Category: general

Videogame advertising in the news…

I have been meaning to write a post about my paper, “The Disappearance and Reappearance and Disappearance of the Player in Videogame Advertising that I wrote for the Digra conference last year. It has gotten a bit of a buzz lately (well as much buzz as a conference paper can get…) including almost making it into the “Game Studies Download of the top 10 academic papers. I made it to one of the “The 2008 ‘Shadow List’ – The Top 10 Research Findings that We Couldn’t Fit on our First Top 10 List.”

Before I could get around to tooting my own horn I read an article in the New York Times, “As Gaming Turns Social, Industry Shifts Strategies which talks about the increase of casual and social gaming. The part of the article that relates to my paper is this section:

Traditionally game advertisements, whether in print or on screen, have focused, naturally, on showing the game. But as it introduced the Wii, Nintendo devised a marketing breakthrough: Rather than show the game, show the players. In an entirely counterintuitive, brilliant move, most of Nintendo’s ads are now shot from the perspective of the television back out at the audience, showing families and groups of friends having fun together. Nintendo realized that emphasizing the communal experience of sharing interactive entertainment can be more captivating than the image of some monster, gangster or footballer on the screen.

However, as those who have either read my paper or were around when the home videogame market was starting will know, this simply isn’t true.

The early ads for videogames were all about showing the audience. Here are two pictures, one from a 2600 commercial and one from a Wii commercial that shows just how similar the two campains were:
Playing the Atari Draws a Crowd
Playing a Wii also draws a crowd

However, the Atari ads went even further because at least a few of them showed people actually plugging the machines into the electric outlet.
Wall Plug

The player has reappeared in videogame advertising time and time again. Every time the games introduce a new way of interacting with the machines then the advertisers will resurrect images of the player as an easy and effective way of demonstrating how to play the system.

Forget “Where’s the Stephen King of Gaming?” Where’s Stephen King’s games?

I was reading another one of these articles about the Shakespeare or gaming or the Stephen King of gaming and I began to think: Why aren’t there Stephen King videogames? Or at least games based on Stephen King books?

Clive Barker has lent his name to a couple of games, Undying and Jericho, but why hasn’t someone licensed Stephen King’s work? He has lent his name to at least one software title, Stephen King’s F13 (Gamespot has some images) but that was apparently some sort of screensaver-type thing and not an actual game.

Moreover, why isn’t there a John Grisham, Clive Cussler, or some other writers games? There have been games based on dead authors such as HP Lovecraft and Agatha Christie as well as literary characters such as Dracula and Sherlock Holmes (although those characters have been used by so many medium it is difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t appear in videogames). Of course there have been games based on movies based on books too such as Tolkien and JK Rowling but I’m not sure if those count.

Tom Clancy has made a lot of money from the Rainbow Six games an others. So why haven’t other authors tried to get in on the act? They can’t all be Luddites can they? I’m sure that someone has approached King about making a Shining or The Stand game but why didn’t they go through. Certainly the task of converting a novel to a game would be really tough but Is HP Lovecraft’s world can inspire a game couldn’t King’s? If Agatha Christie could inspire a game couldn’t Sue Grafton?

Where are the book-based games?

This is where I make the confession that removes any credibility I had left…

I don’t get Team Fortress 2. Maybe it is because I haven’t played enough of it but I don’t see what is so great about it. You run around you get killed you respawn. I spend a lot more time playing Zombie Master than I do TF2. Also, when is Monolith going to sue for stealing not only the style but also the music from No One Lives Forever? I realize they probably don’t have any basis for suing but, man, they should get a “special thanks to” credit or something.

I know, I know, I’ve lost all cred. How do you think I feel? You can just stop reading this crap. I have to live it!

Is there a place where in-game advertising could work?

Our department has just had the 3rd and final candidate for our digital media position come in. I’ve got no special insight as to who, if anyone, might get the job and I’m not going to share my opinions on the matter. However, one of the candidates discussed mods. Like a lot of FPS players I play my fair share of mods. From Counter-Strike to Zombie Master I’ve spend hours playing fan made games (Yes I was playing CS long before Valve bought them. I still miss the VIP and Jailbreak modes!).

I started thinking about the role of advertising in games. We all hate advertising. Why should we pay full price for a game only to have it plastered with ads? I also thought about some of the backlash to the news that Garry’s Mod would start charging $9.95 for updates.

I also thought about the fact that from a Marxist perspective the practice of having fans create mods for commercial games is kind of exploitative. The only reason why game makers encourage mods is so that it will get people to buy their game. So, like “crowd sourcing” and much of web 2.0, the corporations are getting rich off of the unpaid work of the fans. No wonder so many mods never come out.

So I began to wonder, is there a solution? Would people accept ad supported free mods? I think it is a pretty good solution. Players still get free games. Mod makers get a little money for their efforts and they get some monetary incentive to keep working on their mod which might lead to more mods actually coming out and more timely releases which would make the fans happier.

So would people accept ad supported mods? Is that a place where in-game ads might actually be accepted?

the incestuous nature of the gaming blogs revealed

I’ve written about Jack Thompson a time or two and whenever I see a Jacko story posted I’m eager to see the latest of his shenanigans. I’ve even got a special search category for Jack Thompson stories on my google news papge. So imagine my delight when I hit up this morning and see several stories about Take-Two suing Jack Thompson.

Of those stories only one, kotaku, sources gamepolitics as the origin of the story. The date on that game politics story?
March 18, 2007

As far as I can tell someone at Kotaku screwed up and the other sites just ran with it and neither credited Kotaku nor Gamepolitics as the source of the story.

Before this i thought it was mainly just digg that attracted lame sites that lifted stories from websites, posted it on their own site without credit and tried to get pageviews but it looks like there are a lot of these crap sites out there.

Is this what the gaming and tech blog world has come to? Are these stories all just simulacra that have no real origin or that have no originality to them? Not only are these sites lame for picking up on a months old story but they are also a signifier of the absent referent that the internet is in danger of becoming. Linking was make for a reason, people. Is the thought of getting some ad revenue so great that you won’t take two seconds to read the entire story or at least link to the source of the article so that we can do your work for you and see if the article is valid or not. It is as if these blogs were some kind of game of telephone with one posting something then another reposting it with or without credit and then another
reposting that story. Each adds their own details and soon a story from March becomes front page news on their website. Is this the death of the author? Or is it possible that the Cult of the Amateur really does exist and Andrew Keen isn’t as wrong as everyone, myself included, seems to think he is? Noooooooo!!!!!!!!

Start of the new semester

Once again another semester has started. This will probably be my last semester here at IU Bloomington since I’ve applied for a teaching fellowship at one of the satellite IU campuses (I’ve tentatively accepted an offer from one but the paperwork hasn’t gone through I I’ll wait to mention which one lest I jinx it!)

Over the break I started playing a coupel games I thought I would mention. The first is probably not new to a lot of people: Peggle which is kind of a cross between Pachinko, The Price is Right’s Plinko, and bumper pool.
The next is probably less familiar but just as addictive to those of us that love FPS games and zombies: Zombie Master. There’s also Zombie Panic but I’ve not gotten around to playing that yet. ZM is kind of a combination between a FPS and an RTS with the zombie master playing from overhead god mode and using a control panel to spawn computer controlled zombies. I think I like it partially because of the zombies but also because the fact that they are zombies means that they are mostly slow which means that it isn’t really an advantage to use hacks or cheats and you don’t die right away from a headshot like you do in Counter-Strike. There also isn’t much trashtalking because you are all on one team and the zm will be someone different next round.

The final game I’m playing is probably the most obscure: You Are Empty. It is a Russian-made FPS that is set in the 50s-era Soviet Union (what is it with Eastern Europeans making FPSs lately?) It features mentally ill or handicapped people wearing head restraints and straitjackets running at you with sharp sticks, firefighters with flamethrowers, and ten feet tall killer chickens. To the best of my knowledge it is a 100% accurate depiction of life in Soviet Russia…

I have no idea what the name of it means but it is like 90% of the way to a decent game. It looks kind of like Half-Life 2 with the setting of a worn down deteriorating city but it lacks the Source engine’s physics or ability to pick as many things up. The main character is also the slowest character ever. He may be on crutches or in a wheelchair for all I can tell because when you are trying to run from a giant chicken you feel nothing but frustration. I wish they could give the company another 6 months to polish it (perhaps they need to Polish it to make it up to snuff?) or that someone would remake it for a better engine.

It wasn’t all great gaming over the semester break though as I did experience one gaming-related heartache. I tried to play Bioshock but my videocard is only a shader model 2.0b card and it requires a 3.0 card. There is a hack to make it work with my card but it says it could take up to 15 minutes to load a level. I think I’ll wait. Regardless, until I upgrade I’ll have to start reading minimum system requirements. Nooooo…!!!! The horror! The horror!

I’m done with it even if it isn’t done!

So I turned in my draft of my prospectus a week and a half late. Oh well.

I did a bit of pruning and adding to the blogroll so check it out.

I always like checking out new gaming blogs and it is sad when one stops updating or disappears. There are a couple I left on the list that haven’t updated for about 6 months and I just can’t make myself delete them. I keep hoping that they will update again some time. I know I’ve gone a month or two without updating so I try to cut them some slack. I’ve been blogging on my own website since January of 2004 and on on geocities since around mid-2002 and I know it is tough to keep updating so I’m hoping that the blogs will come back to life. (which reminds me, I’ve got some old posts over on geocities somewhere I should import. I guess that is what winter break is for…)


So my first real draft of my prospectus was due last friday. I still haven’t turned it in. I’ve got something but I still don’t feel comfortable turning it in.

I think the biggest problem is that the only time we read a prospectus is when we are writing one. So I don’t really know what a prospectus actually looks like so I don’t really know if I’m doing it correctly.

grrrr….. I guess I’ll hack around on it a bit more and email it off Sunday before I leave town.

must resist urge to start playing new game…