OPINION: Gaming does good

I should probably start by saying that while MCV has covered some stories stemming from how the tragic earthquake that struck Japan has affected the industry, in general we’ve tried to avoid the subject.

There’s two reasons for this. Firstly, I’m presuming that MCVuk.com won’t be your first port of call on the upsetting developments that have unfolded in Japan since Friday morning. Other outlets are infinitely better positioned and well-equipped to handle the subject.

Secondly, video games in particular have to be very careful whenever it approaches a sensitive subject. Sometimes the criticism is fair, as I believe was the case with Kotaku’s shameful click-grabbing report which was widely derided by many of my peers. Other times games journalists can show the requisite level of sensitivity and decency.

But you can be sure that one foot wrong and it’s another day of bad PR for gaming.

The sad truth, though, is that even when games companies do nothing wrong the finger can still be reported.

This piece, entitled ‘Metro Fail’, on the Young Entrepreneurs Pioneering blog, is about as spectacularly ill-judged as it gets. Basically it accuses the Metro and Nintendo of being insensitive toward Japan by running Pokemon Black/White adverts across every page of the issue in which the earthquake was reported.

Clearly anyone with a brain knows that these ads would have been booked well in advance of the print date. What would the author suggest? That advertisers book in space provisionally and make a final decision the night before according to what news will be reported?

"Kerry Katona’s back on the crack? Oh, sod it. Don’t want my brand to be associated with that. Can we hold off until you have an inside spread about some cuddly puppies rescuing an injured swan?"

The person who referred this story to me on Twitter argued that "the idea of ‘Pokemon Everywhere’ could be construed as a result of the tsunami" and that the ads were an "all time facepalm if ever I saw one".

The mind boggles. Even the best PR in the world can’t account for this sort of extreme stupidity.

Back in the real world, the games industry can be proud about its reaction. As well as delaying a number of releases that could have been misconstrued as being insensitive to the situation in Japan, Spong has listed plenty of companies that have been lining up to donate money to the aid efforts.

And then there’s SCE UK’s wise decision to postpone Motorstorm Apocalypse’s planned UK release this Friday. For those who don’t know, the racing game is set in a fictional US city being torn apart by an earthquake.

Releasing the game wouldn’t have been wrong, per se. As someone at SCE UK pointed out to me, Apocalypse is in reality nothing but "a fantasy racing game developed ahead of any of these terrible events". But with the media always willing and ready to smear excrement on the face of gaming execs, a release would have been ill-judged and not befitting of a company investing plenty of resource into helping the relief effort.

MCV understands that Motorstorm Apocalypse will now likely arrive next month. And I urge you to play it, too. I’ve spent many hours with the final game and in my opinion it’s the best in the series by far and deserves to reach a wide audience.

I’d like to close by offering my sincere condolences to everyone that has been touched by the disaster and all those who continue to be affected.

My ex-girlfriend is Japanese. Her grandfather, who died only a few years ago, was one of last living survivors of the atomic bomb dropped by the Americans on Nagasaki on August 9th 1945.

The youngest of nine siblings, his brother and sisters all jumped on top of him the moment the bomb detonated. They wanted to save the youngest. After the blast had calmed he pushed aside their corpses – all were dead – and was eventually rescued.

He survived to live a good life and was able to cope with the life-long effects of radiation exposure, radiation sickness and the obvious trauma thanks to a lifetime of free health care and support from the Japanese government. His bravery is a testament to the nation. I desperately hope there’s not going to be a further chapter in Japan’s nuclear legacy.

Donations to aid the British Red Cross aid effort can be made here.

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