Gaming Gets Ethical -- as Fair Trade "Machinima" Videos Spark Controversy

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Unofficial new ads for Fair Trade, made in computer games World of Warcraft and The Sims 2, are sparking ethical debate amongst thousands of Orcs, Elves and Sims.

When "Machinima" animation company Strange Company (http://www.strangecompany.org) released two short video spots to coincide with Fair Trade Fortnight, they had no idea what to expect. Made using the "Machinima" technique of filmmaking within popular video games, the two ads are provoking heated ethical debate in forums more used to exploring the finer points of "Raiding", "Phat lewt" and "Player-vs-Player".

One of the video spots, made within the Massively Multiplayer game World of Warcraft, tells the story of a poor Troll who, rather than using the game's normal Auction House system, is forced to work through the same system that exploits third-world farmers. Within three days of its release, it had racked up over 8,000 views on Internet video website YouTube.com, making it the most linked film in its category that day.

(View the video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvcGdJ-09v4)

Debate sprang up on both sides of the issue on World of Warcraft fan sites, with top gaming news sites like WorldofWar.net and Blue's News reporting on the videos.

Popular World of Warcraft blog WoWInsider said "Kudos ... for bringing social and economic ethics to the world of Azeroth." But some of their readers were less impressed, with arguments ranging from detailed analyses from the pages of the Economist magazine to "SuperFan Ken"'s impassioned response -- "Please. I get enough of this bleeding heart "We must be fair to everyone" crap in RL. I don't need to see it in Azeroth."

"The reaction from the Internet has been fascinating!" says Hugh Hancock, who directed both videos. "Whilst some people might think of hard-core gamers as apathetic or apolitical, we're seeing a lot of informed, intelligent and passionate advocacy and enthusiasm on both sides of the fence. If anything, I'd say that the men and women who are playing World of Warcraft and The Sims 2 seem to be more interested in talking about these issues than most!"

The FairGame videos have also attracted interest outside the gaming world. On Thursday 8th March, FairGame: Sims 2 was shown as part of the Scottish Parliament's Fair Trade event in Edinburgh.

(View the video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAXRYmkLdAQ)

Tania Pramschufer, director of HandUpMedia (http://www.handupmedia.com), who co-funded the Fair Game project with Strange Company, said "We founded Hand Up Media because we felt that the UK needed a truly ethical media company which could communicate on important issues like Fair Trade. Fair Game has been a fantastic project for us in that regard. At last we have a truly innovative, creative medium that genuinely engages with popular culture. "

HandUpMedia and Strange Company are now working on a more extensive series of ethical Machinima videos, to be premiered next year.

Contact details:

Strange Company

Contact: Johnnie Ingram

Telephone: +44 (0)131 555 2349

HandUpMedia

Contact: Tania Pramschufer

Telephone: 05600 755 015/07914 254 334

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Johnnie Ingram
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