Play a violent game today in your Chevrolet

By: David Monahan

In the 1950s, Dinah Shore was all over television cheerily singing, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” My, how times have changed. Now, a commercial for the Chevrolet Traverse encourages kids to nag their parents to buy a Chevrolet, so they can ride with their eyes glued to a violent video game—Plants vs. Zombies, Garden Warfare 2—which is age-inappropriate for many of the children in the commercial.

There is a lot to hate about this commercial: targeting kids because of their role in “household decision making;” trying to build brand loyalty among tykes not even old enough to ride their bikes in traffic; purporting to portray genuine reactions from a pint-sized focus group, which just happen to include off-camera exclamations from the kids like “this car is amazing!” and “I could just stay in this car forever!” 

But perhaps worst of all is the cross-pollination of a car commercial with an ad for Plants vs. Zombies, Garden Warfare 2 by Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA). The game was released on January 14, 2016, and Common Sense Media has yet to rate it as of this writing. But it’s clearly more of the same as the first version of Garden Warfare, which Common Sense Media rated for ages 11 and up, cautioning parents:

“Garden Warfare is a fantasy-based third-person “tower defense” game that pits garden vegetation against zombies. It’s very cartoonish, but there is a lot of violence in the game, including plants that shoot peas and cactus needles as though they were bullets, plant potato mines, and pilot flying garlic drones. Zombies emit green “blood” when struck, often losing their heads in the process.” 

The more industry-friendly Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has given Garden Warfare 2 an age 10 and up rating, but they note: “Battles are sometimes frenetic and accompanied by cries of pain, realistic gunfire, and large explosions. Zombies generally break apart into pieces amid splashes of green liquid when defeated.” Green liquid? Come on, ESRB, say it. Green BLOOD! 

The groups of kids change with quick cuts, and I counted about 50 different children in the video. About half of them appear to be younger than age 11—several around age seven or eight. No doubt EA is banking on the nag factor from tots in the audience as much as Chevrolet is. “I want Plants vs. Zombies! I am TOO old enough! See the kids in the commercial?”

To convince the kids to love a car they won’t be able to drive for many years, our adult host first taunts them into sadness (“There’s a catch…I only have one controller…who wants it?”), but then explains that seven of them can access the 4G LTE Wi-Fi in the car and play the game at once (cue exclamations of joy). The ad encourages screen culture and discourages civility. I have such fond memories of family car trips when I was young—seeing new places, counting state license plates, and yes, even arguing with my siblings. This commercial tells kids it’s OK to ignore their family, and not even share a game, on car trips. Nothing could be finer than to drive through Carolina, or anywhere else, with your head buried in a violent video game! 

At the end of the ad, seven young children stand and assume the bad posture zombie pose, enthralled by the game on their devices. Our host looks at us and shrugs, as if to say “Hey, Chevrolet didn’t create this screen-obsessed generation…we’re just capitalizing on it!” 

No mention of the safety and performance of the Traverse, but after seeing that ad, I am really not interested.