When McDonald's Interactive appeared at a serious games industry conference, The International Serious Games Event, with a major announcement, people took note. In the presenters' PowerPoint presentation, however, they surprised the crowd with a declaration of independence from their parent firm, on the grounds of corporate irresponsibility for environmental damage caused by emissions by the commercial necessities of the fast food industry. Many audience members reported being completely taken in.
As Watercooler Games points out, these discourse conventions seem reminiscent of the very difficult to play "serious" McVideogame, which emphasizes the toxic chemicals, land degradation, commodification of labor, and unethical marketing of the Golden Arches. Although it uses some elements of an advergame, McVideogame is primarily a political game, like those created about the crisis in Darfur, that emphasizes what Ian Bogost has called a "rhetoric of failure" to persuade users that the company's business plan is untenable for environmental sustainability.
Although they are far behind Taco Bell and Burger King in actual game creation, McDonald's does have some real interactive website content. For example, I heard Lisa Nakamura discuss the McWebsite aimed at generic "Asian-Americans": I am Asian.
Given that the work of the Yes Men has a similar activist signature, they were early suspects in the prank, especially since they may have been spotted in photos on the hoax website. Others are attributing the prank to one of their franchise operations RTMark. RTMark apparently specializes in F2F, so it may not be surprising that their hoax website is relatively minimalist. As someone interested in how street art is appropriated by powerful corporate and political interests, I was interested to see this RTMark "anti-graffiti" prank. For those of you who need more carnavelesque mischief, you can now also find many of Alan Abel's classic pranks on YouTube.
Unfortunately, nothing this exciting will probably happen at the Sex in Video Games conference, which is also happening this week, as you can see from their agenda.
Update: Check out the tale that emerged after some detective work. It appears that -- rather like the Agatha Christie detective story Murder on The Orient Express -- all of the possible suspects identified were involved!