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Infinity Ward's PSA Is Brought To You By "F*GS"


I have to confess, when this came up earlier in our forums, my immediate personal reaction was that this was a misguided, if heartfelt, reaction to what may or may not have been a dumb mistake.

If you haven't heard by now, Infinity Ward, the developers behind upcoming FPS Modern Warfare 2 (who have already been embroiled in controversies between the lack of dedicated servers for the PC version of the game as well as leaked footage depicting a cutscene that many players have found disturbing), have released a YouTube public service announcement warning players against unsportsman-like "grenade spam." It's all well and fine, but the five seconds at the end of the video inform you that the PSA has been brought to you by "Fight Against Grenade Spam," or, F*GS.

Between this acronym and the voice over by Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels instructing players that chucking grenades is for "pussies," the connotations and implications have been immediately apparent to not just the commenters on the YouTube video but the members of the official forums who have taken to running around with the acronym in threads and signatures like a giggling inside joke.

According to forum member fastymn who first brought up the issue here, a representative replied with "I suppose that is a bit naive to think on my part. While this video was not produced by us, it was for us, and I apologize that I didn't catch that reference in advance."

So, sure. I am prepared to accept that. It could have been a complete mistake that no one caught but was apparent in the first couple of minutes that it ended up on YouTube. I can be charitable. What confuses me, however, is that the video is still online even after it was apologized-for by two Infinity Ward employees who acknowledged that, oh yes, it definitely seems to spell out "f*gs," oops. I am prepared to personally accept that it was a mistake and accept the apology, but it strikes me as more than a little half-hearted when the apology is delivered with a mea culpa that takes no responsibility (as they claim the video was done outside of their studio and not by the company) and, worse, without removing the offending video itself. That's not an apology any more than EA's pathetic attempts at waving away the outrage caused during their Comic-Con booth babes stunt.

Nevertheless this hasn't been looked at with unanimous agreement. Even in our forums, people have complained about how this is an irrelevant waste of time-- and I will be the first to admit that initially I was right there with them, thinking that this was a bit of politcal correctness getting out of hand. I mean people call each other pussies in FPSes all the time, right? You just get used to it. But getting used to it and accepting that this was a dumb mistake is different than ignoring it, and that seems to be the stance Infinity Ward is expecting at the moment. "Oops, we're sorry, but we're not going to do anything about it." As writer VorpalBunny eloquently pointed out on his personal website, "fag" is a word that has serious negative connotations with gay people. It's something most of us have had hurled in our faces at least once in our lives-- only once, if we're lucky. It's an insult wrapped in hatred and disapproval and for many of us physical violence and fear. It's not something that should be cavalierly thrown into the end of a promotional video for a game. It's not something whose usage should be relegated to a chuckle and a half-hearted oops, while carrying on that nothing really wrong happened to begin with. It absolutely should not be something hijacked to further the insult, mocking both the people thrusted under the umbrella of that negative term or the people upset by its appearance in the title of a mainstream publisher like Activision.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, even talking about negative things like this tends to boost the awareness of a title even when they're doing things that do not deserve it. EA has been capitalizing on this extensively with their promotion of Dante's Inferno, for example. While I and many others await official clarification from them, however, I will be doing one of the only things any of us can: making others aware of this, that in the United States if that PSA had been, for example, brought to you by any of the unfortunate racial slurs attributed to African Americans or the sexist titles for women, a half-hearted apology of non-action would be the least of the things this company would be supplicating themselves towards forgiveness for. It's easy to say that this is just a knee-jerk complaint borne of over-senstitivity, but even if this was put online by accident, the fact that it's still online is unacceptable. At the very least, it gives the illusion that this sort of promotion-- whether it's affecting gay people or women or minorities-- is appropriate at all, when it absolutely is not.


ROCsteady said:

I agree it is UNACCEPTABLE

neon said:

someone got their shit together and took it down

Burr said:

I think regardless of their intentions it morphed into something not very good, so fortunately they stepped in and did something about it.

faePuck said:

Jesus Christ - I can't believe that the video was made with that tagline left in, for one thing, or that a typically progressive group like Infinity Ward defended it, even briefly.

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. People already wonder why queer gamers want for separate spaces for gaming, and this is it - the commenters on various sites defending this video are just continuing a trend of the subtly hateful culture around the semi-anonymous medium of online gaming.

Thanks, mixvio, for finding and writing this up. I wasn't aware of the video or its final message, and I'm definitely reconsidering my interest in Modern Warfare 2 based on it.

Ibrahim said:

I thought the acronym was in poor taste and it wasn't until I looked at the IW forums that I realized the real message it was sending.

The problem, for me, was this: I get called names or see/hear people called names enough on Xbox Live and the internet at large. When you have IW publishing an official video like this, you're just encouraging more of that behavior with a wink and a nudge.

Their forum had something like a 12 page thread of internet trolls group-hugging at the official go ahead to be derogatory towards a group of people.

At least they had the sense to take the video down. Too bad I went and looked at that Kotaku link. The comments were enough to remind me that by and large, internet comments are the collective toilet of the internet.

As a writer I feel that words only have the power you let them. Is it clumsy, on a PR scale, that they let it go? Yes. Does it bother me, one way or the other? No, it really doesn't. I'm unemployed, in a great relationship, and adjusting to my new hometown. The economy is in the shitter, the world is crashing in burning around us, and Halloween just passed. Aren't there just a few more things we can worry about than the word fag?

Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall knew that using that word casually was a way to deprive it of it's "evil," just like (and I could care less the Poli-incorrectness of this) black people re-purposed that good ol' "n" word to deprive it of it's negativity.

If we show people the word doesn't hurt us, they will be disarmed.

mixvio said:

If a white person spits the word, and pardon my usage of it here, "nigger" at a black person, I guarantee you that it very much has not been deprived of anything. I grew up in the very racist south and that word more than any others gives me a physical revulsion when I hear it. That it's been appropriated in the African American community is irrelevant-- if someone outside that community uses it, or specifically uses it in a way that is clearly an attack-- then you will be confronted with an extremely negative response by the person it's being flung towards.

Does this word hurt me? No, I'm on the internet and I depressingly hear this sort of thing all the time. Does that mean it's acceptable for a professional company to release something like this in the first place? No, it does not. I tend to expect companies to behave higher than the caliber of YouTube comments.

ROCsteady said:

I think this word hurt us in ways we can't even know. I think the word fag is as vehement as the n-word. 2 weeks ago I blew up this spot in my article "Gay in Gayming Use Of The Word Gay In The Current Vernacular". Check it out! The more we pretend this is is not an issue the more likely for things like this to happen! Thanks for saying something Mixvio! The more people who speak their minds in a concise, educated fashion the more we will be taken seriously! yay!

Macha said:

"Aren't there just a few more things we can worry about than the word fag?"

Pretend the acronym was "n.i.g.g.e.r.", and someone would defend it as "no big deal" because "there are a few more things we should worry about"

You'd consider them a tool, at best.

Why? Well, among other things, you used a typical, clich├ęd derailing tactic. Google "derailing for dummies" and educate youself for better ways.

Yes, there are people starving in the world. You can still ask your landlord to fix your room heating, even though there are far worse problems in the world.
THINK before posting, okay?

The usage of slurs like fag IS an issue. And the issue ISN'T "just" homophobia. it's also general game culture. Communities are already cesspools of stupid, filled with slurs. You do NOT want to encourage that from an official position. It's just dragging your own community down.

SZK said:

To be honest, I'm surprised that Infinity Ward felt something like this was appropriate in this day and age. Personally, I'm just going to write them off as an oblivious, homophobic game development company, boycott their games until the end of time, and share this story anytime the topic of Modern Warfare comes up in real-life conversations.

As for the Kotaku and Destructoid comments go, I'm not really surprised at all. That's just how those communities are, which is why I avoid them like the plagues that they are.

Shored said:

Well! Let's be honest people. Infinty Ward really could give two sh*ts about being offensive. Why? They currently have more money than GOD and in ten days will have more money than SATAN. Their target demographic are either d-bags, daddy d-bags and closet d-bags. The video makers used a pro baseball player who screams d-bag. That guy clearly just came in his own pants that he was able to make a video defaming what he clearly is and because he was able to play the game early. As for the guys at IW, well they are just condoning ingnorance because they can. They work for the most profitable developing company in the business and don't really care what people say because the game will make millions regardless. I know I am still going to buy this game even though the douche rockets surfaced. I will still think ill about them but at least they don't make a shitty product. We are all gamers but with any group that exists, their will always be the part of that group that makes us look bad as a whole. Unfortunately for us gamers there are ALOT of those.

yuki said:

This bothers me for many reasons , it clearly teaches idiots its ok to be hateful. But what degree i did not know until reading the comments on Destructoid...

actual comments :

"People should take some chill pills and relax."

"So the Fags are being fags, amirite?"

It seems that no , we should not "relax" wtf is it with straight that don't understand gay culture saying we should calm down about slurs like this...

Screw infinity ward, they knew that this stunt would make ripples...

"I think it's absolutely hilarious.
Day one purchase confirmed."

Stunts like this help fuel hate against the gay community ! The quotes should be offensive , i posted them to illustrate how stupid the demographic that defends this is.

You're right I should think before I post, so here I am posting again. I thought about it, and... Yeah, still feel that I'm right.

Do you still use the word retard? How about jackass? Did you ever stop to think you might be offending handicapable people, or donkeys? Those people and animals still have feelings too. (Tell a dog he's bad and tell me he doesn't have feelings.)

But does that stop you? No. And you know why? Because you don't really think about it. That's what that word, for better or worst, has become. And if they do mean it, well so what? Just nod your head and say "Yeah, what of it?" That's called backing them into an intellectual corner and winning. Even if they pummel you (Which, why are you talking back if you're afraid of that?), at least you'll have the moral ground. And if that's good enough for The Doctor (THE The Doctor) than it's good enough for me.

NaviFairy said:

@ Randy
Yes, there probably are more things that can be worried about in the world. But here at Gaygamer we are a videogame site that specifies in gay-related news. Seeing as this issue involves both videogames and derogatory homosexual slang, I think it's quite fitting for that news to show up here. If you want news about the economic state or some world crisis then there are plenty of sites for that, but here in the context of Gaygamer this is a completely relevant and important topic.

I don't think that just because people do it without thinking that makes it ok. If you just nod your head and let it brush aside, then they're just going to keep saying it because there's no indication that there's anything wrong with saying it. I think it is important to confront people to make them aware of what they are saying. Brushing them aside isn't "backing them into an intellectual corner and winning," it's facilitating the problem. If they don't think there is anything wrong with saying it, and you don't indicate that there's anything wrong with saying it, then they're just going to go on saying it.

But maybe I'm wasting my time in this debate, since you seem to have decided to invalidate your own argument with the animal example (tell a dog he's the best dog in the world in an angry voice and you'll get the same reaction, they respond to tone more than specific words). In any case, I don't think that the argument that "that's what the word has become" is a valid one. It may have become that, but there's no reason why people can't make an effort to change that. And while efforts like Scott Thompson are good, since he is seen primarily as a comedian that only really helps to gain the perception that the word is good to use for making fun of gay people. You brought up the "n" word re-purposing as an example, but even in that case if that word is used outside of the black community it is still considered taboo.

Sami said:

Sticks and stones, people, sticks and stones...

David said:

guys, i really don't understand why there is a debate on this issue.

they thought it was OK, as a company, to make a joke about FAGS. that is fucked up.

and here we are hemming and hawing about whether or not we should be offended...listening to others try to validate why using offensive slurs to sell product isn't a fucked up thing to do. it boggles the mind. when dr. randle starts comparing the gay community's reaction to being called a fag to a donkey being offended...i stop wasting my time listening to his bullshit.

i know we all understand that being irreverent has its values, and this video is not the end of the world...but why is it so hard to just say "that's fucked up" when you see a guy lisping and prancing around for laughs, or the word FAGS scrawled across your screen? have some pride.

tiny dancer said:

Yeah. I understand what Randle means by "reclaiming" words, but I don't think that even REMOTELY applies in this situation. By, like, a million miles.

If Infinity Ward were a gay comic using the word to reclaim its power, I could at least appreciate the argument. But to suggest that ignoring hate speech will make it go away is... well, it's not moral high ground, that's for sure.

Also. Donkeys? Really? That's almost *more* offensive. If you want to bury your head in the sand, by all means do so - but don't expect for one single minute that anyone with a vested interest in improving the world will follow your wretched example.

If we show the world they can abuse us, we will have disarmed ourselves.

SZK said:

Do you still use the word retard? Did you ever stop to think you might be offending handicapable people? Those people still have feelings too.

I wholeheartedly agree in that that particular word, or any derivations, should not be used as a synonym for "bad, "stupid", etc. either. Using it in its proper context is fine, however.


but why is it so hard to just say "that's fucked up" when you see a guy lisping and prancing around for laughs, or the word FAGS scrawled across your screen? have some pride.

I agree. I'm guessing it has to do with internalized homophobia.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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