In a daring attempt to break down gender stereotypes, Microsoft has launched a new marketing campaign for the X-Box One in which gamer girls can fill in the blanks and convince their boyfriends that, for instance, the X-Box One is better than knitting or chatting up your sister on Skype. Starting out with a good, old fashioned "Hey Honey," the letter goes on to point out that the gamer girl is into football while her boyfriend is into movies, and goes onto to compliment the man on how beautiful he is, while she can use the X-Box Kinect to work out her abs. The letter represents a great stride forward for…
Oh. Oh, dear. I'm being told by my editors that the X-Box letter is probably actually intended for men to send to their girlfriends or wives, and is not a tongue-in-cheek attempt to shine the spotlight on archaic and insulting gender stereotypes. Well, that's... an interesting strategy in today's cultural climate, especially considering an ESA report last year revealed that 47% of gamers are women. Clearly, Microsoft's crack marketing team has thought this through. The story is now making the rounds in the gaming and tech press.
TechCrunch had this to say:
Propagating sexist stereotypes isn't something to be tolerated. What's almost incredible in the letter (before its language is potentially shaken up by the user) is that it manages to be directly sexist in implication, using loaded language like “honey” and comments on the physical appearance of the unnamed recipient, while eliding direct indication of gender. But it's there. If you can't see it, open your eyes.
While Mashable pointed out:
It then suggests that the console will prompt the couple to exercise more and will let the woman watch movies and chat with her sister via Skype while the man watches the game. Although the ad does a solid job of detailing its versatility, some Twitter users said the language is condescending and implies that only men play video games and women dislike when they do.
Eurogamer didn't mince words, saying:
Microsoft has created the most insanely sexist ad for the Xbox One after presumably binge-watching Mad Men and missing the point entirely.
Or at least that's the only explanation I can come up with for its comically regressive US web-based ad for Xbox One that assumes its audience is full of males attached to sneering harpies who like to knit, love fitness, and hate video games.
While many of the prompts are replaceable and no specific sexes are named, the ad is clearly playing off the ancient stereotype that men love video games and women hate fun.
Responding to reports circulating around the internet, Microsoft seems to have changed the first paragraph of the letter to suggest that the recipient likes doing taxes rather than knitting, which is clearly ridiculous, as no one likes doing taxes. Here's the original text of the letter:
Not sure if you’ve heard, but Xbox One is now available. That means we can start playing games like Dead Rising 3. I know, I know. You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously.
I put together a list of reasons why the console could benefit you and me—together and apart, but mostly together:
Games! Maybe you don’t LOVE games like I do, but there’s really something for everyone. While I’m playing Dead Rising 3, you might like arcade games. And since you were just begging me to dance, I’m willing to play Forza Motorsport 5 just for you. It’s a win-win!
Entertainment for both of us. You love movies and I love football. Well, with the Xbox One, we can love both. We can catch your favorite team AND check out my favorite team. Just think of all this togetherness we're going to experience. It’s gonna be awesome!
It will help us get fit. The console offers Xbox Fitness free with Xbox Live Gold through December 2014* so I can get the abs I've always dreamed of, while working out to Tracy Anderson.
Play with others. You’ve been encouraging me to play with others and it just so happens that Xbox One has the best multiplayer service that filters out jerks. So don’t you worry. If we get an Xbox One, I’ll be making new friends in no time.
We can talk on Skype with your favorite sister whom, of course, I love dearly. Heck, we can even talk to them while we watch your favorite TV show.
So what do you say? Let’s be like an awesome movie montage—just me, you, and my our Xbox One—together at last.
p.s. Did I mention how beautiful you are? And how I really appreciate that you love me more than anything ?
p.p.s If (or should I say when) we get Xbox One, you have dibs on the first multiplayer game that we experience together.
p.p.p.s Long story short: I really, really, really want one for the holidays—y’know... for us.
If you want to send one of these letters, head over to Microsoft's site. If you want a decent video game console, get a PS4. :P