According to online reports, the UK-based International Serious Games Event, which deals with games for educational, corporate training, and other uses, this week hosted its conference in Birmingham, England, complete with a session by Andrew Shimery-Wolf, Strategic Comm. Mgr at fast food giant McDonald’s, on "McChange: Serious Games from Training to Corporate Social Responsibility."
Shimery-Wolf claims to be part of an organization named McDonald's Interactive, which has apparently announced that it "is striking out on its own from parent company McDonald's." "We can no longer stand by while McDonald's corporate policies help lead the planet to ruin," said Andrew Shimery-Wolf, co-director of the former Interactive Division.
However, as is clear by the apparent text of Shimery-Wolf's speech at the legitimate International Serious Games Event, someone has been hoaxed - the speech claims that McDonald's has run an elaborate 'serious game' to help work out the future of its business.
The results of this? "We began developing a simulation of the fast-food industry, for use by managers in developing market strategies." said Division CTO Sam Grossman. "When we added a climate simulation module, it showed those strategies helping lead to global calamity... Management doesn't seem to care, and we can't sit back and fiddle while Rome burns, so our team has decided to break away from McDonald's and do something about it."
A set of pictures on the McDonald's Interactive site, which is registered in Italy, clearly show someone giving the hoax speech, including bogus slides, to an audience apparently at the International Serious Games Event.
As for the culprits, an update at serious games weblog Water Cooler Games indicates that an email response to a McDonald's Interactive press request came back as: 'Sent by: firstname.lastname@example.org', linking the stunt to the social activism group RTMark, which has previously "swapped the electronics of talking Barbie and GI Joe toys and then returned them to the store... and then issued a message as the 'Barbie Liberation Organization'", among other stunts.
Even more interestingly, it appears that RTMark-affiliated activist group The Yes Men, who have previously posed as delegates from the World Trade Organization, as documented in the award-winning film 'The Yes Men', were specifically behind this hoax. The duo and their team filmed both the lecture and attendee reaction with a camera crew, presumably for subsequent rebroadcast.
In further discussions on the SeriousGames.org mailing list, list owner Ben Sawyer notes that former RTMark activist 'Andy Bichlbaum' has a background in the video game industry under the name Jacques Servin, and created the activist gay-related Easter Egg in Maxis title SimCopter back in 1996, leading to his firing, and the start of his career practicing what its creators call "identity correction".
McDonald's has come under fire previously from the activist game developers at la Molleindustria, who have previously been interviewed at Gamasutra regarding the fake McDonald's The Video Game, which gives the player "the opportunity to discover all the secrets behind the fast food restaurant that is one of the biggest companies in the world."
[UPDATE 2 - 06/07/06 - 9.45am PST - RTMark and The Yes Men identified as likely culprit behind spoof, founders' backgrounds detailed.]