In the couple of hundred emails I get most days, I filter out most of the silly bits and pieces. The transparent or unoriginal marketing ploys and the numerous pleas for Kickstarter promotion get ignored. The single image teasers are cast aside and the white noise of overtly sexual poker apps for mobile devices and PCs are closed without response. But every now and then, something arrives that’s a little bit too bizarre to avoid.
Today, an email came through from Square Enix. It’s a standard second phase promotion that they’re doing with a little Facebook application to try to get people to buy Hitman: Absolution. The headline reads “SQUARE ENIX WANTS YOU TO PUT A HIT ON YOUR FRIENDS.” Which is aggressively toned enough but might be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attention grabber for some fun.
Actually, the email goes on to point out that the app they’re promoting “has its tongue firmly in its cheek, allowing users to input whatever ridiculous reason they want for their friend to be terminated.” Fair enough. Although, if you have to tell us your “experience” is intended to be tongue-in-cheek then you probably haven’t finished refining it yet.
As the promo email said, you can enter whatever “reason” you want for wishing to terminate the lives of your Facebook friends with your tongue in your cheek. You could enter anything you want here. It’s like a cyber bully’s wet dream. First, though, you’ve got to tell your Facebook murderer how they might identify the person you want to terminate.
Again, anything at all can go in this box but let’s have a look at some of the reasons Square Enix suggests with the drop down menus supplied by the app.
- Strange odor.
- Silly hair.
- Ginger hair.
- Huge gut.
- Awful make-up.
- Big ears.
- Eye bags.
- Her hairy legs.
- Bad tattoos.
I chose something for Kris which was obviously untrue, because I love Kris and I didn’t want him to think I might be serious about bullying him via the internet.
Next, we have to choose a reason why we might want this person killed. I neglected to publicise the real reason I might wish harm on another human being and instead returned to the handy drop down list of reasons Square suggest might lead me to take another human life with my tongue firmly in my cheek. Here’s a small selection of the reasons Square suggests:
- Smells bad.
- Laziest person alive.
- Cheating on their partner. (wow.)
- Farts too much.
- Never buys a round of drinks.
- Small tits.
Again, I chose something that I knew Kris wouldn’t mind me choosing so that my digital attempts to undermine him weren’t taken seriously.
Once you’ve selected a defining characteristic and an annoying habit, you order the hit and the app helpfully encourages you to put out another order to kill someone else. Your former friend will get a message on their wall to let them know you never really liked them anyway and they get to watch a short video which uses their Facebook info to put them in the hands of Square’s assassin.
Of course, this is just the latest in a series of poorly judged attempts by Square Enix to promote their products. At various stages in its run up to retail, they seem to have sorely misjudged the cultural environment they’re going out in front of and the ramifications of what they’re actually demonstrating. A lot of the furore that erupted over their “sexy nuns” trailer made assumptions and jumped to conclusions that were easily grasped but ambiguously intended. This latest app for Facebook surely can’t be seen as anything other than a tactless, clueless promotion of cyber bullying.
Let’s not forget that cyber bullying is a serious issue in this modern, connected world. You only have to read the news semi-regularly to hear stories of young people who have considered self-harm or taken their own lives because of the pressures of bullying over the internet and, “tongue-in-cheek” or not, this is a tool which could very easily be used to cause emotional distress to others. In fact, Square Enix seems to be encouraging that.
So, let’s all point at the gingers, the smelly, lazy, eye-bagged freaks with big ears and tiny penises. Those who wear “awful” make-up or have small tits. Let’s all highlight the idiosyncracies and physical traits that people we profess to be friends with might have insecurities about. Let’s all point at people who have minor differences to us and tell them we wish they were dead.
It’s okay, it’s ONLY A JOKE LOL!
Update 1: It looks like the app might already have been taken down – the link in the PR email no longer directs to the contract-killing simulator.
Update 2: Square Enix has emailed around a statement regarding this app:
Earlier today we launched an app based around Hitman: Absolution that allowed you to place virtual hits on your Facebook friends. Those hits would only be viewable by the recipient and could only be sent to people who were confirmed friends.
We were wide of the mark with the app and following feedback from the community we decided the best thing to do was remove it completely and quickly. This we’ve now done.
We’re sorry for any offence caused by this
Well done to the PR team for realising when something was wrong and taking swift and decisive action to remove the problem.