Hauppauge’s Exploitation of Robin Williams’ Passing is Inexcusible

The tragic passing of Robin Williams earlier this week was hard on all of his fans. Some of us grew up watching him on Mork and Mindy via Nick at Nite, while others watched him progress in real-time as the show went on. His diverse range of skills worked well for broad sitcoms, dramatic roles like his chilling performance in One Hour Photo, and he gained worldwide acclaim as the original voice of the Genie in Aladdin. Beyond being a highly-respected actor, whose episode of Inside the Actors Studio is a must-watch if you’ve never seen the program, he was a gamer. His love of gaming went largely unknown until his daughter Zelda got older and everyone asked about the origins of her name.

He revealed that she was named after the Legend of Zelda series, which he and his daughter did a commercial for, and it also came out that he was a huge World of Warcraft fan. An homage to him will be in WoW at some point, and fans are hoping Nintendo does the same for an NPC in the upcoming Zelda game. As a fellow gamer, one would think that the community would rally behind him as a collective unit and that has largely happened. However, Hauppauge sent out a notice on Instagram today, archived by element over at NeoGAF, that was quite disgusting. During a post about sponsoring people on Youtube and/or Twitch, they throw in some hashtags. Hauppagegaming made sense as a hashtag, but then they threw in #rip #robinwilliams, and #genie alongside an image of the Genie from Kingdom Hearts. This led to great revulsion on social media as the underlying intent was pretty clear.

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The company, who is well-respected as a hardware maker for their PVR technology that is quite popular on streaming media sites, had someone in charge of the post that made a huge mistake. They started with a basic promotional post and turned it into something exploiting a man’s death to get some extra exposure with the hashtags. Beyond the gamer connection, Robin Williams was a father and this kind of move is a slap in the face to his family. Beyond that, they used an image of the Genie that wouldn’t apply to Robin – he played the role in the first and third movies, but not in any video games. Dan Castelanetta, the long-running voice of Homer Simpson, played the role when Robin Williams was unavailable. So they’ve got a post exploiting a man’s death, and any attempt to use gaming as a way to hand-wave it is factually-incorrect since he didn’t play the role in the game they showed.

To Hauppauge’s credit, they have apologized via both Facebook and Twitter. This led to them encountering more hate and rightfully so, but the company does deserve some degree of credit for owning up to its mistakes. This kind of bargain-basement exposure is the kind of stuff that wound up destroying Acclaim as they would just go for ridiculous ad campaigns to gain attention when their products weren’t good enough to gain exposure simply for being good. It’s taken a long time for the gaming industry to get any respect from the mainstream press, and things like this hurt that perception and only give those looking for a reason to look down upon gaming a valid reason to do so. While it may seem like we’re long past the days of witch-hunts over Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, we really aren’t.

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The release of the original Mass Effect led to an ignorant outcry over sex scenes, while a few years prior, the whole “hot coffee” issue led to a lot of problems for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas despite there being absolutely no way to access the scene in an unmodified copy of the game purchased in a store. More recently, Glenn Beck, or more accurately, the outlandish over the top character named Glenn Beck that Glenn Beck plays, stated that Watch Dogs was teaching children how to hack. Baseless accusations already hurt the industry, but when they’ve got some merit to them, they have the potential to do even more damage. They make the industry seem scummy, or at least low-class, and that doesn’t help anyone. If you want to pay tribute to Robin Williams in a game, then sign the petition to get him into a Zelda game, support the WoW folks wanting to pay tribute to him, or do something more personal. Buy his comedy albums or check out Good Morning, Vietnam if you’ve never done so before. There are many ways to pay tribute to the man, but gratuitous self-promotion isn’t one of them.