well put together, and a great game. The second one looks great, and i am looking foreword to playing it!

  4. Alyssa Fryberger said

    This approach to marketing is wrong but also likely to be very effective. Whoever came up with this idea understands the way that teens thing. I am found this video very entertaining at the same time that I was thinking this is wrong. Younger children will not see the problems in how this video was made but will likely find it just as entertaining. The “research” that the company did was intentionally deceptive and I think that it violated the participants’ rights but I agree with the last two comments that the company probably covered all legal loop holes and a law suit would be useless. I do think that this is a great example of why people should be careful in what they agree to be part of and make sure that they know what is going to be done with the research that they are involved in. Also that they should read carefully and understand all contracts to their rights before they sign them.

  5. Alex said

    I think a comment in the previous post raises a significant point about the EA campaign particularly and social scientific research in general:

    A student wrote, “I do think that this is a great example of why people should be careful in what they agree to be part of and make sure that they know what is going to be done with the research that they are involved in.”

    In order for research experiments conducted on HUMANS to be ethical, subjects must be cautioned about potential outcomes. In other words, A social scientist wishing to research whether a certain video game may induce players to later commit acts of violence would have to warn a gamer that playing the game might cause them to do so. This renders the experiment useless, as the subject now knows something about the hypothesis and can make conscious decisions to impact the outcome of the experiment.
    Similarly, the “scientist” conducting the research can easily select subjects or certain facts acquired during the research process to support their hypothesis or personal bias. In order for research to be considered scientific, at the very least, the test subjects should be “blind” to the experimental design and intent. Ideally, for the scientific merit of the experiment to be bolstered, both the test subjects and the test givers would be “blind” as to the hypothesis of the study – typically called a double-blind study. Here, a lead scientist designs an experiment then allows trained examiners, absent the knowledge of the hypothesis, to collect pure data in which they have no vested interest. It should be plainly obvious that stringent scientific experiments cannot be ethically performed on human subjects due to the fact that unbiased experiments cannot guarantee safe outcomes. Thus, any results of scientific research openly conducted on human beings should be considered highly suspect.
    The EA “research” team knew exactly how the carefully chosen subjects would respond, and they knew exactly how they would use the “evidence” and data they recorded. This ad campaign was pure hype, and I personally believe EA knew it would never be considered as anything more, but they certainly bet that it would ignite interest in a game franchise that performed poorly in the market during its first go-round.

  6. Kevin Ortiz said

    Sure…This campaign sparks some curiosity amongst teenagers and young adults, but I don’t think gamers are going to buy this based on interest of the commercial. People that play video games on a regular basis know what they like. They might be into first person shooters, fantasy or even strategy games, and not all types of games are gory or violent. A commercial with mom’s disapproving it is not going to be a deciding factor. I think this campaign is hurting EA more than helping them. I know when I was younger my parents paid for most of my entertainment, and if they saw this commercial they would have never allowed me to buy or rent this game, and whatever chance I might have had with my parents buying this game, would have went down the drain after seeing this commercial . However not many parents are like mine in today’s society and would let their kids buy the game. I do think younger kids who are rebellious against their parents and like gory and violent games would be more interested in buying this game after seeing this commercial or at least that’s how EA portrays it.

  7. Kristin Moe said

    In the world today I feel as though most individuals that like video games tend to like the more violent ones. Whether the child is 8 or 38 he may enjoy violent video games that involve killing, shooting, aliens, what have you. I feel as though the media is aiming the video games of this kind to any child. Although the rating is M, all marketers care about is the cash. To the business behind the product it is not about the age of the consumer, but instead the money that the consumer has. I believe that as long as the company gets money for their game, they don’t really care if a young child is playing it or not. Of course they have to rate the game M, because legally I feel like the company would have to give it that rating, however the game can still be played by children of all ages.

  8. Ken V said

    I think EA really botched the advertising for Dead Space 2. Regardless, the game will sell well. There has always been an issue with violent video games and the youth. Why they used an ad with the moms being completely appalled is beyond me. You would think a mother would see this on TV and decide this form of entertainment is something they don’t want their child engaging in. But as mentioned earlier, it does have a mature rating so why would should/would the “mom’s” be featured in this commercial?

  9. Marcus Hill said

    I agree with Ken. I do think that the fact if other mothers were to see this commercial they’d refuse to let their child play this game. And by the time they were old enough to purchase it them self, Dead Space would be off the market. Although I can’t say There is truly much controversy behind the commercial because I’m sure many mothers have seen commercials for several other alien based games such as Halo and Killzone and have had similar reactions. Both of which are great selling games.

    Most video games today are soley based off of violence, blood, gore and “suggestive themes” It has unfortunately been what’s helped make some of the best games over the past about five years. People make thousands of complaints about them each year but they still seem to sell so I don’t really think the message is getting across.

    Marcus Hill

  10. Aj Ayala said

    I think this is probably one of the smartest marketing approches I have ever seen. Plus it is a test of parents. The game Developers tell the parents that they will not like this game, and they probably should buy it for their kids. What is appropriate for a child is up to the parents themselves. The commercials are right though. I did a little test myself, I should both my parents the game clips of the game off youtube, and as expected my mom hated what she was seeing, but my dad however loved every second of it. He even took me to wal-mart to pick up the game for himself, I got my own copy, and my dad picked a copy up for my little bother; but he couldn’t play it just yet since he was grounded. But still my dad Parent to me and my little 14 year old brother thought the game was acceptable for both of us and bought it for us. So really the evidence is out there that parents probably shouldn’t let their kids play this violent game. But it is on their own that they are handing over the cash or credit cards to the stores to buy it for their young innocent children.

  11. Aj Ayala said

    I think this is probably one of the smartest marketing approches I have ever seen. Plus it is a test of parents. The game Developers tell the parents that they will not like this game, and they probably should buy it for their kids. What is appropriate for a child is up to the parents themselves. The commercials are right though. I did a little test myself, I showed both my parents the game clips of the game off youtube, and as expected my mom hated what she was seeing, but my dad however loved every second of it. He even took me to wal-mart to pick up the game for himself, I got my own copy, and my dad picked a copy up for my little bother; but he couldn’t play it just yet since he was grounded. But still my dad Parent to me and my little 14 year old brother thought the game was acceptable for both of us and bought it for us. So really the evidence is out there that parents probably shouldn’t let their kids play this violent game. But it is on their own that they are handing over the cash or credit cards to the stores to buy it for their young innocent children.

  12. Darci Powers said

    I do think that they are marketing video games to audiences younger than they are made for. I think they do this with everything though, not just video games. Sex, and violence are the keys when it comes to tv and any other media. That’s what sells, whether it’s appropriate or not. At the end of the day companies don’t really want to send out positive and uplifting information if it’s not going to make them as much money as the more offensive material. It’s all about the money for them. And kids typically want it just to feel like they’re rebelling… Like they always say, they feel cool if their parents aren’t approving of what they’re doing.

  13. Melissa Gomez said

    I would have to agree with Brian when he expresses that it could be completely different for a father to expericence the game. I know my husband loves to play MW2 but dont take the literally. I would not allow my soon to play this game due to the graphic maaterial but would be ok if he was at age. I’m sure majority of the players are at a mature ages and can make adult decisions when it comes to considering that a game could affect your live mentally. Kids and Teens are going to play the game no matter what they’re parent think.

  14. Alex Miller said

    I would have to agree that father’s probably would see the video games in a different perspecitve. Different people view things differently. Age, gender, and social environments can all play a significant factor in what influences specific people. A man who is in his mid twenties probably wouldn’t find a violent videogame very offensive. On the other hand a thirty year old mother of two children would probably have a negative point of view on the violent videogame. I probably wouldn’t mind letting my son play these videogames.

  15. Jacob Chavez said

    Once again like I said in previous blogs if you dont like it then dont buy it or watch it or play it. Come people these days are just tryn to make money by protesting and making commercials who cares if the game has alians and killing and all that negative stuff DONT BUY IT its that easy. EA aint making you buy the game they are just putting it out there so u have a choice. If parents dont want there child playn a video game like that then dont buy it for them. I was tought to wait till I was old enough to buy it on my own so People should get a clue.

  16. Labrittany Coleman said

    I do believe that video games today in society are being aimed at younger audiences because they know that cetain age group is what video games are pertaining to. People do view video games in a different perspective, but as the years passed video games have gotten more advanced in technology, violence, language and the different kind of genre games that have came out. I think mother’s should be percautious on what they let there child play and view at that age, especially if their under the age of 17. Certain games today are being targeted at younger children and the parents in that position have to watch what there buying there child. Mother’s are going to view video games a lot different than what the father is going to view it as because all men have a thing for video games or any kind of technology. Marketing and advertising are very big in video games because it increases brand awarness and gives money back to those certain brands displayed in the video games.

  17. Silas Schwab said

    I agree with what Brian said “I wonder what would happen if you put fathers in front of this game” I mean when most guys see violence, gore and explosions we are drawn in like moths to a flame. The development team put a lot of work into both of the Dead Space games I two have played both, and like the scenario above I to was drawn in. On the aspect of violence in video games affecting our culture, when it boils down to it, video games are just that games nothing more.

  18. Alejandro Trujillo said

    There are always going to be concerned mothers from video games these days. Well that is makes the kids want the game more because their mother hates the violence, blood, and gore. If we look back at the evolution of gaming consoles, we will see that the mature games from the Super Nintendo (1991) are jokes compared to the games we see today. I mean sure Dead Space 2 is not for the weak hearted but it is a very intense game especially when you turn your lights off and the only light is coming from the T.V. It makes the gaming experience more entertaining and that’s what the gamers are looking for these days. So I’m sure that ten years from now there is going to be another game with intense gore, blood, and violence that parents are going to be concerned about but looking back on today from 2021, we are going to laugh at the graphics knowing that future graphics are going to surpass this game.

  19. Rory Blackwood said

    To be honest i found this to be really hilarious. the mothers reactions were all hysterical. i understand what they mean that this is a very violent game but i am pretty sure that this video game is going to be mature and for those who are of age can purchase it. so if they do not want their kids to play this kind of game then they simply do not have to buy the game. And in one of the comments i read something about what if they had just dad’s i believe that they would love the game because it is action packed and had blood and gore.

  20. Vanessa Emerson said

    I believe that this was more of an expected outcome done by EA & they already knew what to expect from the target audience of mothers who were going to watch this. The means of how they obtained the information through surprise market research was a bit unethical due to the fact that the mothers did not know what reaction created by this surprise video would be caught on tape and shown to the public. In some cases emotional distress experienced from watching violence would not be seen as okay to show to a public audience and could potentially cause problems. I consider this a bit risky and they were definitely playing with fire by conducting and using this obtained research. Maybe EA thought that

  21. Vanessa Emerson said

    kids would see this and would be persuaded to explain to their mom’s that it’s just a video game and that they are no way influenced by it. However that may never be known, and their showing had a definite and dramatic affect on their target audience

  22. Adam said

    This type of marketing strategy is very underhanded indeed. Undermining the influence of mothers over their impressionable young children could prove to be very dangerous for society in the long run. Consider the market the advertisement is trying to reach. If EA is appealing to the fact that “your mother hates this,” the audience must be under age 18 because around this point most male teens lose interest in what their parents deem “inappropriate”. The ad aims to have videogamers side with EA as they’re what’s “cool” and their mother’s distaste for their product is a supporting example. Maybe the whole teen angst/ rebellion/ you don’t understand me/ movement wasn’t originated with EA’s ad, but it doesn’t help the cause. Think back to the time when you did something rebellious and were caught. Do the words “What will your mother think?” resonate with anyone? Doesn’t anyone hold the bonds of maternity sacred anymore? The videogame itself may not be that bad and were I interested in space terror I might even opt to purchase the game for its storyline value. But to mock a mother’s appauled reactions to something their children might be subjected to, as reasoning for kids to pick the title up is going too far.

  23. Jade Lopez said

    When you look at a video game cover, you should automatically know what your getting yourself into due to the cover. These video games were made to catch the interest into teens by supplying them with bloody and gory special effects.

  24. Sharlee Lopez said

    Dead Space is a scary Game! No really, I can’t play the game. I have to watch my brother play and were constantly kept on our heels. My mom doesn’t hate it, but my mom is the coventional mother. I could see how parents could hate this game. Probably gave their children gosh darn nightmares. EA uses a well thought out marketing commercial of this game. It’s a well known fact children are going to do the opposite of what their parents want them to do. I don’t think this commercial is in anyway offensive, and the mothers in the commercial are just over reacting. It’s a game people, and has a rating of MA for mature. Obviously don’t let your young kids play this game.

  25. Justin Haddan said

    I have never play Dead Space before but based on the reactions of those mothers it has to have something over the top about it. This is a very effective marketing strategy by EA. Kids always want to do the opposite of what their parents want. The game is rated M for mature so you have to be 17 or older to purchase the game. But I think that a 14 year old could easily find a way to get the game without the parents knowing. It is a little wrong of EA to market like this because this commercial does appeal to kids under 17.

  26. Dustin Yourishin said

    I find this advertising campaign awesome in a fairly horrifying way. I think the premise of the campaign is original and very effective. I love the idea of moms hating it, and that definitely makes me more inclined to buy the game. I’m not an xbox gamer, so I wont be buying it, but
    i still enjoy the idea of it. However, the fact that these moms were mislead during the gathering of this footage seems a little bit too much for me. It seems wrong to me, but it was also the only way to get this footage, so I’m not sure where the compromise should be there. Overall, I like the idea of the ad, even though the methods they used to create it are a little bit worrisome.

  27. Melissa G. said

    In the video game world they need to focus on what the audience believes is satisfaction. The ratings on some of the games are set to control who is able to buy the product. But there is a glitch, some parents will go out and buy R rating videogames for their 10 year olds. People have different opinions about what is appropriate for young children. Do the graphics, adult content, and violence affect the child? It’s only ones opinion. I believe that the content does affect our youth and if we stand by and let it happen the ratings will only create more loops. I believe also that the commercial was made to express the way moms feel about the rated R videogames, most are disgusted. Dads are more appropriate when it comes to videogames, they can talk to their children so they understand it’s just a game.

  28. John Geonetta said

    Being an avid gamer, I have seen this ad campaign many times. Even though I have never played the game Dead Space 2, I remember these commercials because of the message of them. I can see how the idea that your mom will hate this game would help create a buzz around the title and probably sell more copies, but I agree that this message does seem to be aimed at an audience that is to young to buy this game. I for one don’t need a parents approval and presence to purchase an M rated game. When I was younger, this idea would have definitely worked on me, and would have made me want to play this game. I really think it was a great idea, but was not thought all the way through.

  29. Tyler Stone said

    I remember when these commercials came out and it grabbed my attention. However looking at it now I’m not sure that’s the best way to try and sell a mature rated game when parents already have to buy games for younger kids. Seeing as that younger kids have more time for video games it really doesn’t make sense to advertise in such a way to turn parents against the game some or even completely. I also think that the target audience for this commercial was younger kids because of the your mom will hate it slogan. This is kind of upsetting considering younger kids don’t need to be playing games with constant killing and death and horror, especially with the graphics and realness that comes on the screen now. You feel like your actually the main charcater and you can get sucked in. Overall the marketing would have appealed to a more preteen to teen audience but when you have the mature rating and are openly proud of the fact that your mom would hate the video game your kind of shooting yourself in the foot.

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