A viral video for Infinity Ward's upcoming Modern Warfare 2
was apparently intended to be a humorous take on the practice of grenade "spamming," but a questionable -- and to many, offensive -- use of the acronym "F.A.G.S." eventually led the studio to pull the promotion for the military-themed shooter.
The video, uploaded to YouTube and initially linked from the Twitter account of Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling, appears to use Modern Warfare 2
's game engine to spoof a public service announcement against "grenade spam" -- or randomly tossing grenades in hopes of getting a cheap kill in an online game.
The viral video featured the voicework of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. "Be cool. Avoid random grenades," he said. "They're for pussies." Following his advice, his avatar is pelted with a slew of grenades, and he exclaims "What the fuck?" followed by all the grenades simultaneously exploding.
It's the parting message of the video that has caught the most heat from critics, as the words appearing on screen are "Funding Provided By: Fight Against Grenade Spam." Internet denizens immediately discerned the acronym "F.A.G.S."
The not-so-subtle use of the derogatory term almost instantly ignited criticisms from gamers and game journalists, who blogged and Tweeted about the promotion. Inevitably, two parties formed: the people who called the video out as being offensive, and those who accused critics of being too politically correct or oversensitive.
"People are overreacting," said one reader
on Game Infomer's website. "This kind of language is used in plenty of blockbuster movies and other forms of media so I don't really understand why people make a big deal out of it. Some people need to stop taking everything they see so seriously."
One reader commenter on gaming blog Joystiq stated, "It's not so much
the use of the term but the people they're using it for. It's not some clever or ironic joke designed to reclaim the word or somehow [to] turn it round on those who use it wrongly. It's aimed at the kids of [Xbox] Live who already scream it all over the place."
A reader on GayGamer.net
said, "Regardless of how one feels about homophobic language in 'nonsexual' contexts, actually endorsing a term like that through an official video is something like the height of arrogance and insensitivity."
On Twitter, Infinity Ward's Bowling responded to the criticism: "I think it was more of a social commentary joke of that stereotype than it was a fist-bump of acceptance to it." An hour later, he was convinced that it was a good idea to take down the video. "I think the core gag is great, the end is a bit too far from the intent of the joke and can appreciate the concerns. Pulled." The video was up for less than two days. (Other YouTube users, however, have uploaded the video
to their accounts.)
GayGamer.net writer "Dawdle" said following the canning
of the video, "Despite all we hear about the industry 'growing up,' the majority reaction to something like this just reminds me that it's ruled by pubescent straight boys."
We've contacted Infinity Ward parent Activision for further comment, and will update this story accordingly with any new information.