Ever have what seems like a good idea in private backfire horribly once everyone who isn't you finds out about it? "Dead Island: Riptide" video game developer Deep Silver knows exactly how that feels, after facing outrage over a dismembered torso statue meant to promote the upcoming sequel to "Dead Island."
The statue—a 31 centimeter resin bust of a decapitated and armless bikini-clad female torso—was unveiled as part of the "Dead Island: Riptide" Zombie Bait special edition game package, a collectible version of the upcoming sequel to 2011's "Dead Island." According to Deep Silver, the statue was meant to portray "a grotesque take on an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture." Deep Silver sales and marketing director Paul Nicholls referred to it as "a striking conversation piece on any discerning zombie gamer's mantel."
Whatever they intended with the grotesque (and undeniably "Dead Island"-esque) bust, the reception did not go as planned. After an overwhelming flood of negative feedback from game reviewers and gamers alike, Deep Silver almost immediately released a public apology for the bust:
"We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the 'Dead Island' community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver's entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again."
While the bust is indeed gross (it's a dismembered torso splattered with blood and gore...), it's also pretty representative of the "Dead Island" game series. In DI, you play as one of a handful of heavily-armed survivors fighting your way through hordes of zombies on a tropical resort island. And many of the zombies in the game are indeed scantily-clad in bikinis or other revealing swimwear. Within the context of the game, dismembering women wearing bikinis make a certain amount of sense.
The problem comes when you unveil something like the DI Zombie Bait torso for public consumption as part of a marketing ploy. The sexist overtones, not to mention the strong implication of violence against women and the fetishizing of that violence make the bust wildly problematic as a marketing tool. Calling the bust part of the "Zombie Bait" edition is also embarrassingly obvious in its sexism. On top of all that the bust is simply tasteless and degrading.
This isn't the first time the DI franchise has been accused of gross sexism. When "Dead Island" was released in 2011 it was revealed that in the game's code was hidden a bit of coding called "Feminist Whore."
The whole debacle has sparked a conversation about sexism in video game marketing, and how all too often games are marketed to the male gaze, despite women making up nearly half of the world's gamers.
Stay informed, stay alive: "Dead Island" was released in September 2011 from Techland and Deep Silver. You can play this fine zombie video game on Playstation 3, X-Box 360, and PC. "Dead Island: Riptide" comes out on April 23, 2013.
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