From the title of this article you might think I'm talking about events outside the realm of gaming again. I'm not. I'm talking about Sony, business practices, and the questionable exploitation of war for tangential profit. This isn't about politics.
In a move I can only characterize as distasteful, Sony Corporation has trademaked the phrase 'Shock and Awe', for an upcoming video game. Now, there's nothing really that terribly offensive about the phrase per se, but it seems very much like cashing in on a ridiculous catch phrase that they really didn't come up with in the first place. It would be like me trademaking Ari Fleicher's catch phrase 'I'm not answering that!' or Cheney's 'I'm going to go hide in a bunker somewhere.' I'm joking of course.Unfortunately, Sony is not. Read on for the head scratching news.
According to Voodoo Extreme:
Japanese electronics giant Sony has taken an extraordinary step to cash in on the war in Iraq by patenting the term "Shock and Awe" for a computer game.
It registered the term as a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office on March 2 1 - just one day after war started. It wants to use it for computer and video games, as well as a broadband game played both locally and globally via the internet among PlayStation users.
It's that second paragraph that bothers me. Sony seems to have blundered past a rather unseemly line by deciding to trademark the phrase only one day after the war had begun. Almost gives one the impression they were camped around CNN with a focus group the whole time with an eye toward 'how can we make a profit off this'. I'm not trying to be political at all here, but I am concerned with this kind of business practice. It strikes me as shady at best, and predatory at worst.
There was, of course, never a doubt that some kind of game would eventually be developed off the conflict. After all, Black Hawk Down sits safely atop the PC charts for the week, and the revival of Command and Conquer: Generals to the #2 PC sales position indicates a strong interest in military simulations. Certainly the success of Battlefield 1942 and its expansion confirms this trend. We've, in fact, no shortage of upcoming war games, including a slew of recently announced Medal of Honor games. Again, I'm not precisely indicting this kind of behavior, but there are unclear lines which you can't precisely define until you're clearly on the wrong side. It's the terrible question, or perhaps certainty, that eventually the events of September 11th will find their way into our entertainment, video games included.
I think there's a question of time here, a difference in participating in fictional or historical wars as opposed to ongoing ones. Time makes a difference, and when you can visit Berlin, can talk to the fine and peaceful people of Germany, can see the good that has come from terrible times, then there's legitimacy in revisiting some of the struggles of the past. But when there are still burials, funerals, and a pain to suffer, is it really time to start patenting and producing? Isn't it not only disrespectful, but exploitive to produce as entertainment a war that is still being waged?
A spokesman for Sony PlayStation in the UK admitted the company might not stock the game in Britain and Europe owing to political sensitivities.
Isn't that a dead giveaway for Sony that they've crossed a line?
I encourage you as always to discuss freely, but I'm going to direct you to our forums this particular time. We have a space already set up for precisely this potentially heated, and ever changing debate.
Edit: Thanks go to AndyHat for clearing up some important legal and linguistic distinctions!