The latest WWE video game follows in an increasing trend of in-game advertisements, but for some gamers, an overzealous paid advocacy for anti-smoking website TheTruth.com is an ad too far. According to reports surfacing on Reddit and the 2k forums, players using the Smackdown Live arena are treated not only to banners for the website on the ring apron, but also to some sanctimonious preaching by announcer Michael Cole urging gamers to be "the generation that ends smoking."
With all the cool factor of a D.A.R.E. performance at an elementary school, TheTruth.com urges viewers via television commercials to quit smoking, pointing out all of the ways Big Tobacco preys on its customers. And they're right. Smoking is bad. Big tobacco is worse. But the problem is that smokers already know that, and they can't stop smoking anyway. Bombarding them with nagging advertisements feels like kicking them while they're down. Smokers already feel ostracized by society for their dirty habit; they don't want to be subjected to a guilt trip inside their own homes while watching television, or, in this case, when playing a video game they paid a minimum of $59.99 for.
On Reddit, one user writes:
Smackdown arena is completely ruined. Menu graphic has a big ugly advertisement in the centre of the screen, every crowd chair covered in sponsor logos, the apron is inaccurate thanks to the word 'truth' plastered in orange on it. Every entrance the commentary tells us not to forget to visit thetruth.com so we can "be the generation that ends smoking for good!"
I'm fine with ad's being displayed on the billboards around the top of the arena, hell I think they make the game more realistic. But this truth.com thing is just ridiculous, people have paid full price for an authentic videogame experience and should not have obtrusive commercials constantly plastered in their face and have to listen to audio advertisements from commentators every two minutes.
And while some gamers said the ads didn't bother them — presumably they are not smokers — others noted:
I love that every single time I had an entrance in a 6 man Cole started trying to direct me to the truth.com and I cut him off by skipping the entrance. Then he started again like he was not going to let me shut him up.
While on the 2k forums, one non-smoking player pointed out:
The Truth stuff in this game is too much. Between the line during the entrances, the graphic on the ribbon board, and the logo on the chairs in the audience. It's like a big add for Truth. I don't smoke and I don't care who does doesn't but, this is too much.
And more than one smoker expressed the sentiment:
It actually is having the reverse effect on me and I want to smoke…
Then again, maybe that's the actual purpose of TheTruth.com's advertisements in the first place. The organization, after all, is funded by Big Tobacco as a result of a 1999 settlement. That no-good, manipulative Big Tobacco! They knew what they were doing all along!
Somebody should produce a public service announcement that exposes this plot and disseminate it through popular mediums like television and video ga… oh, wait.