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