Raising Hell? EA's Dante's Inferno Stokes Fire

"Gamers of all varieties will buy this product if it's, well, actually a good game," wrote Catholic Video Gamers. "So instead of engaging in a shamelessly anti-Christian stunt to promote your poor excuse of a product, maybe you ought to work on making this game, you know, something better than a blatant God of War rip-off and make it, ya know, something worthwhile?"

But marketing stunts aside, the game has also attracted some negative attention of its own.

When it learned in October that the game rewarded players with a "Bad Nanny" achievement after they kill a certain number of unbaptized babies, the International Nanny Association issued a harsh rebuke and encouraged people to e-mail the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) with complaints.

"The whole concept of killing babies is just horrendous on its own, but to add fuel to the fire, the title is 'Bad Nanny,' which I think is unconscionable," Wendy Sachs, co-president of the INA.

Though unbaptized infants are mentioned in the original poem, she said that "the book is a story that's read and digested and put away ... whereas a game like this is stringing the ideas from the story and putting it into an interactive mode."

As for Sunday night's ad, she said, "I think that it's just outrageous that anybody would promote a game that promotes killing babies and rewarding that."

Ad to Air in Third Quarter, After 9 P.M. ET

EA's Marineau said the unbaptized babies in the game are more like infant-sized menacing creatures and emphasized that the ad will air after 9 p.m. on the East Coast, in a more adult-focused time slot.

He also said that while the ad's content will be true to the game, "it's not as revealing as parts of the game are."

On the eve of its launch, "Dante's Inferno" has many in the gaming industry champing at the bit.

"This is visually one of the more interesting titles I've seen in a while," said David Riley, a director with market research firm NPD Group.

He also said the Super Bowl spot could be a very good opportunity for the company.

"With a game like this, a Super Bowl audience is definitely a target audience for them," he said. "This is a title that really just generates its own buzz. Once you see a trailer, you just get it."

Family Entertainment Groups: Issue Not Tagline, But Content and Promotion

But others are disappointed that the adult-targeted game will be advertised during an event that will undoubtedly be watched by so many kids.

Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a family entertainment ratings and reviews non-profit, said his group expects this game to be one of the most violent games of 2010.

Recognizing that CBS initially had a problem with the ad, he said, "What's ironic about this is that it's not the tagline, it's what's in the ad."

Even if the content has been softened for a younger audience, he said children under 18 years old will be watching the game with their parents. When they see the ad, they'll want the game and, he continued, teenage boys in particular can become easily addicted to gaming.

"The issue won't necessarily be the content of the ad, but the promotion of an M-rated video game to a family-friendly audience," he said. "That's the fundamental issue.

If parents are watching with their kids, he suggests "diving for the clicker" and switching the channel or using it as a teachable moment.

But others see things differently.

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