Friday, March 19, 2010

Rooting for the Underdog

While it's hard to call the EA-backed Bad Company 2 an 'underdog', they are currently ranked #2 in both the wallets and minds of online console shooters. And they are competing for that top spot with the current owner of the 'largest entertainment release in history' moniker. So, within the narrow confines of our myopic view of this competition, Dice and co. are the underdogs.

And boy are they milking it.

The first crack at MW2 was more of a friendly jab than an actual gut shot. (Turns out that Bad Company 2 isn't releasing any new maps for free but rather just unlocking some game modes on existing maps.) But with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, EA / Dice's marketing team lifted MW2's own language and used it for themselves.

The second crack at MW2 has upped the ante considerably. MW2 has developed a reputation for playing host to the ignorant, the homophobic, the racist online. And while our civilization's scum usually crop up in varying numbers all over the interweb, MW2's F.A.G.S. ad made Activision and co. more culpable than other hosts in the ether. It's hard to tell what Activision's intent was with this ad because the fallout is clearly negative across the board. (Unless they were trying to get more racist / homophobic young men as consumers. In which case, Activision should probably read up on demographics.) But it's most lasting effect is that MW2 is now thought to have more awful human beings populating its servers than its competitors.

And just when pop culture's focus had shifted elsewhere, Bad Company 2 brings this skeleton back out of the closet. This isn't a friendly jab. This is a hay maker. Bad Company 2 is running the ad that MW2 should have run and, in so doing, saying a lot of things about both itself and its competitor. To whit:
  • it's saying Bad Company 2 is funny and fun
  • it's saying Bad Company 2 is not ignorant
  • it's reminding us that MW2 is ignorant
  • it's asking us, are you a BC2 person or a MW2 person?
Answering that implicit question is where the hay maker comes out. If you are a MW2 person, you're a homophobe. If you're a BC2 person, you hate homophobes. So? Which are you?

In asking this question, EA and Dice need us to forget all the other reasons why we play video games. Trifling issues such as gameplay, presentation, and story. But I won't be labeled a homophobe! I'm a BC2 man!

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