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Video game ad featuring suicide bombing on zombie island ruled too violent

A TV commercial for a video game featuring a couple who blow themselves up in the face of a zombie attack has been banned by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) following complaints.

In the Dead Island Riptide ad, a young couple stranded in a shipwrecked sailboat on an island infested with zombies look lovingly at each other as zombies start to break into the boat. The ad shows gas canisters, before the man sparks his lighter igniting a gas explosion.

Then the ad closes with the image of a dead man hanging from a palm tree next to the slogan “Dead Island Riptide” dripping with blood.

Among complaints received by the ASB:

“I think that the ad is too graphic in terms of its depiction of suicide, particularly the final image of the man hanging from a tree. I think that this could be very traumatic for people who have experienced the suicide of a family member by hanging (or any other means).”

Video game advertiser All Interactive Entertainment acknowledged “that a degree of violence is portrayed in the advertisement” but said “the implied death of the two central characters is less violent than the potential alternative”. And the “limited depiction of violence” is “contextually relevant”.

The advertiser said:

“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.

“The final scene of the advertisement shows the logo of the game, which consists of a silhouetted palm tree, signifying the island in the game title, a silhouetted zombie hanging by the neck from the palm tree, signifying the dead in the game title, placed to the left of the title ‘Dead Island Riptide’ which is written in dark dripping red to appear bloody.”

The ASB ruled the violence portrayed was not justifiable and the suggestion of suicide is contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.

In its determination the ASB said:

“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 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 ad has been replaced with a new creative.

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