Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Commercial Activity

Tim from Old Grandma Hardcore has a great new post that deconstructs Kevin Brown’s speech at the Focus on Gaming Advertising Summit. While reading it I was reminded of Guilded Lily’s post that she wrote back in March that summed up her own thoughts about advertising and what advertisements might look like in games that want to reach the female demographic.

One of my favorite parts about games, (or even in other genres, such as anime) is noticing the fake brands and stores—they enhance the atmosphere and provide little clues as to how the fictional world that I’m becoming immersed in is similar or different to our own. I don’t think that advertisements for Pot Belly’s or Sketchers would heighten the realism of a game; instead it’ll just remind me of my real life, which in turn would hamper the pleasure of escapism that comes with playing games.

Living in Chicago, the amount of advertising I take in during my morning commute is overwhelming. The first thing I see when I descend the staircase of the El are the vending machines that crowd around the turnstile. After I insert my fare card, I push the turnstile bars which are now clear: presently, there’s a slipped in ad for Geico. To find an empty place to wait for a train, I walk over numerous vinyl advertisement mats that now cover the concrete of the subway platform. The wall opposite from where I stand is also plastered in ads. After the train arrives and I step in, it’s impossible for me not to notice the ads that line the perimeter of the car. There are also ads placed in the areas where there are no windows. There are now commercials in the tunnels—what was once black spaces are now ads that work like flipbooks. After I reach my stop and navigate through another area of ad space, I climb the stairs and am greeted by billboards: typical billboards, billboards on the side of buildings, billboards that are stationed like stop signs. Buses, with their own set of ads pasted to them, pass by bus stops that encase ads instead of bus maps. This is just the first half hour being out of my apartment.

And what about sexist advertising? The ads that I encounter are for everything, but of course I notice the most objectifying: a naked woman sitting—she’s in the shape of a cognac bottle. An ad for lotion is centered on a pair of breasts. Another ad, this time for citrus vodka, features a woman being peeled like an orange. I’m not even going to write about the ads for make up, clothing and perfume. You know what I’m writing about: the idea that women are commodities, billboards in their own right. And that beauty and anything that is good and worthwhile is rich, white, blond, tan, thin, and straight. I’m oversaturated.

Yet as much as I don’t want advertising in games, I know all to well that it’s inevitable.


Jacob said...

Advertising in video games has already happened. As much as you may find sports games boring, I enjoy playing them, mostly against other players. The latest basketball game I own, NBA 2K6, has lots of advertising built-in the game. I'm not just talking about a sign in the crowd or at the announcer's table. I'm talking about when half-time comes around it's no longer just half-time: It's the PowerBar Triple Threat Half-time Report. And at the end of game, I know longer see just a generic player of the game listed with stats; instead the player is the Toyota Player of the Game.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised considering that real-life basketball games are saturated with advertisements. Even before the game begins there's the announcer's Keys to the Game, sponsored by McDonald or some stupid shit like that. Still, the reason I own the game is because the level of simulation is as close to a real NBA game than any other basketball game on the market. However, just because I want the realism of a basketball, doesn't mean I want the constant bombardment of ads and sponsors. Thankfully, most of what I wrote about can be skipped over with the press of a button.

100LittleDolls said...

Yeah, I was aware that there has been RL ads in sports games--I was really surprised by the level of Burger King activity in the lastest Fight Night. I feel that sports games are especially vulnerable because, as you mentioned, the number of ads you see when you attend or watch the actual sporting event, but also because they use the names of real athletes in sports games (at least if EA made it.) This makes the game dated after one year. Ads will make games feel dated--but can also add on a nostalgia factor.

I guess I was really thinking about it in turns of games like RPG's--or maybe even a game like Katamari. Seeing RL games would really lessen the fun, "outside" quality, and would also lessen the level of discovery when you happen about a new town or area.

I was also thinking too, in regards to pressing a button to make the ad go away: I was thinking about how in comic books there are pages of ads you have to turn through in order to get through the content. It doesn't bother me as much. Maybe because it's the same things with magazines and I've become numb to it. I would mind the ads more, however, if they appeared within the storyline or background of a comic. As far as games go though, commercial inserts would never over as well, though we have seen it. Animal Crossing has your neighbors pimping out owning a GBA and a link cable, and Xenosaga had emails that advertised some of Namco's other games.

Shions_Glasses said...

This is something I stay up at night worrying about. The mainstreaming of Video games I feel have only brought problems and lessened the validity of them to some extent. But one thing to keep in mind is that most of these problems and the ads are located mostly within American made games. The Japanese produced games will probably have less of an incentive to add in a Mountain Dew ad into their games. If ads are entered it will probably be for Japanese companies, which might be less annoying seeing a company we rarely see advertised. Although, Metal Gear Solid loved putting FHM pictures throughout there game for seemingly no reason at all.