Over the past year or so that I’ve been active as a writer, I’ve noticed two growing trends within the gaming industry. The first is this habit of making mountains out of molehills with seemingly insignificant matters; the second, this stigma that it’s cool to hate Electronic Arts. I’ve written articles in the past about why I disagree with a lot of the negativity hurled towards EA because for the greater part, it seems a lot of the criticisms are poorly thought-out and a cheap way to grab attention from readers. Earlier this week I stumbled across an article on Kotaku about a Need For Speed advertisement that ran in The New York Times, an article which embodies the very trends I’ve mentioned above. Let me explain.
Essentially, EA’s “Proposition 130” revolves around a thought to raise the national speed limit in America to 130MP/H (or 209KM.H), using arguments such as “no-one will dare to text and drive at 130MP/H” and “72% of habitually late employees will be on time, resulting in a 211% boost in workplace productivity.” All-in-all, it’s obvious that the advertisement isn’t meant to be taken seriously and ties in with the recent opening of a highway in Texas with a speed limit of 85MP/H (137KM/H)… oh, and it probably has something to do with the fact Need For Speed: Most Wanted launched this week too.
Given the fact the advertisement has clearly been made in jest, you’d assume that there really wouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, it appears that Evan Narcisse, author of that particular Kotaku article, thinks otherwise. I mentioned at the beginning of this article the culture of a) blowing things out of proportion and b) criticising EA, and it’s not even two sentences into his article that you start to see these trends and what the intention of the piece is. For example, the very first line begins with, “The folks who publish the Battlefield and Mass Effect franchises aren’t above some really questionable marketing campaigns.” Does it not seem unnecessary that the article is already painting a negative picture of EA and its marketing campaigns right off the bat? Two sentences later he remarks, “their latest could-be-controversial gambit”. Could be controversial? For what? For jokingly suggesting to increase the speed limit to 130MP/H? For jokingly suggesting that as a result of higher speed limits that children won’t ask their parents, “are we there yet”? For jokingly suggesting that 435,000 new jobs will be created by converting speed bumps into ramps?
This sort of ridiculousness continues into the second (and last) paragraph of the article where Evan writes, “It’s clearly a spoofy attention-grab, but one that’s a little tone-deaf to the dangers of driving so fast in the real world.” What baffles me is the author recognises this advertisement is a joke, he recognises it’s there to promote their latest game, but despite that he still attempts to suggest that Electronic Arts are doing something wrong here. Perhaps he would like them to have a line at the bottom which reads, “Wear Your Seatbelt, Drive the Speed Limit”… messages they have included at the beginning of all their racing games to discourage irresponsible behaviour? If you visit the Proposition 130 page on the Need For Speed website (that, mind you, is not referenced in Evan’s article) where the advertisement is also shown, you’ll notice its first line. It reads, “What’s the point of owing a supercar … when the national speed limit restricts you to just 65 miles-per-hour” – so not only are they not suggesting that people speed [illegally], they aren’t even talking about driving your average family sedan either!
The article on the Need For Speed page ends with “why not check out Need For Speed: Most Wanted…you won’t have to pay real fines or spend time in jail if you get busted” – which links to that idea, “better to be violent in a video game than in real-life”. The article doesn’t suggest people should speed in real-life and Evan doesn’t insinuate this either, so I fail to understand for even a moment the reason in writing such a short and unnecessary article in the first place! To show the dangers of driving at high speeds? Is that even the responsibility of Electronic Arts to begin with? Even if America were to take this ‘request’ by EA seriously, it wouldn’t be the only country with such high speed limits – with the most famous being the Autobahn in Germany – a stretch of highway with absolutely no speed limit.
Evan ends his article appropriately with, “Other meteorological concerns [Hurricane Sandy] are on people’s minds today”, which essentially sums up the entire article as, “it was a slow news day in the Kotaku office and we had nothing else to report on.” By saying, “we’ll see if enough people notice to get up in arms over this … or not” only further re-enforces that idea that the writer was clutching at straws, hoping that possibly someone might read his article (which mind you, he was actually paid money to write) and become offended/angry at EA, just to see another example of consumers lashing out over something ‘horrible’ that EA has done. It’s a shame to observe such a poor example of journalism from such a reputable source – a two paragraph article that is aiming to spark controversy in a situation that doesn’t call for it.
Countpoint aims to offer a different look at an editorial that has been presented to — or situation that has unfolded in — the gaming world. It also aims to do so in a professional manner. You’re encouraged to take part in this discussion and offer your support for either side — or your own — but remember: keep it nice, folks.
If you have a suggestion for a Counterpoint piece, email us with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.