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Square Enix ads pushing Facebook "hits" is nixed as cyberbullying

Game developer Square Enix took down its 'Hitman: Absolution' ad campaign after public outcry over its promotion of cyberbullying; "Square Enix wants you to put a hit on your friends" was the company's email slogan, encouraging gamers to threaten their friends on Facebook.

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“The defense of this, if there is any,” writes GeekDad Curtis Silver, who said he’d enjoyed other games in the Hitman franchise but wasn’t going to buy this one because of the campaign, “is that gamers tag each other with dirty jokes and insults all the time, so it must be okay to send such an insult through Facebook. But what if you send it to someone who doesn’t play video games? Is it still just for laughs?”

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Guest Blogger

Anne Collier is editor of and co-director of, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.

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This is great material for helping kids understand context and perspective – to think about how someone broadsided with a cruel inside “joke” might feel and what they might do to help. It’s also a good reason for gamers to talk about what they think of the in-game chat they participate in and whether – if they don’t actually enjoy it much or don’t feel it’s appropriate – they could think of something to do about that when playing games.

Talking about the abortive ad campaign is also an opportunity to learn from gamers in our lives about whether in-game chat changes from game to game or how playing different games makes them feel. And of course it’s an opportunity to talk about marketers’ tactics. For example, Mr. Silver writes that ad agencies serving game companies “sometimes dig deep in their pockets to create campaigns that transcend traditional advertising; they immerse the subject in advertising that asks you to play along.” Good to know. And great fodder for thinking out loud together about whether success can ever come from immersing people in or promoting social cruelty.

Related links

  • But there’s also a lot of good society – and even safety and youth advocates – can learn from game designers. Some examples here.
  • …and lots parents can learn from playing with their kids or observing their kids’ play – see: “Why kids love videogames and what parents can do about it.
  • However, as I wrote above and a while back, I believe that, due to the nature of the medium, it’s only logical that pro-social media companies will prosper more in the long term, as more and more of their co-producers wake up to their powers, and I think this is logic, not idealism. Exploitation of educated consumers is getting harder, which certainly puts greater and greater onus on education. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier is editor of, a blog, RSS feed, and e-mail newsletter that focuses on "kid-tech news for parents.” 


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