The Cold Hotspot: Part 3
Written by Beiddie Rafól
Marketing today is more than merely sticking ads in gaming magazines and participating in gaming forum discussions. In actuality it's a veritable amalgam of science, research, psychology, creativity, imaginativeness, and sheer guesswork. It's a complex art of persuasion where, emphatically, being educational, conditional, inquisitive, and tangibly pervasive socially, culturally, and even politically can be critical in selling a product. In the early 80s there was a huge controversy over a short TV commercial for Calvin Klein Jeans, in which a 16-year-old Brooke Shields suggestively cooed, "You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." Many angry callers flooded the phone lines of those TV stations that aired the advertisement with threats, and many an editorial was written accusing Calvin Klein of promoting pedophilia and using under aged models. In the end millions of pairs of 'Calvins' sold. The ad campaign worked, though whether it had to do specifically with pedophilia is debatable. That's not to say, however, that an adventure game should necessarily be controversial to be highly successful commercially or even critically. More recently a cleverly conceived TV spot for Playstation 2 showed a man witnessing a series of seemingly unrelated symbolic vignettes in an urban setting, culminating at the end with the brilliant tagline "Live in your world, play in ours. Playstation 2." This was clearly an appeal to the viewer to participate in and marvel at all those kinds of wonderment a computer game can envelop him in that the real world never can.
Considering these two rather brilliant marketing campaigns, I can't help but think of how some adventure games could be pitched: "If only your midlife crisis could be clicked away with a mouse. Syberia. Available now for PC and Xbox." Or how about: "It's 12.30 am. Do you know where your neighbor is? Moment Of Silence. Now on PC."?
The best adventure games nobody else has played? Left - Grim Fandango. Right - Gabriel Knight 3.
Games writer and reporter Jon Kristinsson ponders on this: "[Adventure games] are marketed badly....the Grim Fandango trailer was almost like a movie trailer, and that's just how I think it should be. It's just too sad the trailer wasn't shown in movie theatres....These things just need to be brought to the right crowd, the one that goes 'Oooh' when it sees something pretty and shiny, and then goes to tell their friends about it... The casual gamer doesn't browse Gametrailers.com, [s/he] goes to see movies in the cinema and watches TV."
There are and have been many excellent adventure games worthy of mass attention, yet practically undetectable as microscopic blips on the commercial radar. Why does it have to be like this? You can design the best adventure game ever in the history of mankind, but it's absolutely worthless and a waste of time if nobody knows about it, and you're not gonna make any money off of it so forget about that sequel.
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter for advice for the games industry, games scholar Dr. Henry Jenkins replied: "I think exploring a broader range of things the industry can do is the most powerful advice I can give...A legitimate argument is that there are fewer and fewer games being made for younger children and more and more being targeted at people over 18, which is where the center of the market is. There are good business reasons why they should be making more games for first and second graders - that space is under-served. And that leaves parents thinking that, although they'd like to buy games for their kids, the only ones they can find are the ones they constantly believe to be inappropriate."
Dr. Jenkins, who is a professor of Literature and director of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the author of From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, continues saying, "I'd recommend that the industry focus on advertising even more than they've done already. There's been dramatic progress made on ad content, but some companies are still targeting young people on games that some people feel are inappropriate for that age range. And when I go to Senate hearings and there are blowups of game ads all around the room that are really hard to ignore -- with bathtubs full of blood and slogans like 'more fun than killing your grandmother' -- that sort of thing does more damage than it does good in terms of sales."