Should EA Apologize to Christians?
Electronic Arts has offended a lot of people, and surprisingly it has nothing to do with the content of one of its games. Mainstream Christian groups all over the net are responding to an E3 publicity stunt, in which the game publisher hired fake Christian protestors to pretend protest its latest game, Dante's Inferno. The publicity stunt was intended to parody other public protests by fundamentalist Christian groups against such things as gay marriage and abortion. The paid actors wore signs with slogans such as "EA: Electronic Anti-Christ" and "Hell is not a Game".
While seemingly a clever attack against a minority group that otherwise would not have been at E3 in very large numbers, the stunt runs the risk of insulting regular Christians who also play games. Around 76% of Americans, or 160 million people, self-identify as Christian. That is, of course, a massive amount of potential customers, many of whom avidly play games.
By treating Christian religious beliefs in a trivial and cynical fashion for commercial purposes, Electronic Arts has clearly decided that it is OK to make fun of certain minority groups, as long as they are not well represented in the gaming industry. What about racial or sexual minorities? Would Take Two Interactive dare stage a fake protest by the Latino community to make fun of their sensitivity to race in Grand Theft Auto games? Would Microsoft laugh in the face of gay and lesbian groups who were banned from Xbox Live because of their sexuality?
Electronic Arts has probably anticipated the backlash, and weighed it against the benefit of free advertising. Of course, the purpose of any viral publicity stunt is to shock and amuse people, and it that sense it has been successful. One the other hand, the stunt was very poorly conceived, and shows a willingness by Electronic Arts to exclude and marginalize members of our society, which is never a good thing for any company to do.
Up until the E3 protest, no Christian groups had taken major offense to the game, which is based on 14th century fiction containing biblical allegories. "Dante's Inferno" claims to be inspired by the first book of Dante Alighieri's theological poem "The Divine Comedy." The character in the video game uses a cross as a weapon, but that might turn out to be less offensive to Christians than EA's hamfisted attempts at advertising.
Fauxtestors outside of the E3 convention Center in Los Angeles.
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