At the end of October, EA decided it would be a grand idea to get a hashtag trending for its popular game Battlefield 1. The hashtag was #just WWIthings and began with two lovely tweets. The first included an image from the game of a soldier wielding a flamethrower. The caption read “when you're too hot for the club”. The second tweet was another image from Battlefield 1, but of a soldier in the foreground armed with a pistol and an airship going down behind him. This time the caption read “when your squad is looking on point”.
This might be pretty bad ass if the game were maybe Overwatch or Call of Duty. Those are both games that can be treated with a strong sense of humor and happily lend themselves to memes. Like the play of the game memes for Overwatch or the wide a colorful Call of Duty memes, ranging from common online multiplayer problems to game quality comments.
Battlefield 1, however, is a game that knows what it is, even if EA doesn't seem to. Battlefield 1's main campaign focuses on a very diverse set of stories, each dedicated to immersing the player in the experience of war. Even the multiplayer addresses the terrifying nature of war in the Operations mode around the usual bedlam that is online multiplayer FPS sessions. Unlike EA, fans of the game did not forget the very real events Battlefield 1 is based on. Almost immediately, as the internet does, the hashtag was attacked with both ridicule and disgust. A few of them include one by Daniel Lim, stating his opinion as, “hey @Battlefield, I'm loving the BF1 campaign, but just to let you know, the hashtag #justWWIthings is absolutely not OK. At all. Thanks.” Another, by Geoffrey™ says basically the same thing with “Wow, that Battlefield 1 marketing took a turn for the crass. Whose tone deaf idea was #justWWIthings?” My personal favorite however, is one by Alex Hern, which beautifully stated, “mfw I slowly walk towards a machine gun watching every other young man from my town die around me #justww1things.”
EA quickly deleted its original tweets and issued an official apology, asserting that, “we would like to apologise for any offense caused by content in the last 24 hours posted on the @Battlefield Twitter account. It did not treat the World War 1 era with the respect and sensitivity that we have strived to maintain with the game and our communications.”
That doesn't make everything better, EA. The company honestly shouldn't have greenlit the idea the first place. With an industry that touts how connected to the consumer it is, EA has been more than capable of distancing itself from its customers. This kind of tone deaf marketing is not new to EA either. Years ago, it had an ad campaign titled, “your mom hates Dead Space 2." There were quite a few gamers protesting this, including Winda Benedetti at Kotaku, who noted that a lot of gamers are moms and they definitely don't hate Dead Space 2. Though I personally find the ad hilarious, I can understand the dislike. EA picked the most conservative bunch of book club ladies who are old enough to be grandmothers rather than just mothers. Then it went ahead and showed the most violent parts of Dead Space 2, taking the entire game completely out of context.
That said, #justWWIthings is worse than “your mom hates Dead Space 2”. It's tactless and EA really should have known better. There is really no way it could have gone down well with the way the hashtag was worded. To term World War I as “just,” only, is to simplify an extremely complicated and emotional historical event. To make light of a game that focuses on the horror of that war is bound to upset fans on all sides of the political spectrum. Hopefully EA will think more carefully before it tries its next "cheeky" marketing campaign.