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EA Tangles With Fox Over Mass Effect

Posted by: Matt Vella on January 24

Electronic Arts (ERTS) is serious about asking Fox News to straighten the record over its coverage earlier this week of Mass Effect, the hit titled released by the games giant last November. EA has now confirmed the leaked details of a letter sent by Jeff Brown, the publisher’s vice president of communications, to Teri VanHorn, a Fox News Channel producer in charge of the segment.

In addition to the letter, Brown released this comment earlier this afternoon:

EA is under new management and our CEO John Riccitiello has made it clear that we’re going to stand up for our people, studios and products. We’re not looking for a fight but if someone is telling lies about our products and maligning our creative teams, we’re going to step up and correct the record.

Cooper Lawrence is ignorant. She doesn’t know anything about Mass Effect but there are 100 people in Edmonton, Alberta who dedicated years to making that game. They’ve got names, faces and reputations – and they’ve been slandered.

Fox has yet to respond to a request for comment. A full copy of the letter sent by Brown, as provided by an EA spokesperson, after the jump.

The original letter in full:

Teri VanHorn
The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum
Fox News Channel

Ms VanHorn,

I’m writing to request a clarification of serious errors FNC made in a story which aired about the video game Mass Effect. (See attachment) As the parent company of BioWare, the studio which created the game, EA would like you to set the record straight on a number of errors and misstatements which incorrectly characterize the story and character interactions in Mass Effect.

Errors include the following:

Your headline above the televised story read: “New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex.”
Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots – a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It’s also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.

FNC voice-over reporter says: “You’ll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex.”
Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.

FNC reporter says: “Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers.”
Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature – appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.

Other sources used in the segment made similar incorrect statements about the game. Judging by the inaccuracy of their comments, they have had zero experience with Mass Effect and are largely ignorant about videogames, the people who play them, and the ESRB system that governs their ratings and sales.

The resulting coverage was insulting to the men and women who spent years creating a game which is acclaimed by critics for its high creative standards. As video games continue to take audiences away from television, we expect to see more TV news stories warning parents about the corrupting influence of interactive entertainment. But this represents a new level of recklessness.

Do you watch the Fox Network? Do you watch Family Guy? Have you ever seen The OC? Do you think the sexual situations in Mass Effect are any more graphic than scenes routinely aired on those shows? Do you honestly believe that young people have more exposure to Mass Effect than to those prime time shows?

This isn’t a legal threat; it’s an appeal to your sense of fairness. We’re asking FNC to correct the record on Mass Effect.


Jeff Brown
Vice President of Communications
Electronic Arts, Inc.


Reader Comments

Steve Mallett

January 25, 2008 01:21 PM

It's all about Fox News whipping up fear in their viewers to reinforce the mindset that no one else points out the cultural "threats" like the Fox News channel, guaranteeing them a captive audience of people who hear what reinforces their victimhood.

Sean Foreman

January 26, 2008 02:32 PM

Good for EA! About time that a Company actually fired back when these self-annointed moral zealots (hypocrites?) in the US start throwing their ignorance around. I think Jeff Brown's letter was well-written and fair. I'm sure FOX will not respond as they should - with an apology.


January 27, 2008 05:12 AM

Asking Fox "News" to correct the record would be like trying to get the entire GOP to admit the Iraq invasion was a mistake.


January 27, 2008 03:01 PM

The "expert" Fox News employed to trash the game has already admitted that she was way off base and knew NOTHING about Mass Effect before she savaged it on-air:

Paul Cachia

January 28, 2008 09:56 AM

Who cares what Fox news thinks or says. The Murdock group of companies continually discredit themselves by using sensationalist sound-byte journalism. It's all the same misinformation regardless of whether it appears in print or over the airwaves.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.

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