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Conference organizers unknowingly set stage for McDonald's Interactive hoax
June 09, 2006 - by Ian Bogost

Stephen Totillo of MTV News has written a great story on the McDonald's Interactive hoax we covered a couple days ago. Here's what the real McDonald's had to say:

Reached for comment Friday (June 9), McDonald's spokesperson Julie Pottebaum said, "This is an outright hoax and a complete misrepresentation of our people and our values. Anyone who knows the facts about McDonald's' social responsibility track record knows that we're a recognized leader on the environment."

And apparently the connection to La Molleindustria's fantastic McVideogame was in fact accurate, although not in the way we expected. It was born out of an embarrassing failure on the part of the conference organizers to understand the premise of that game.

According to people involved in the hoax, the McDonald's Interactive charade began accidentally in early April, when an ISGE organizer reached out to the developers of a computer game called "McVideoGame" and mistook the satirical program for a product of the real McDonald's. In an e-mail, an anonymous member of the Italian consortium Molleindustria, which created "McVideoGame," said conference organizers wrote them a note that stated: "It would be a fantastic PR opportunity, let alone a chance for you to see what other organizations have achieved with Serious Games."

Sensing an opportunity, the Molleindustria team reached out to the loosely organized group to which Jean-Michel belongs. That group had called itself the McDonald's Resistance Collective and drew inspiration from a six-month 2003 occupation of a McDo restaurant — as they are called in France — to resist what members saw as unjust treatment of store employees and the environment. Jean-Michel said he and another McDonald's Interactive planner were among the strikers at the occupied restaurant in 2003.

They hatched a plan to exploit the ISGE's assumption that the conference was dealing with the real McDonald's. " 'Do we want to make it completely believable?' " Jean-Michel remembered the team asking. " 'Or do we want to do something very crazy and funny that will shock them and make them laugh?' We decided to do something serious because it is a serious issue."

Now, it's possible that the conference organizers were actually trying to get Molleindustria to discuss their approach to social criticism via games, but if so... wouldn't they have noticed that a very similar idea cropped up from a group supposedly sponsored by McDonalds. Amazing, fantastic, and pretty embarrassing!



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