Despite receiving only two complaints, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered that a television advert for Midway’s Strangehold is not to be broadcast again in its current form due to it “encouraging and condoning violence”.
According to the ASA, the television advert showed “a prolonged shoot-out between four men” with a voiceover stating that "Honour is his code. Vengeance is his mission. Violence is his only option. John Woo presents Stranglehold. The next generation of action gaming has arrived". On screen text indicated that the images were “not actual game footage,” and prominently displayed an “18” age rating logo at the end of the sequence.
One viewer of the advert complained that the adverts glorified violence and gun crime, saying it was “a dangerous incitement to susceptible people”. The second complaint was made by a parent whose three-year-old son had seen the advert and thought it unacceptable for transmission before the 9pm watershed.
Picture Production Company (PPC), the advertising agency responsible, argued that they had edited the footage to ensure bullets were not seen to hit any character, and that it had been cleared by Clearcast (previously the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre) for showing after 7.30 pm. Clearcast said the violence was “stylized, unrealistic and had a fantasy quality”.
The ASA though considered the violence was realistic in appearance and that the voiceover suggested “that it was honorable to seek revenge and that violence was an acceptable solution to a situation.” As a result they judged that the advert broke Advertising Standards Code rules and could not be show again in its current form.
The game was released last September (on Xbox 360 and PC) and November (on PlayStation 3) in the UK and as such the advertisement was unlikely to be shown again in 2008.