November 11th is an important date for many around the world. For Commonwealth nations, it marks Remembrance Day; in the US, Veterans Day; I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s important to remember those who have served, and that war is a thing of horror.
But earlier today, I came across an interesting tweet that got me thinking.
We’ve all seen tweets like those depicted in there before. The ill-advised ‘company tries to acknowledge a serious situation but it doesn’t really work’. I’ve never really thought much about those sorts of messages before though, instead dismissing them as hokey outright. Yet, is it not important that we all reflect on these sorts of days? A company is nothing but a bunch of people, so… What really is the problem some people have with these sorts of posts?
Well, it’s less the fact they are noting the date, and more how they are noting the date. Halo’s tweet is not a mere acknowledgement or thank you to service personnel, but its a co-opt of the day’s message to promote its brand. I mean, look at it. The tweet isn’t a simple acknowledgement – It’s the iconic Master Chief, the symbol of the Halo franchise, giving a salute as jets buzz past. Perhaps on the surface it seems respectful, but honestly, how is it actually any different than that stupid fucking Spaghetti O smiling with a flag? Master Chief isn’t any more related to the occasion just because he has a gun and is in a fictional war, and comparing what real service people have gone through to his fantasy endeavours is not remotely appropriate. It’s not even as if John-117 is an American, or really associated with the nation; he was born on Eridanus II and is part of the United Nations Space Command Navy. So he’s just… There.
We’re in an era where video game companies don’t really seem trustworthy, or to really understand how to handle sensitive issues: You’ve got EA putting lootboxes on the beaches of Normandy, Activision-Blizzard gamifying a serviceman’s funeral… All the whilst gamers themselves have remained the same as ever, with players doing noble stuff like organising spontaneous cease-fires to pay respect. There’s a pretty big contrast, there. One side gets it; the other side seems to wonder how it can profit off it.
So yeah, I get the sentiment behind this tweet entirely. Too many companies seem completely disingenuous, and hollow messages don’t earn respect… But again, companies are made of people, and people do tend to care (Mostly). We at least know those at Bungie definitely can. So what sort of stuff would be better for them, and for others, to do at times like this?
Well… Just pay respect, really. Resist the urge to shove your brand into things. If you make a tweet noting a sombre day like Remembrance / Veterans Day, it’s already on your damned channel – That’s enough. Not every moment is an opportunity to market, and not everything needs Master Chief’s or Mario’s or another mascot’s mug proudly on display. Just embrace the message, and express it earnestly. Express it not as a company looking for an opportunity, but as a group of people, and you’ll not only avoid the eye rolls, but you’ll probably feel better about it, too.