You may have seen the blow-up occuring around the Zombie Bait Collector’s edition for Deep Silver’s Dead Island: Riptide. Is is said that a picture is worth a thousand words; in this case those words include the phrase “WTF was Deep Silver thinking????”.
When I first saw this image, I got internet mad, which means I MADE A GIF.
It’s got a priest and everything. SYMBOLISM.
But having had a moment or two to reflect, I’ve realised the incredible piece of social commentary that Deep Silver have made about the video gaming industry, its fans and gaming journalism. It’s been done in a very subtle way (exceptionally subtle, like the brush of a butterfly’s wings across a cherry blossom), but if you turn your head and squint really hard you can see the true depth of what Deep Silver have done.
I Have Met the Zombie, And He Is Me
The secret is that this is the Zombie Bait edition. Zombie Bait. Bait is used to lure its target, and this retail box is targeted at the zombies.
But who are the zombies that Deep Silver aims to lure? Zombies are typically instinct-driven shells, lacking basic human emotions and intelligence. They respond to the stimuli put in front of them in the most direct way possible: move towards it in a predictably straight line. So who fits that criteria?
The gaming review sites who broke this story (or, more truthfully: got the PR statement / saw that someone else had posted it, re-wrote the copy and posted up the images on their own site) were zombies, lured by the obvious controversy of a game selling a booby-and-bloody statue of a woman’s corpse*. The image was too juicy not to show right up the top of the article, and even in the image thumbnail, a perfect mix of sex and violence cribbed straight from the press release. These sites shambled after the story with the supernatural hunger for eyeballs that they always possess.
(*The statue itself isn’t depicting a zombie woman who’s been dismembered – the skin colour is all wrong for it to be a zombie, according to comparison with other Dead Island zombie images. If the statue showed a zombie body, then the skin would be more mottled and rotted. Instead, what remains of the skin is a healthy pink. It’s been also pointed out elsewhere that a zombie without a head is also still just a human corpse. So it’s a statue of a freshly dead woman’s body that has been decapitated and had its arms removed as well. All that violence to the head and arms left the breasts immaculate, of course.)
Those complaining about the Zombie Bait edition (which was only going to be sold in Europe and Australia) were the next set of zombies, drawn in by the smell of fresh controversy. Already provoked by numerous events last year, they raised their zombie hands to the keyboards and slammed their opinions out on comment walls or blogs. (For those who don’t think I’m including myself in this bit: Hello.)
All that noise attracted the anti-political correctness zombies, who love nothing more than snacking on the conceptual flesh of the complaining zombies, particularly when it comes to gender issues. They massed to the defence of the Zombie Bait edition using arguments such as “free speech”, “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it, but don’t complain about it”, “if it was a male statue, there wouldn’t be any complaints”, “it’s a mature / horror game and the statue fits that” and the old chesnut of “it’s just a game and has no impact on reality”.
Finally, there are the customer zombies: the people who are planning to buy this pack. They want to play Dead Island: Riptide and are willing to pay roughly twice the price of the normal edition to get access to a statue where the predominant feature is breasts. These overwhelmingly male customers are being drawn to the female form at the basest level – a representation of a woman who is only breasts, with any kind of personality hacked off her – and will be left to stare at the statue like a hungry zombie looking at a potential meal through a plate glass window. Collectables are worth more if you leave them in the box, but it means you can’t play with them.
Standing above the milieu of zombies all drawn by this bait is Deep Silver, who has successfully lured the various hordes together with a single overpriced trinket pack. (There are fewer people commenting on the Rigor Mortis pack, likely named in the same social commentary vein because it is drop dead boring.) “Don’t you see how easily we attracted you here?” Deep Silver no doubt wishes to cry. “It’s such an easy publicity stunt with such predictable outcomes that only the truly brainless couldn’t see what was going to happen the day this was approved.”
“But you all fell for it! It brought all of you here, together, as you all behaved in your roles de rigeur. So expected. So manipulable. So dull. It shouldn’t be so easy for you all to be attracted by the bait of a fresh female corpse! We didn’t even have to be clever about this – blood and breasts in a bikini gave us all the free publicity we could have wanted! Zombie Bait indeed!”
(The only zombies currently missing are the outsider zombies: those who don’t play video games but comment on video game issues, usually to the masses. Should they arrive, most of the other groups of zombies will side off against them on the grounds of “STFU and leave our video games alone!” Especially if it is Fox News.)
From this perspective, Deep Silver’s marketing stunt is an adept commentary on the video games coverage and editorial ecosystem. The games sites grab hold of the controversial, holding it up high so that the shocked can be shocked. The internet outrage flows. Then along comes the defence to the outrage, promoting more coverage, more publicity. Finally comes the sales from the extra customers now titillated by all the coverage. Everyone plays their roles without thinking about it. Deep Silver just provided the perfect fodder, no doubt reluctantly.
When it comes to issues like this, we all behave on instinct, much like the zombies that are at the heart of Deep Silver’s output. Deep Silver are reaching out to us, inspiring us to think more about what we do on the internet and in gaming, to act less as a mob and more as intelligent individuals. To not be baited so easily.
Deep Silver thought very, very long and hard on this.
Or: The Alternative Solution
Deep Silver has a group of misogynistic assholes in key decision-making positions who went, “You know what would be awesome? A statue of tits on a dead girl! HIGH FIVE, BRO!”.
And thus the various hordes were unleashed by accident. Just like a horror movie.