Sony, no stranger to controversy, faced yet more ballyhoo recently, after a feminist website decided one of its PS2 adverts was misogynistic. Misogynistic? The video-game industry? Whatever next?
The advert in question features a male character falling asleep while a female character speaks to him, and the charming tagline: 'PS2: because your girlfriend bores you s***less'. "Sony seems to be on a mission to establish itself as the choice of sexist lads everywhere," blustered the writers at www.thefword.org.uk. A reasonable position – but the ad's a fake.
We rang up Sony's UK press office, where we were told that the company had no knowledge of the advert's creation. Which makes sense, really: at a time when the Wii is setting the sales charts on fire by targeting non-traditional gaming demographics, why would Sony alienate roughly 50 percent of the people on the planet? And who swears in adverts anyway?
This episode shows people will believe anything they read on the web – particularly if it confirms what they already think. So an advert that was at best unofficial was taken at face value by anti-Sony troublemakers and feminist bloggers looking to support the argument that video games are sexist.
The website www.snopes.com has found a niche debunking urban legends on the web – and it's frightening how easily surfers are taken in. All too often stories, reported in error or maliciously fabricated, acquire credibility through repetition, and the size of the blogosphere makes it almost impossible to correct a mistake thoroughly.
There's quite enough sexism in IT – from the dolly-birds in Dragon Quest VIII to the current rash of patronising pink laptops – without inventing it where it doesn't exist. So let's all give Sony a break this once, and stop believing everything we read.