Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Andy: Man, people can be so hypocritical now-a-days. We now live in a world where it seems like we can’t do anything, or say anything, because someone will be offended. Someone will be “triggered”. Or someone will feel judged because they need to go to a safe place because something made them upset. The latest example of this came last week when the Battlefield Twitter account posted two memes with the hashtag #justWW1things. Evidently there were some that took issue to this and deemed it distasteful, insensitive and rude. So, naturally the Battlefield Twitter account took them down and issued an apology.
I honestly can’t wrap my head around this, quite honestly it’s just asinine. A game about the brutality of World War 1, about the brutal conditions and the brutal combat the troops faced is fine. But, heaven-forbid they use a hashtag about WW1 because stop the presses that’s insensitive. It’s OK that in the game you can bludgeon someone in the back of the head with a trench club, you can charge through someone with a bayonet, and you can light someone on fire with a flame thrower and no one says anything. But when a social media person tries to engage the fan base with a couple tweets and a hashtag there is suddenly an issue.
I’m failing to see how a simple hashtag can be deemed offensive and insensitive, when the actions in the game are much more brutal. I find it hard to believe that someone who was in WW1 was on Twitter and saw that and went, “oh man that’s disrespectful.” People just need to be adults and if something is truly that offensive to you, move on. Ignore it and block the account that posted it. It’s not a threat to anyone, it’s not derogatory in any way and it’s not racially insensitive – it’s just a picture of fictional characters, in a fictional game. People need to stop going out of their way to find something offensive.
I don’t know maybe I’m being too harsh here. Did you see the tweets in question? If so what do you think about the whole situation?
Nicholas: I remember hearing about this on a podcast and initially thinking, “this seems like a bit of a nonsense blow-up”. It wasn’t until I started seeing articles with headings like ‘EA deletes insensitive Battlefield 1 tweets” and “Battlefield account posts dumbarse tweets, deletes them” that my brain started to hurt. That said, it wasn’t until I actually saw some of the reaction tweets to #justWW1things that my brain went into full meltdown. To put some context around the pictures themselves, one featured a solider setting a room alight with his flamethrower with the caption, “when you’re too hot for the club” and the second, a group of soldiers, one with his gun reaching outwards, with a blimp on-fire and crashing behind them. The tagline for that photo being, “when your squad is looking on point.”
If I hadn’t known about the online drama prior to seeing those images I honestly would have thought nothing of them. They don’t come across as edgy and nor do they come across as intelligent. It’s just a screenshot with a captain. That said, now that I’m aware of how they’re being perceived, when I see those photos now I can’t help but feel… well, nothing as well. There are times when I’ve seen insensitive content and thought to myself, “yeah, probably not the best idea” (example, YouTube ‘Mattess Company 9/11′ and watch their commercial’) but this isn’t one of those times. As a matter of fact, this isn’t even remotely one of those times. You could invent a time-machine and select any date, past present or future, and it would still never be one of those times.
Without jumping into the “everyone is overly sensitive” discussion just yet, I honestly can’t fathom the backlash behind this one – and not because I’m usually the kind of person making these kind of jokes, but because it’s such a non-issue. As you’ve mentioned, Battlefield 1 is based around WW1. The developers took in-game shots, thought of a (witty) caption and put them together. The idea of #justWW1things being insensitive given the context is absurd beyond belief. Honestly, I don’t think I can say it enough. It’s ridiculous.
In this scenario no-one is posting actual pictures of the war and it’s clear that both the images used are from the game and the captions are for a laugh. If ever there was a case for people overreacting then this would be it. So what do you think? Can you even see why these pictures have been taken so offensively, or is it completely out-of-proportion? What do you think of the coverage from sites like Kotaku and those headings, and does it say anything about the situation itself?
Andy: Oh I 100% without a shadow of a doubt think this was blown completely out of proportion. Like you when I first heard about it, my initial thought was “Oh man, what did they do?” Then I found the two “offending” pictures and was mystified by how anyone found them offensive. No matter how hard I try to see the other side of this I just can’t get to a point where be even mildly offended or even uncomfortable with it. Part of it, is like I talked about before, the actual subject of the game. You know the entire WW1 setting and all. The brutality of the game and all the goes with a FPS title. I mean let’s break this down, are you telling me you’re OK with shooting someone in the head in a video game, but a picture on social media rustles your jimmies enough to be offended? I’m sorry, but there is no better way for me to say this. Grow up.
I know you said you weren’t ready to get into the “everyone is overly sensitive” discussion yet, I’m jumping headlong into it. This whole politically correct, overly-sensitive crap needs to be dialled way back. We live in an age where social media is everywhere. If you don’t like what someone or group posts then scroll right past it or block the account so you don’t see it anymore. No-one has an obligation to make sure you feel OK and aren’t offended by something. I know this will come as a shock to many people, but the world does not revolve around you as a person. Regardless if you get out of bed in the morning the day will go on. Regardless of how you participate in the day, the day will go on. It’s ironic that we are talking about this right now, because last week I saw a post on Facebook that said (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find it) “In World War 1, 18 year olds were fighting in trenches and watching their friends die, in 2016 18 year olds need a safe place when they are offended by words.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this topic.
When I was 18 -20 I was a combat medic in the Army. I was activated for the Persian Gulf conflict and Operation Desert Storm. While I never saw combat, I helped triage and treat other soldiers and civilians. How many of those who are so offended by these two Battlefield pictures can say the same? My guess is very few, if any. It’s just laughable to me how sensitive people have become. I really think that some go out of their way to be offended by something so that they can stoke the flames, get the pitchforks and gather the mob of sheep. I think it’s a game to some people really.
You raise a great point though about how it’s covered in the gaming media, well any media really. Kotaku is a perfect example of the good old clickbait title to get those all-important clicks on their site. I would like to cite ethics and journalistic integrity but that seems to be in short supply now-a-days. Rather, it’s been replaced by doing anything to get those clicks for those ad dollars while giving those who are offended a voice. Why not run the title “People were easily offended so DICE caved to the pressure of a few” or something similar? Maybe part of the problem is that those who are faux-offended are given too much credence and others want to make sure they don’t alienate even a small piece of their supposed fan base so try to appease everyone. Not everything has to be a big blown out controversy. Not everything has to appeal to me. I don’t have to find everything funny, or interesting. I think it’s time for people to realize that and just move on. I don’t think that’s asking too much is it? Or do you think things are only going to get worse?
Nicholas: There’s so much about this entire situation that boggles the mind. Let’s remind ourselves how long ago WW1 was – 100 years. It’s been almost a decade since the war ended, so I’m (a little bit) confident that there is no-one alive who fought in the war, who’s seeing those images and being ‘triggered’ by them. So the absolute majority of people who are claiming that this is tasteful are so removed from the subject matter that it’s not funny. The hashtags aren’t #justwarthings where we’re referring anything current, it was literally a war from a century ago and there are people who have the audacity to play the “insensitive” card.
As far as political correctness goes, I think this is a great case to show how trivial things can be. This isn’t a example of wanting to censor something because it’s legitimately offensive, it’s an situation of a group of people wanting to make it seem offensive and then hoping that their views get traction. It’s just unfortunate that they’ve been successful. I particularly loved those people who tweeted about the Holocaust and other (more) recent war atrocities – anything to make this a ‘thing’.
It’s interesting that you ask the question of whether it’s going to get worse, because the way I see it, the answer is a resounding “no”. The internet culture (not just gaming) is moving in this direction of wanting to call out anything remotely insensitive with the hopes of it being highlighted and censored. I don’t think there’s any goal here other than to cause conflict and keep people quiet – as I mentioned before, they aren’t acting as a voice for WW1 veterans, they’re taking this on themselves and making a case of it for the sake of it. If I can be frank, it’s a completely ridiculous waste of an individual’s energy and efforts – surely you’ve got something better to do?
For me, the question to ask isn’t “is this going to stop soon”, but rather, what is next? People merely talking against this surge in political correctness isn’t going to stop it, only actions will, so my question to you is, what do you think Electronic Arts and Battlefield should have done? If you were the PR team behind this, how would you react to it?
Andy: That’s the million dollar question here isn’t it? If I was the PR team what would I do? As vocal as I am about this whole issue, and how much I think everyone needs to act like adults and grow up, I’m not sure I would have done it differently to be honest. It’s not to say I wouldn’t “want” to do it differently. I would have loved for them to just come out and drop a “deal with it” gif, but at the end of the day if it affects sales then the bottom line is what comes first. When you work for a company, or a brand, your personal opinions are out the window. If it drives traffic away it needs to be nixed. Like it or not, that’s just how things work. So, if they felt like there was even a small chance that a segment of gamers would walk away, that’s not a chance they can take.
In a nice segway for us, as we have been writing this back and forth over the past few days another EA brand, Titanfall has also gotten into some negative headlines – more clickbait headlines from a few outlets- with a tweet they sent out. The Titanfall account tweeted “One is “mostly slow & plodding” while the other’s “frantic precision is electrifying”– you decide” then had a link to the IGN review of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. Make no mistake about it, that’s a good shot across the bow by Titanfall. Then the Respawn Twitter account followed up with this statement “For the record: @respawn is the official voice of Respawn studio. We have nothing but love & respect for our fellow devs.” So, obviously a couple things here. EA runs the Titanfall account, which is fine. Infinite Warfare was released the day that Titanfall tweet was sent, that makes sense. The EA social media team wanted to take a potshot at Call of Duty so they served that one up. All of that makes sense. The part I don’t get is the Respawn tweet. There was a very big split between many of the Respawn team and Activision, so that tweet comes across as odd to me.
Then cue the social justice warriors calling out Titanfall. Why? Why? Why? Selling video games isn’t a charity, just look at all the DLC and microtransactions that are now included in almost every title (that’s a whole other topic though). I said before the goal is the bottom line. I don’t see Pepsi tweeting that Coke tastes great. I don’t see Ford saying that Chevy’s are dependable vehicles. I don’t see Burger King saying that McDonald’s makes a great burger. Why should this be any different? The world is not filled with sunshine and lollipops all the time. Sometimes it’s filled with rain and farts. And if it’s raining I don’t look up and say: Hey rain you are offending me knock it off- and it magically stops raining. Every sporting event doesn’t end in a tie where everyone gets a medal and goes home happy. It’s a competition, treat it as such, support the one you want. Why is that so bloody hard for people to understand? (I just used the word bloody, I’m becoming Australian… lord help me!)
Nicholas: I think it’s because gamers want this community to seem like it’s a ‘safe space’ of sorts – one that’s free from disagreements and the like. We speak about wanting there to be an end to harassment online (which is something we can all agree on) and we want to be friendly with all our fellow gamers, but it looks to be extending to every crevice of the community, even when it’s seemingly excessive. Sure, developers should have a general respect for each other because they’re all working together (yet against each other) for a common goal, but that doesn’t mean they can’t poke fun at one another all the time. The only issue here is that with the Titanfall example, EA deliberately called out their competition rather than making a snarky comment behind their back. You think that when the developers of Gran Turismo say, “the greatest driving simulator” that they’re not trying to say they’re better than Forza? It mightn’t be obvious, but they’re not saying, “one of the best driving simulators”.
Speaking of dangerous comments, Razer recently landed in hot water after making the tweet, “You call yourself Pro? S my D” accompanied by a picture of their laptops with an SD card protruding out. At its heart it was poking fun at Apple for their lack of ports on their devices but it quickly garnered a lot of hate online from people. Of all the tweets we’ve discussed this week it’s clearly the most risqué, but do you still think that there’s no foul in this instance? At what point would you consider a tweet going too far?
It makes me wonder though. So far we’ve been speaking against these instances where a company has backpedalled on what they’ve said so they can appease to their market, have we perhaps got it wrong? I know we speak about it all the time and I know it sounds cliché at times, but there’s clearly a move within not just gaming but the online community as a whole to be more inclusive. Is what Respawn did really a bad or weak move, or is it more a move to foster a greater sense of belonging and unity across gamers? It still holds true, the industry is a competition at heart, but is it necessary for potshots to be taken? Could they simply not be made at all?
Andy: Your Gran Turismo comment couldn’t be more accurate. Why can’t they say they are the best? Because it might somehow come across as insulting to Forza? Big deal. Because it might hurt the feelings of a fan of Drive Club? So sorry. Because a fan of Need for Speed who doesn’t like driving simulators may not agree with it? Suck it up Buttercup. I think this expands further than just the video game world. People, in all aspects of the world are out to find things that “offend” them and piss in everyone’s cornflakes until someone pays attention to their temper tantrum. Just last week Starbucks released a new green cup with a single pen stroke depicting people from all walks of life and ethnicities. Within hours some people took this green cup as Starbucks affront to the traditional red Christmas cup, and blew up social media about this grave injustice. Seriously, the colour of a cup offended people. The same cup that once they are done drinking their coffee they will throw away. There is an adage about picking your battles, some people just want to pick every single one regardless of the circumstances.
The Razor S my D comment is certainly the worst of the bunch, I can see where people would at least take notice of it. Does it rise to the level of full-blown outrage? Not for me. I actually chuckled when I read that one. Is it in the best taste? No, not really. I’m all for making everything as inviting to people as possible, but at the same point we can’t be inclusive while being so judgmental of everything. Being inclusive doesn’t mean only when it suits your needs and opinions. I think that’s what this whole thing boils down to. People just need to stop trying to be offended by every little thing that goes on. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. Life does not revolve around you, or I. Life doesn’t give a crap about what my opinion is on anything. Regardless of what I think about something, the day will continue to pass. The sun will rise and set. Even if I am offended by the sunlight because I think vampires are being ostracized. It’s not fair to them.
As we reach the close of this week’s discussion I want to circle back to my childhood and something my mom made me repeat often. “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt.” I still remember complaining to my mom about something a kid at school said and my mom saying something to the effect of, if I spend time worried about what other people are saying I’ll miss a lot of good things in life. In my opinion there isn’t a more true statement to what we are talking about this week. If I go looking for things to be offended about and bitch and moan about them, then I am no doubt missing out on so many other things. If someone on Twitter says something I don’t like, or has a view that’s different than mine I scroll past it, or block them. Same with Facebook, or any other avenue really. I don’t need to force my views on anyone else. If someone, or something, is going to get hurt then I will do something, but words – or pictures with words – only hold as much power as you let them hold. Do you think we have reached a point where people just need to stop overreaching and being adults and listen to my mom’s advice? Not everything that everyone does that we don’t agree with needs to be made into a huge spectacle does it?
Nicholas: There was a comedian who recently said, “you don’t get to tell people what does or doesn’t offend them” and I certainly agree with that comment. That said, at the same time I also don’t think that anyone needs to take notice when something you said might offend them. In the cases we’ve discussed above, there’s every possibility that there is a fragile soul who didn’t like the tweets made by EA and Razer, but does that mean they need to be removed? Not really, no. Actually, not at all. I completely get when something is super offensive and isn’t appropriate, but these cases aren’t it. I suppose the question is who’s the authority to determine what crosses the line or not?
To wrap this week’s article up I wanted to focus on one final bit of advertising/social media that has absolutely blown up this week. Just recently a tourism campaign for the Northern Territory, Australia was released. The campaign features a picture of Aeres Rock, with a caption over it saying, “CU in the NT”, where the “CU” and “NT” are in large letters while “in the” are significantly smaller in the middle. I’ve seen it shared a few times online and a lot of people are seeing the humour in it. It embodies Australian humour so well.
So the question I ask is, why is it acceptable for a tourism board to so blatantly walk the line of profanity, but some screenshots or other suggestive tweets are slammed? Is it the audience that makes the difference? Is it just this ‘offended’ culture in the gaming community that immediately shuns anything remotely edgy? I’m not exactly sure what the answers are to those questions. Regardless, I stand by the comments we’ve made above that they should have been left as-is. A bit of tongue-in-cheek never hurt anyone.