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Welcome to Raph Koster's personal website: MMOs, gaming, writing, art, music, books.

The McDonald’s Interactive Hoax

I read about this yesterday and didn’t blog it; the story wasn’t fully done yet. But for those of you who don’t hang out in serious games circles, all the talk today is about the presentation allegedly by McDonald’s Interactive.

The text of the speech is here. Short form: a group pretended to be from the games division of McD’s, claimed they had built a serious game to teach management to managers in the company, and then revealed that the simulations showed that McD’s itself is destroying the world via its ecological and economic impact. So the alleged games division split off to speak out publicly as a matter of conscience.

It’s all faked, of course. But it’s also an act of information activism, a use of games to make a political point that is more sophisticated than actually releasing the supposed game (which actually sort of exists — perhaps one was inspired by the other).

Lots of folks got taken in by this one, which leads me to believe that (given a suitable cooling off period) we’ll see it tried again.

(Visited 251 times) This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2006 at 8:25 am and is filed under Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “The McDonald’s Interactive Hoax”

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Reader Comments
  1. Jeff Freeman said on

    Funny. McDonaldsInteractive.com is registered to Marc Cohen.

    He filed a class-action lawsuit against mcD’s in 2002.


  2. Cael said on

    I don’t know how they manage to attribute the fall of feudalism to abrupt social change, though. In purely economic terms, one would tend to suppose that the effect of the Black Death on labour supply was a/the contributing factor.

  3. Patrick said on

    Fantastic, poetic terrorism in action, and what better bomb than an algorithm.

  4. SirBruce said on

    It seems more like a case of Information TERRORISM than information activism, given that they lied about who they were, why they were there, the existance of their simulation, etc. In fact, I don’t know if they actually presented any objective information at all. It’s really disinformation, and its damage was directed primarily at innocent consumers of that information, not McDonalds itself. Now, their anti-capitalist opinion may have a sound basis, but if they’re going to pull stunts like this, it doesn’t make me want to engage in a serious dialogue with them on the issue.

  5. Raph said on

    I actually originally used the word “terrorism” and then backed away from it thinking it might be too inflammatory.

  6. Morgan said on

    I don’t think "information terrorism" is accurate since the group, in fact, intended good, despite their approach being unwise and malicious toward McDonald’s.

  7. Rik said on

    End justifies the means? I don’t think so. These people are liars, and in doing so paint people that might agree with the statements presented as liars.

  8. Morgan said on

    Rik wrote:
    End justifies the means? I don’t think so.

    Definitionally, terrorism is conducted with malicious intentions. You can hardly compare the Oklahoma bomber and the hijackers of 9/11 with these people, especially since these people conducted their activistic efforts nonviolently. Yet, some people might argue that Gandhi was a terrorist. If Gandhi was not a terrorist, then what if he deceived and lied to accomplish his goals? Would he be a terrorist then? In the end, the truth of the matter relies on where you are in relation to the fence. I try to stay in the middle with regards to philosophical, political, and religious issues. After all, my clan motto is ora et labora… either translated to "play and work" or "pray and work".

    Rik wrote:
    These people are liars, and in doing so paint people that might agree with the statements presented as liars.

    So, would I become a terrorist by presenting you as a liar? That’s silly logic. Their actions may not be optimal to deliver their message; nonetheless, their intended message — that McDonald’s should investigate and remedy practices that adversely affect "the world" — cannot be rationally argued as inherently terroristic.

  9. SirBruce said on

    It’s not the idea that’s terroristic, it’s the method. Of course, we’re talking “information” terrorism, so that’s stretching the notion of terrorism in the first place. But if we are able to put our minds in such a context, what would it look like? A “normal” information or disinformation attack would be directed at a presumably guilty target; in this case, McDonald’s itself. In this case, the attack was perpetrated against innocent third parties, and it wasn’t truthful, but disinformation, designed to evoke an emotional response to cause change rather than a rational one. If anything qualifies as “information terrorism”, then this would. Their ultimate goal may be noble and their adversary deserving (I’m not saying they are; just speaking theoretically), but their method leaves a lot to be desired. Still, I agree that injecting the word terrorism into the debate is like pouring lighter fluid on a fire, but I’m not someone known for his verbal restraint…

  10. moo said on

    Its ridiculous to call it “terrorism” since neither their intended purpose nor their actual effect was to INSPIRE TERROR in their targets. People who blow up buildings or kidnap buses of schoolchildren or hijack aircraft, those guys are “terrorists”. They use violence and the threat of violence to inspire terror.

    I’d prefer to call this McDonalds thing either “fraud” or “a good laughing gag”, depending on whether any financial harm was done.

  11. magicback (frank) said on

    Propaganda? Would this term fit?

    I think Trademark infringement would apply also :)

  12. dsutton said on

    Actually, the debate over semantics isn’t what should be interesting about this story. As people are starting to wake up to the fact that games are a valid social medium, this sort of “attack of disinformation” (or whatever it is called) lends legitimacy to the game medium as an artform conveying a message while adds ammunition into the clip of anti-game advocate’s gun.

    I’ve played the games where statements are made: bombing terrorists creates more terrorists and killing pregnant Mexican’s gives you double points. I don’t mean to be incendiary; either one is attackable from your point of view. My position on this story is that games have embedded themselves deeper into the social fabric because games are now being used by secondary medium as propaganda. It wasn’t a game that made the news (even if it only goes so far as Gamasutra), it was a VIDEO about a game group (more or less, a studio).

    That’s my 2 cents.

  13. Morgan said on

    … this sort of "attack of disinformation" lends legitimacy to the game medium as an artform conveying a message …

    1. I think the whole "games are art" argument is a bunch of hooey, but I’ll leave the elaboration for my article.

    2. For a message to be conveyed, that which conveys a message is not necessarily art.

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