Fox Interactive, a division of 20th Century Fox, said yesterday it would withdraw its current advertising campaign for the Sony PlayStation video game N2O: Nitrous Oxide after anti-drug officials complained that the ads glamorize drug use.
"We apologize for any references which evoke drug use that appeared in some of the ads for N2O," said Peter Chernin, president of News Corp., 20th Century Fox's parent company. "We pledge to go the extra mile in the future to make certain our advertising does not have or cannot be interpreted to have even the hint of glorification or trivialization of illegal drugs."
Yesterday, national drug policy chief Barry R. McCaffrey expressed gratitude for Fox's action. At a news conference Thursday, after a Washington Post article described the ads, McCaffrey said Fox "ought to be ashamed of themselves . . . it glorifies stoned drug behavior."
At the same news conference, Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, "These folks are peddlers -- peddlers of destruction, and they should be branded as such."
In N2O, which the video game industry's rating board says is suitable for teens, nitrous oxide is used as a fuel enhancer for players' spacecraft. But advertisements seem to refer to another of nitrous oxide's uses, as an intoxicating inhalant used at parties, raves and rock concerts by many of the same people who play video games.
"Never trip alone, always use 2 player mode . . . Breathe in. Breathe out," reads an ad, which appeared in Swing, Spin, the Source and other magazines. A news release on the World Wide Web read: "Get ready to go higher, faster than you've ever gone before. . . . The ultimate rush. . . . Give speed freaks the fix they need."
Nitrous oxide is perhaps most commonly known as the "laughing gas" dentists use for anesthesia, but is also popular among young people as a drug to make them giddy and lightheaded. It is used as the aerosol propellant in some brands of whipped cream and also is available in dispensers known in head-shop parlance as "whippets." By depleting the body's oxygen, it can result in an immediate anoxia death, and prolonged use can lead to peripheral nerve damage.
Fox Interactive shipped more than 100,000 copies of the game this month.
In February, Sony Corp. withdrew a multimillion-dollar advertisement campaign in Britain for the PlayStation snowboarding video game Cool Boarders 2 following complaints that it extolled drug use. "Powder, my body yells, aches for powder," read one ad, which Sony said was written in snowboarder slang. "I need the rush, the buzz. I have to get higher than the last time." CAPTION: Ads warning N2O players, "Never trip alone" have been abandoned.