Direct 2 Drive, an online games retailer, has adopted the PR strategy of the moment: relentless mockery of hand-wringing social justice warriors on the web.
D2D recently launched a tongue-in-cheek “Trigger Warning Week,” a limited offer of 50 – 80% discounts off gaming’s “most inclusive, diverse, and empowering titles.”
They were, of course, being ironic. Among the “empowering titles” on sale is Hitman: Absolution, a title which was once angrily accused by feminist critic Brendan Keogh of epitomising the “rape culture problem” in gaming. Tomb Raider: Underworld, one of the last Tomb Raider titles before her de-sexualised 2013 reboot, is also on sale. The icing on the cake is the latest instalment of Duke Nukem, a series famous for explosions, breasts, and foul language. (Anita Sarkeesian might call it “toxic masculinity.”)
D2D followed up their sale with some triggering posts on social media. They mocked the concept of “cyberviolence,” a term recently coined by a widely-mocked report from the United Nations women’s group. They also gave a nod to GamerGate, attacking SJW blogger Leigh Alexander’s notorious “Gamers are over” article, a left-wing critique of the gamer identity which became a catalyst for the movement in 2014.
"Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over." #WhatYouDontTellCustomers
— Direct2Drive.com (@Direct2Drive) October 5, 2015
— Direct2Drive.com (@Direct2Drive) September 25, 2015
Even after the sale was over, the online retailer continued to relentlessly poke the cultural authoritarian outrage machine. “Missed yesterday’s Train Simulator deal?” reads a tweet from today. “Get it at 40% off until Monday. Those who got it at 60%, #CheckYourPrivilege. ;)”
Their PR approach appears to be paying dividends. News of their campaign has spread rapidly across gamer Twitter, and their “Trigger Warning” sale reached the top of /r/KotakuInAction, the widely-visited home of GamerGate on Reddit. One gamer on Twitter even said he would “gladly” pay extra money for games if the retailer continued to take a stand against social justice warriors.
Direct 2 Drive have successfully harnessed what we at Breitbart call The Law of Heckle Shekels: as the butthurt generated by a product rises, so too does its sales figures. Controversial video games like Hatred and Grand Theft Auto are well-known beneficiaries of this law. So too was Protein World, a fitness company that was accused of “fat-shaming” by feminist activists, but acquired 20,000 new customers and £1million in revenues after they responded to the campaign with social media mockery. More recently, South Park has harnessed popular loathing for social justice warriors to sell T-shirts. Triggering the easily-offended is becoming an industry.
Naturally, not everyone was amused by the online retailer’s campaign. “I’m not offended, I’m contemptuous” wrote one feminist pop culture academic. “Classy as shit” wrote Patrick Klepek, a left-wing writer for Kotaku. Columnist and anti-free speech campaigner Arthur Chu replied with a single word: “FFS.”
Of course, if Direct 2 Drive are hoping to harness the Law of Heckle Shekels, this kind of reaction is exactly what they need. The company has figured out the culturally libertarian values of their audience, and are displaying the same kind of values-based marketing that turned Protein World into rebel heroes. In a way, it’s just corporate social responsibility.
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.