Great Moments in Game Advertising – Here’s a Serious Documentary on Revenge Murder, Now Buy Our Stabbing Simulator!

Dishonored is a title I have an interest in. I’m a sucker for steampunk and assassin-based game play, particularly where there seems to be multiple paths to a successful target (Tenchu left a long stain on my gaming mind, evidently).

But I have to wonder the mindset of the people at Bethseda Softworks that thought a good way to promote a game with the subtitle of “Revenge Solves Everything” (prediction: it doesn’t!) was to link a documentary about revenge killings in Chicago called “Chicago Interrupted”. This is no small thing, given that these killings are linked to over 300 deaths in a six month period.

The Eye for an Eye exclusive screen, with Bethseda and VICE prominently shown

When this appears in front of a video, you own the outcome Bethseda.

Sure, it was part of tie-in site Eye For An Eye, a VICE-created site which appears to have googled up every revenge-linked article (e.g. the launch of “Taken 2” and Liam Neeson swearing on TV, albums with the word ‘revenge’ in the title, four quotes featuring the word revenge that the author felt needed a paragraph to explain each one to you) and shoved it in with a bit of explanatory text to prove that someone deserves their next pay cheque. The result is a weird mix of articles that don’t really work together. They run “across the gamut“, but I can’t help but think it would be a very small crowd who would want to read Jerry Seinfeld’s letter ‘revenge’ and then watch a three-part documentary about an undercover US agent.

In short: it’s a minor site that VICE indicates probably only has a lifespan of about 3 months, so minimal effort ahead. After all, it’s just promoting a video game that might be long forgotten before the site closes.

Which would have been fine, except for “Chicago Interrupted”. By tapping into such an event and promoting it as “Exclusively on VICE.com” it really looks like an attempt to launch a video game through tying it into real-life tragedy. This isn’t a new way to market a product, of course, but the tenuous nature of the link – steampunk-magic-ninja-righteous-assassin-many-ways-to-murder versus real-world-retaliation-killings – is in a league of its own when it comes to offensiveness.

Some will say that the problem here was VICE, given that the site is theirs and the video is theirs, but at the end of the day Bethseda is bankrolling this, which makes it their responsibility. Plus Bethseda’s name comes first on that title card above.

The videos have been pulled, but you can still watch them within this article.

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