EA’s “Design a Kill” Contest

While I have yet to discover the actual press release to see the full language, this opinion piece by Brandon Sheffield at Gamasutra on EA’s questionable Dead Space 2 promotion is worth a good read.

The contest wants you to “design a kill,” with the winning entry being full animated in all of its gruesome glory in the upcoming horror game, Dead Space 2.  Entries are submitted via the game’s Facebook page and is open to residents of a handful of countries around the world that opt-in for “email communications from Dead Space 2” (i.e., spam.)

Asking for text, photo, or video submissions, the contest asks for your creativity (and, let’s be honest, depravity) for the most colorful kill of a malicious Necromorph.  Unless they’re fully animated, I’m not entirely sure exactly how video submissions could possibly seem like a good idea; that’s just kinda, sorta asking for trouble.

Now, I have no problems with violence in video games.  I don’t even have much of an issue if a designer purposely seeks out to ramp up that violence to a maximum.  Violence is a part of human nature and of society.  Firing a gun (even virtually) can be therapeutic in the right settings.  At its basest level, sometimes it can be outright fun.

But I don’t know how I feel about asking people to design a kill.

Consider the contest:  they want you to think of the most mercilessly horrendous way to kill something.  After all, only the most creative will get their kill featured in the game.  Fans of the game know that kills in Dead Space aren’t straightforward, either.  Lots of damage have to be inflicted before the final kill shot — severed limbs are the standard fare in the deadness of space.

The opinion piece puts it best right in the opening paragraphs:

Here we are in an era of video games coming under intense scrutiny for their violence, and for any hint of sexuality. This is an era in which the Australian and German governments are rejecting the sale of certain games by the handful, Venezuela has banned all “violent” video games with sweeping terms, and psychologists study the effects of violent games on behavior around the clock. 

It’s in this climate that EA has chosen to launch its Design a Kill forDead Space 2 contest, which to me runs second only to Acclaim’s attempt to buy ad space on tombstones in terms of irresponsibility.

Again, I don’t have problems with violence in games.  My mother bought the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat for my brother and me back when I was still in the third grade, making my exposure to video game violence fairly early.

When she handed it to me, she said to the two of us, “I will buy this for you because I trust you.  As long as you understand the difference between fantasy and reality…”

I scoff pretentiously as I interrupt her, “Of course, Mom.”

Later that night, I’m hitting back-back-A to have Kano rip out the heart from Sub-Zero’s chest (because it’s the easiest fatality to execute in the game), while Mom tells me that dinner’s ready, secretly surveying us and the content on the screen.

By all rights, I should have no problem with this contest.  I suppose I don’t, really — not at face value, anyway; a contest is a contest, and, I suspect, the intended audience are those old enough to tell the difference.  Still, I can’t really defend it being that great of a decision.

As Sheffield mentions toward the end of the piece, there’s an entry when little smiley faces are placed at the end of every move of a kill.  I don’t know if it’s the greatest thing to encourage and reward those who would put a smiley after the line “grabs the head and shoots in the neck,” unless we know they have the maturity to understand what that means.

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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