Local distributors for Dead Island: Riptide have replaced a trailer with a suggestion of suicide in response to complaints that it is "too graphic".
The ad in question features portions of the opening cinematic, showing a couple who appear to trigger a gas canister explosion rather than face dismemberment at the hands of zombies. Interestingly, it's actually the game's logo, not this content, which raised ire, with one complaint noting that "the ad is too graphic in terms of its depiction of suicide, particularly the final image of the man hanging from a tree" because it may be "very traumatic" for those who have lost a family member to suicide.
AIE Australia responded to the complaint by arguing that the violence shown - suicide - is justified by context.
"I acknowledge that a degree of violence is portrayed in the advertisement in that a zombie is shown smashing a window in an attempt to enter the boat, more zombies are shown moving towards the boat in an aggressive fashion, and the implied death of the two central characters is violent, notwithstanding that it is less violent than the potential alternative," a representative wrote.
"However, the limited depiction of violence in the advertisement is reflective of the theme of the game advertised, and contextually relevant. All violent themes are presented in the readily identifiable fantasy context of a zombie attack in an animated video game scene.
"The cinematic implication of violence in the advertisement is intended to convey the desolate terror afflicting the game characters, and I believe is contextually relevant to the product being advertised, as it conveys the hopelessness of the games’ characters as they are faced with the overwhelming horror and violence of vast numbers of zombies hunting them, without actually depicting the violence of zombie vs character interaction in the game."
Regarding the logo, and the implied suicide of the trailer's protagonists, AIE said it understands that the hanging zombie silhouette may be affecting for someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, and expressed sympathy, but said it "does not represent violence out of context, or otherwise offend prevailing community standards".
"The scene does not imply that suicide is a viable option in a real world situation. I believe it is substantially dissociative and is unlikely to draw any parallels in the mind of anyone who has had the deep misfortune to have been affected by the suicide of a family member or friend," the spokesperson argued.
"The second scene which is primarily the logo of the game does not imply or portray suicide in any fashion. The silhouette of the zombie hanging from the tree is presented without any explanation or back-story, and no connection to the preceding scene is offered; certainly it could not be extrapolated that the implied suicide by explosion of the couple might lead to either of them being hung by the neck from a tree."
The Advertising Standards Board did not agree, despite agreeing that most viewers would understand that the scenes come from a fantasy game, and were aired during a time slot targeted at adults.
"The Board noted the fantasy content and the stylised nature of the advertisement and considered that the issue of suicide is a depiction of violence which is not justifiable even in the context of an
advertisement for a computer game aimed at adults," the determination offered.
"The Board noted that the issue of suicide is a very significant community concern and considered that the use of images which are strongly suggestive of suicide is not appropriate in the context of a television advertisement for a computer game. The Board considered that by presenting images which suggest suicide the advertisement does depict material which is contrary to Prevailing Community Standards on health and
AIE pulled and replaced the ad, but issued a disappointed response.
"Whilst real life suicide is of course a matter of grave concern in our communities we feel this ought not to bar the subject from portrayal in a fantasy setting," the company said.
The full case report is available as a PDF.