The next time you play Hangman, don’t connect your stick-adversary to the gallows. You just might offend someone. And get attention. Because it’s all about getting attention.
Like Deep Silver’s Dead Island, a game I’m just this morning reading about. Apparently the tropical zombie game’s publisher submitted the logo up top, had its hands slapped by the ESRB for its depiction of a man hanged, and changed the logo to the one below.
That prompted calls of censorship. Which prompted the ESRB to issue a response.
“The video game industry has set guidelines about the types of content that are appropriate in advertising and marketing materials, which includes game box art,” said the ESRB in a statement emailed to IGN. “According to those guidelines the depiction in the logo was not compliant.”
“We never censor or dictate in any way what type of content can be included within a game. However, a game’s marketing materials are seen by an audience that is much broader than that which actually purchases the game itself, so we enforce industry-adopted guidelines as to what is suitable for inclusion in these materials.”
The ESRB’s been watchdogging marketing materials for awhile now. In 2009, it put a limit on the number of severed fingers you could show, telling Valve to stick a few back on Left 4 Dead 2’s mangled hand cover shot. The ESRB’s official “acceptable number of chopped off digits”? Just one.
Of course this whole Dead Island business begs another question, hinted at above. What’s the difference between the top shot, and the next one below, routinely scrawled by children in notebooks or on the backs of envelopes (and often when I was growing up, by teachers on chalkboards to pass the time).
Sure, it’s possible Deep Silver staged the whole thing for attention. If they did, shame on them. It doesn’t nullify the question of whether the ESRB’s overreaching here.