’Ban this killer game,’ trumpeted the headlines when the original
Carmageddon, the game where players score points for mowing down
innocent pedestrians, was launched in 1997.
The hard-hitting campaign attracted the outrage of press such as the
Daily Mail and the game received a ban from the British Board of Film
Classification (BBFC), although this was eventually overturned.
When the sequel, titled Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now, was released
in October 1998 its publisher, SCi, wanted to avoid the negative
headlines which had dogged the first game.
To win coverage for the new Carmageddon II computer game. To ensure that
retailers weren’t put off from stocking it because of its controversial
nature and because of furore over the first game.
The tone of the campaign was tongue-in-cheek, using the strapline
’Anyone for a game of squash’. Retailers were made aware that the
campaign wouldn’t be along the lines of that used to publicise the first
With SCi’s well known row with BBFC, censorship and the currently
confusing situation over the classification of computer games made an
ideal story to sell-in to the mainstream press.
As Carmageddon II is a similarly gory splatter-fest, it was obvious that
the BBFC would be monitoring its classification closely.
While waiting for a classification of the original Carmageddon II, a
toned-down version of the game was released, which has a 15
However, a ’patch’ has been made available to download from the internet
which allows users to beef-up their games to the full-blooded
This fact was publicised and received wide coverage in the media.
In November, SCi announced that it was taking legal action against the
BBFC because of the long delays in classifying the game. Various news
stories also surfaced that the BBFC has hired psychologists to review
the game’s potential to inspire copycat behaviour.
While the classification angle generated a lot of attention from the
media in general, the specialist computer games press featured stories
on the new game’s improved graphics and precise action.
The amount of coverage generated by this campaign was phenomenal, and
ranged from the style magazine The Face to the Times, which ran a page
three news item about the publisher’s battle with the BBFC. But more
important is the nature of the coverage. Reviews of the game were
overwhelmingly positive, particularly among men’s monthly magazines,
many of which nominated it as ’Game of the Month’.
Obviously SCi’s ongoing dispute with the BBFC generated a lot of
editorial comment, much of it supportive of SCi, and focusing on the
need for a new system of classification for computer games.
The game reached number two on the computer game charts and has sold
very strongly over Christmas. Retailers’ concerns were allayed to the
extent that one retailer which had refused to stock Carmageddon at all
actually decided to stock Carmageddon II.
This is a clever campaign, winning support for SCi and generating loads
of positive coverage for the game itself.
There was always the danger that it became another ’Shock! Horror!’
effort, but instead it has managed to generate debate and comment, and
has advanced the cause of the computer games industry in the
Thus far, the voice of middle-England, the Daily Mail, which led the
outcry at the launch of the first game have abstained from comment,
sensing that there was no story for its readers.
PR Team: Peter Noble PR and in-house
Campaign: Carmageddon II - Carpocalypse Now launch
Timescale: September - December 1998.