When an industry is made-up of almost equal parts society-changing brilliance and playboy man-child syndrome, it's bound to generate some exceptionally stupid ideas.
Case in point:
Most of the stupidity flies under the radar and only enrages mothers and religious people for a few days before they move on to an even ridiculous-er topic that will get them more airtime on the evening news, like "Wigger Day."
But other bonehead moves from the game industry have done more than just induce worldwide face-palming–-they've cost companies thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of credibility and respect. (As well as real, actual dollars.)
There are many spectacular f-ups that belong on this list, but here are my personal favorites:
5. Sony Celebrates God of War II with Topless Women and a Headless Goat
What better way to send a message to the world that video games are not violent and unhealthy for children than to throw a party for your new game with boobs and butchered animals.
Back in 2007, Sony held a crazy shindig in Athens, Greece to promote God of War II. Instead of offering partygoers an open bar and an end-of-night SWAG bag like every other video game party, Sony thought to itself, "No. That's not the Sony style." Then one brave executive in the Sony party-planning meeting slurred through Vodka breath, "Hey. Thiss game iss about, like, Greek gods and stuff, right? Well, then sscrew it, we gotta have a Greek shit theme." He then passed out and fell out of his spinny Ikea desk chair into a potted plant. Ha ha! Drunks.
Apparently, this was the best idea that came out of that meeting, because the party in Greece was dripping (literally) with Sony's version of Greek mythology: a headless, bloody goat as a centerpiece and topless women feeding people grapes. It is unconfirmed whether or not Charlie Sheen was in attendance.
Turns out this came across as "poor taste," and I'm not just talking about the goat entrails they supposedly served. Animal rights groups were outraged, and critics had a field day saying, "See?! Video games really are all about blood lust and boobs!"
My favorite part, however, was the statement from Sony: "The goat was returned to the butcher. On this occasion we recognize that we fell short of our normal high standards of conduct."
I love that stating the location of the headless goat was equally as important as apologizing to the world for throwing the stupidest party of all time. Stay classy, guys.
4. LittleBigPlanet Recalled Worldwide for Qur'an References
If you're not thoroughly educated on the subject, and I'm guessing you're not, you should probably refrain from saying anything about the Qu'ran. In fact, I'm probably going to get in trouble by someone on the Internet for simply writing that sentence. But I wouldn't be the only one.
LittleBigPlanet is one of the most adorable games ever made. Out of all of the video game characters to ever run across my TV, the Sackboy is the one I'd have the hardest time believing was convicted of first-degree murder or genocide. That's why it was such a shocker to learn that, in 2008, the game was pulled from shelves and recalled for featuring a background track containing two offensive expressions from the Qur'an.
The first phrase translated to "Every soul shall have the taste of death," and the other said "All that is on earth will perish." Come on, what's not hilarious about imagining this little guy whispering those phrases into your ear at night with a big smile and possibly a butcher knife. "Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance."
As stated, the game was delayed and recalled from retailers worldwide. A new, less Qu'ran-y version of the game was released a short while later, in an effort to say to the public, "JK LOL."
Oh, and what's it time for? Another apology from Sony? "We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offence that this may have caused." Sorry Sackboys, you'll have to find a different way to get your death threats across.
3. EA Holds a Contest to Win Prostitutes (Basically)
When you are running a super serious business, it's crucial to know your consumers. You've got to know what they really, really want. If your audience consists of housewives, for example, they want spatulas, irons, and checkered aprons. Plumbers just want pants that stay above their buttcrack, and postal workers? They just want shotguns! In a similar effort to erase all progress ever made to break through a stereotype, EA offered women as a contest prize to gamers, insinuating (on paper, for the world to see) that they are all lonely, drooling, lust-crazed walking boners.
To promote Dante's Inferno, Electronic Arts asked Comic-Con '09 goers to "commit acts of lust" by uploading photos of themselves with hot booth babes to Twitter and Facebook. But here's the kicker: the winner (whoever did the best fake groping in their picture?) would be awarded "a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi, and a chest full of booty." If that doesn't suggest an evening of clean, family fun, well gee golly I don't know what does!
Prostitutes. Obviously they mean prostitutes, right? Or, pardon me, "escorts." Either way, it's… pretty damn questionable.
Needless to say, many people were butt-hurt by this contest, and I don't mean in the fun way. Maybe it had something to do with the blatant objectification of women or the poorly-worded contest rules, or maybe that the whole thing was advertised on a picture of breasts with the moronic phrase, "Dinner, Booty, and More." Hey, who knows. All I know is we got another great apology:
"'Commit acts of lust' is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps. Also, a "Night of Lust" means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes."
So, "a sinful night with two hot girls" magically turned into "a night of driving around with company representatives." Where do I sign?!
2. Sony Debuts "White Is Coming" Racist PSP Ad
God bless you once again, Sony. You are like a plane filled with girl scouts crashing into a mountainside. It's all so horrible and I can't look away.
Now, I've never visited the Netherlands, but if these are the kinds of blatantly offensive billboards they greenlight, I need to go there immediately before the whole place gets shut down. I can't imagine a more hilarious vacation.
You remember the boobs, you remember the headless goat, you remember the Qu'ran references. Well, brace yourself for glaring, larger-than-life racism. In 2006, Sony debuted a Dutch-only ad campaign for the white PSP. That sounds all well and good, until you see the billboard for it.
…Yeah. I'm a pretty terrible journalist, and not even I can make this stuff up.
It baffles me to think how a promotional idea like this can make it through all of the B.S. stages of marketing without someone, anyone, saying, "Uh, hmm. Hey, guys? Do we think that an angry Caucasian forcefully grabbing a timid African American by the jaw with the words ‘White is Coming' behind them could possibly upset someone?" NAHHHHH! Don't be ridiculous!
As Kotaku said, "I'm not quite sure what they were thinking here, but you might as well slap a hood on that chick."
Come on, really-what do you think happened? People were pissed, Sony freaked out, the ad was pulled, and… an an apology was released:
"We recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign." Sony's marketing: the most entertaining shame spiral of my lifetime.
1. EA Illegally Mails Out Real Brass Knuckles to Promote The Godfather II
Yes, 2009 really was a great year for video game industry controversy-and this one takes the shiny, gold, four-fingered cake.
Video game companies like to send fun promotional gifts to game journalists accompanying review copies of their game. I assume it's in an attempt to be memorable, but we all know they're just trying to kiss major ass for a good score. Sometimes the gift is a cute little toy or stuffed animal, and sometimes it's a package of meat. But on a good day, it will be an illegal weapon.
To promote The Godfather II, EA shipped out real brass knuckles alongside press copies of the game. Except… funny thing is, brass knuckles are very, very illegal in most countries. In fact, they're illegal in ten states in the US alone (including California where EA is based), and considered prohibited weapons in Canada. Anyone in possession of said weapons would face criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada-in this case, that would be thanks to Electronic Arts.
In another "JK LOL" attempt, Electronic Arts contacted game writers around the country asking them to return the brass knuckles immediately. The company wanted to make sure that the weapons were "properly disposed of"–-but, like, in a designated weapon destroying facility, and not in someone's cranium.
According to Kotaku, the company declined to comment any further, making this "RETURN THE BRASS KNUCKLES, NOW" phone call basically a threat. I don't know about you, but I think this is the most accurate promotion for The Godfather II game they could have ever hoped for.
For the record, I didn't realize this was going to be solely an EA and Sony bash-fest until I started writing. But it is what it is, and these have been the controversies that have made me laugh the heartiest. Oh, games industry, never change-just please include me on the list next time you ship out free weapons. I've made an under-the-table deal with the Sackboys and we're on a budget.
Kotaku Presents' debut season features Lisa Foiles, who is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as an actress/web host in Hollywood and is continuing to dabble in video game voiceovers. For more info, visit Lisa's official website She's also on Twitter.