January 9, 2006
Back Covers as Cultural Artifacts

Actually the category for this would be something like 'cultural specificity of media properties', given that the back cover of a PS2 game box can be regarded as the 'paratext' of said game, in this case the fairly controversial Killer7. After the debate about the newly elected German government's plans on how to deal with 'killer games' (Killerspielen), the semantics of 'killing/assassination" in German game ad texts seems to be more pervasive than ever. One can only speculate whether the stigmatization of gaming and the focalization of the debate on gaming culture as violence culture support rather than restrict this process; especially bilingual ads as in the Killer7 example (French/German) are very revealing in this regard, While the French text highlights the multiperspectivity of the game and employs a neutral tone (incarnez l'assassin ou la victime, frappez avant que le 'Sourire Céleste' ne vous touche), the German parallel text uses an infinitely more aggressive and personalized style (Toete oder werde getoetet! Drück ab, bevor Dich die Kreaturen in Stuecke reissen! -> Kill or be killed. Push the trigger before the creatures tear you to pieces!). Other examples in the text show the same tendency.
Bringing up cultural discrepancies as an 'explanation' would be an easy way out, in my opinion. While this is certainly a symptom of cultural overlaps and many subtleties of the messages are 'lost in translation', the underlying factors are quite complex. Unfortunately, the is seldom an opportunity to look at examples in a culturally comparative way since there is no archive (yet?) at hand. Maybe a worthwhile endeavour? I'll start collecting from now on...