We're back in the 1980s again, you'd be forgiven for thinking, after a billboard in Melbourne Australia has received enough complaints to prompt a response by the Australian Ads Standards Community. While it has mercifully dismissed the complaint, Josh Taylor—a reporter for the Guardian Australia—tweeted the following:
lol someone complained to Ad Standards that the Diablo ad reminded them of lockdown?? pic.twitter.com/osqdpLYcmsJuly 4, 2023
One concerned motorist complained on the grounds of "Religious reasons, and it's promoting evil and satanic paraphernalia." Looking at the full case report, I feel like I've taken a step back in time to an era when Dungeons and Dragons was wrapped up in the satanic panic.
"The words [Welcome to Hell, Melbourne] as part of the advertisement for this game and a picture of a devil are offensive to me as a Christian. The imagery is also inappropriate for my children to see and has already given them nightmares."
"I feel it's inappropriate to show such disgusting and disturbing content on a billboard where children are seeing this on a daily basis. It has no context and for an adult of 43, I found it unsettling."
One complaint even cited the Covid-19 Pandemic as a reason for their upset: "Even as an adult it brought back memories of the hell of the two years of lockdowns in Melbourne."
The billboard is remarkably tame, featuring a character who you spend most of Diablo 4's story trying to kill performing the devilish act of merely standing there menacingly. Perhaps those with Melbourne pride might be upset that their city's being compared to hell, but the hilariously dry advertiser response clears that up:
"The “Welcome to Hell” refers to a fictional location that a person will visit as part of the gameplay in their quest to defeat the fictional villain portrayed in the ads," the response reads, "it does not state or imply that Brisbane or Melbourne is ‘hell’ and as such is not derogatory to these cities, or any of their inhabitants."
So in this case, Blizzard's advertising departments mean Diablo 4's hell, presumably referring to the endgame grinds so harsh players have begun to worship rats—or, more likely, its molten landscapes filled with twisted corpses. This should be a relief to any drivers worried about being transported to hell by a billboard.
In regards to giving nightmares to children, the advertiser's response reads: "The complaints state that the ads were viewed on billboards on the motorway. The average person driving a vehicle on motorways is likely above the game’s age rating." This offers the very sensible perspective that children shouldn't be driving, and if you're having dreams about Lilith as an adult, it's probably not Blizzard's fault.
It's a splash of handwringing about an inoffensive billboard, though it's fitting that some of Blizzard's 1980s-style tactics, such as putting Megan Fox in a corset, are creating 1980s-style responses. This does, however, mark the first time I've enjoyed reading a case report of any kind.