Infinity Ward's PSA is brought to you by "FAGS"

1 November 2009
6:51 am

Image from arsenalia.comI have to confess, when this issue came up earlier, my immediate personal reaction was that this was a misguided, if heartfelt, reaction to what may or may not have been a dumb mistake.

If you haven't heard by now, Infinity Ward, the developers behind upcoming FPS Modern Warfare 2 (who have already been embroiled in controversies between the lack of dedicated servers for the PC version of the game as well as leaked footage depicting a cutscene that many players have found disturbing), have released a YouTube public service announcement warning players against unsportsman-like "grenade spam." It's all well and fine, but the five seconds at the end of the video inform you that the PSA has been brought to you by "Fight Against Grenade Spam," or, FAGS.

Between this acronym and the voice over by Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels instructing players that chucking grenades is for "pussies," the connotations and implications have been immediately apparent to not just the commenters on the YouTube video but the members of the official forums who have taken to running around with the acronym in threads and signatures like a giggling inside joke.

Robert Bowling, the Infinity Ward spokesperson, said:

While this video was not produced by us, it was for us, and I apologize that I didn't catch that reference in advance.

So, sure. I am prepared to accept that. It could have been a complete mistake that no one caught but was apparent in the first couple of minutes that it ended up on YouTube. I can be charitable. What confuses me, however, is that the video is still online even after it was apologized-for by two Infinity Ward employees who acknowledged that, oh yes, it definitely seems to spell out "fags," oops. I am prepared to personally accept that it was a mistake and accept the apology, but it strikes me as more than a little half-hearted when the apology is delivered with a mea culpa that takes no responsibility (as they claim the video was done outside of their studio and not by the company) and, worse, without removing the offending video itself. That's not an apology any more than EA's pathetic attempts at waving away the outrage caused during their Comic-Con booth babes stunt.

Nevertheless this hasn't been looked at with unanimous agreement. Even in the GayGamer.net forums, where I published this originally, people have complained about how this is an irrelevant waste of time– and I will be the first to admit that initially I was right there with them, thinking that this was a bit of politcal correctness getting out of hand. I mean people call each other pussies in FPSes all the time, right? You just get used to it. But getting used to it and accepting that this was a dumb mistake is different than ignoring it, and that seems to be the stance Infinity Ward is expecting at the moment. "Oops, we're sorry, but we're not going to do anything about it." As fellow writer VorpalBunny eloquently pointed out on his personal website, "fag" is a word that has serious negative connotations with gay people. It's something most of us have had hurled in our faces at least once in our lives– only once, if we're lucky. It's an insult wrapped in hatred and disapproval and for many of us physical violence and fear. It's not something that should be cavalierly thrown into the end of a promotional video for a game. It's not something whose usage should be relegated to a chuckle and a half-hearted oops, while carrying on that nothing really wrong happened to begin with. It absolutely should not be something hijacked to further the insult, mocking both the people thrusted under the umbrella of that negative term or the people upset by its appearance in the title of a mainstream publisher like Activision.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, even talking about negative things like this tends to boost the awareness of a title even when they're doing things that do not deserve it. EA has been capitalizing on this extensively with their promotion of Dante's Inferno, for example. While I and many others await official clarification from them, however, I will be doing one of the only things any of us can: making others aware of this, that in the United States if that PSA had been, for example, brought to you by any of the unfortunate racial slurs attributed to African Americans or the sexist titles for women, a half-hearted apology of non-action would be the least of the things this company would be supplicating themselves towards forgiveness for. It's easy to say that this is just a knee-jerk complaint borne of over-senstitivity, but even if this was put online by accident, the fact that it's still online is unacceptable. At the very least, it gives the illusion that this sort of promotion– whether it's affecting gay people or women or minorities– is appropriate at all, when it absolutely is not.

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