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The Evolution of the Pixelated Ad

Page history last edited by Jared 12 years, 8 months ago

The Evolution of the Pixilated Ad



(personal anecdote)


When I was just a small lad, I would power up my 8-bit Nintendo system, and immerse myself in games like Mario, or the Legend of Zelda without a care in the universe. It was my escape, and a source of entertainment away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world - no one could tell me what to do. Since the inception of the videogame, society has advanced and games have become incredibly complex in a multitude of facets from graphics and music to storyline and gameplay. (Thesis) One could say that videogames have only improved since their creation, but amidst all of the added realism and engulfing textures the gods of marketing have snuck in the backdoor, and have encrypted their advertisements into the one place that people used to be able to escape them.


(History and Strategy)


In-game ad placement started innocently enough, but it has since evolved into becoming more than just added realism. Gamers like seeing their favorite NASCAR driver decked out in all of his sponsor's clothing (like Tide or Viagra), and they also might like seeing the //Nike Swoosh// on the jersey of their favorite football player, but the problem comes when gamers are forced to endure all of the advertisements that are crammed into today's games:

First it was, we need to have a brand in the game to make it realistic. Then it was: "You have a drink to sell? We'll throw in a soda machine." Now advertisers are asking, "How can we integrate our product into the game (Loftus 2)?

In "Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow" the gamer will have to master the usage of two Sony Ericsson phones to advance. The thought process of the marketer is deceptively brilliant; the usual infatuated gamer thinks nothing of the harmless integration of the phone as a prominent role in the game, but as the player admires the hero more and more throughout the game, the ad begins to do its damage. In this way, marketers can look at the type of game being developed and then mold an advertisement to score big with the audience.


In 2003, according to a London-based research group Screen Digest, Videogame sales reached 18.2 billion dollars worldwide. In the U.S. 500 million dollars were spent on in-game advertising, which is expected as console and computer gaming now rivals T.V. as the number one way 18 to 28 year olds around the world are spending their time (Loftus 1). It used to be that game developers would pay companies to place things like Coke in their game for the added realism effect; however, with the staggering numbers of the current industry and the waning records of other entertainment industries, advertisers will readily pay the developers large amounts of money to drive their products.


"Advergaming," the word for videgame ads, has expanded to more than just product placement and subliminal messages embedded throughout games ("The Perils of Advergaming" 1). In the recent "Madden 2005" the music industry jumped on the bandwagon of using games for their own devices. More specifically, the band Green Day released their latest song "American Idiot" in the game, rather than through the traditional methods - namely, the radio. The insanity doesn't stop there! In a recent edition of Playboy, videogame characters were used as the centerfold. One might ask why videogame characters are hot enough to make it on the centerfold of a Playboy. The answer lies in a games ability to sell and an advertiser's desire to place their product within the game; therefore, strategically placing products around beautiful, animated girls is a direct shot at the pathos of the gamers, and it effectively stimulates the audiences' desires. The typical audience for most games will not mind a subtle bombardment of advertisements if there is a pretty face nearby.


It is painfully obvious that advertisers know how to manipulate the game players while they are in the comatose-like state induced from playing the great software of today. They know the gamers' likes and dislikes. By inserting their product into the game with the utmost skill and precision, no gamer takes notice of the ad, but at the same time he or she learns all about the perfect product. The Sims, a game that has sold 19 million copies worldwide, is full of ads that players will encounter while taking their avatar through a real-life simulator. Franchises, such as McDonalds and Intel, reached multimillion dollar deals with Electronic Arts (the makers of the Sims) in order to have their products reach an audience they can easily target. Gamers can even own a McDonalds and increase their character's happiness level with every burger eaten. While this may seem subtle, it is actually quite effective because there is no escape from these "commercials" if you are playing the game.


Gamers have their own community - one that is slowly being tarnished through advertisements. It is becoming progressively worse too, because developers now throw in advertisements solely for the purpose of promoting their next up and coming game. For example, in the futuristic role-playing game (rpg) Xenosaga, players will receive E-mails at key points in the game reminding them that Namco's (the developer of Xenosaga) next game is coming out. Gamers are so enthralled with how awesome the game they are playing is that they automatically assume that Namco's next game will be great as well. While I am disgusted with the methods that Namco and many other big name developers are using to push products, I have to respect them for their keen use of ethos and pathos as they heighten the audience's connection with a particular product.



Continuing onward, only a handful of games come to mind when I think of the games that have been released in the past year without an advertisement. Alas, even if they do not explicitly advertise something, games still influence actions, especially pertaining to the purchasing power of the typical gamer. In Rockstar Games' hit series "Grand Theft Auto," players assume the role of a mobster and run around a city that looks suspiciously like any typical U.S. city. Gamers drive fast cars from point A to point B, blow stuff up, buy things, pick up hookers, and perform pretty much any type of sinful act that comes to mind. There are no explicit ads in this game, because for the most part, marketers do not want their product associated with it, but the unpleasant truth is that the game doesn't need ads in it to advertise! It's appealing on so many different facets of life. It is advertising a lifestyle of cars, women, money, and manliness, and it is funny how that parallels with what is on the minds of the majority of 18 to 28 year olds around the world. Games have elevated to a new level; they are rhetoric beasts not only as a product pusher, but as a personality manipulator.


Nowadays, I watch T.V. and see a Sony Playstation commercial. I silently repeat their mantra "Live in Your World, Play in Ours". In the back of my mind, and I realize that no longer are the days of games, solely for the love of the game. While most advertisements are harmless, it seems like a lack of respect for the consumer who is paying 50 dollars for the latest game to find out that it is slowly being infested by advertisements. The problem is that it is too easy for the marketers to plug their product within a game as they can easily maximize the logos, ethos, and pathos of the ad: You know exactly whom you will be reaching, and, best of all for the advertiser, you will be reaching that person every single time he or she plays the game. They can't change the channel. They can't fast forward. Especially if your ad is within gameplay, they have to pay attention. Countless studies have shown that game players are in an almost trance-like state, which probably means they are more open to suggestion as well (The Sims to sell ad placement within Game 1).


(Summation and restatement of thesis)


From the most elite cyber-athlete to the most casual player, the deceptive advertisements of videogames affect all who play them. Most of the time the advertisement is harmless and just adds to the game's realism, but when will we reach the point that videogames, works of fantasy made for entertainment, have become too real?


Works Cited:

Ferranti, Mark. The Perils of Advergaming. 29 Apr. 2003. IDG News. 24 Sept. 2004 <http://http://www.gamepro.com/gamepro/domestic/games/news/29126.shtml>.


Loftus, Thomas. New Technology Tracks in-game Ads. 24 Aug. 2004. MSNBC. 23 Sept. 2004 <http://http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5796449/>.


Loftus, Tom. We Interrupt This Fantasy. 25 Aug. 2004. MSNBC. 24 Sept. 2004 <http://http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5722377/>.


The Sims to sell ad placement within Game. 17 Sept. 2002. 22 Sept. 2004 <http://http://www.geek.com/newsbeta2/geeknews/2002Sep/gee20020917016370.htm>.


Video Game Sales Pausing After Record Year. 1 Sept. 2004. Reuters. 21 Sept. 2004 <http://http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5888063/>.


Special Thanks to All Who helped critique my paper, and to Google Image Search.


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