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When A Petrol Station Was Home To A Strange Publicity Stunt
A fuel tank and a pressure relief valve are essential parts of ensuring many critical parts of our infrastructure function and are involved in far more industries than one would initially think.
However, one role they do not typically play is being the centrepiece of a strange 2008 publicity stunt for a computer game that ultimately led to police involvement and demands for an apology by a Member of Parliament.
The game in question was the controversial open-world action game Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Electronic Arts, with a story based around private military juntas in a fictionalised Venezuela.
Given that fuel was an important part of the game, EA borrowed the Last Stop petrol station on Stapleton Hall Road in London for the day, converting it into a military checkpoint, complete with sandbags, oil barrels, costumed actors pumping the petrol and many camouflaged vehicles to add to the ambience.
In total, the stunt planned to give away £20,000 worth of petrol giving up to £40 per person, but the stunt would only last a few hours before the police would get involved.
In September 2008, the global financial crisis was starting to take effect, and one of the major commodities affected by the uncertainty was fuel. As a result, thousands of commuters would try to take advantage, creating gridlock on the streets and trapping some local residents in their own driveways.
Eventually, the police asked EA to call off the stunt, which was condemned by local MP Lynne Featherstone as “irresponsible” and “dangerous”, saying that her constituents deserved an apology.
Ultimately, the stunt did not work. The game sold below expectations and the studio was closed entirely after the release of 2009’s The Saboteur, highlighting that whilst dangerous stunts involving petrol stations can get people’s attention, that does not necessarily mean they will buy your product.