Saturday, 4 September 2010

Video Games and Advertising: The Awkward Relationship

Television advertising of video games has never worked all that well. It only takes a quick look back to Nintendo's 1986 Legend of Zelda TV ad campaign to see that it never had a good start (go hunt it out on youtube, I guarantee you will not be disappointed). The problem is simple, the masses do not take video games seriously as an art form, and the masses watch television, so when they see this inadequate form of entertainment they laugh it off. This isn't a criticism, think about it, cinema, music, literature, television all widely accepted forms of entertainment, but video games? The term instantly throws up depraved images of teenage boys sat in dark bedrooms hammering buttons with their thumbs, an association still somewhat valid, the vast majority of people who play video games are still teenage/twenty-something males. Video games have not matured enough in the eyes of the masses to become a serious contender in media. Whilst the Wii is affecting a change, it’s going to be some time until people start taking games such as the Halo franchise seriously. This simple logic however seems to have eluded some developers and others in the industry; who periodically churn out ads like the current 'Halo Reach' ad, a laughably bad piece of melodramatic horse shit.

Its problem is instantly noticeable; it takes itself far too seriously. I'd like to be able to describe what happens in the ad but I honestly have no idea. The whole thing is drowned in grim, dark colours, for what I assume is dramatic effect but just ends up making the sequence look about as deep as a fat goth who’s trying too hard. It doesn't help that the music that it's set to is a solitary drawling piano that leads in to a solitary female hum, a failed and weak attempt to recapture the effect of the Gears of War campaign featuring the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version of Mad World which was about as charming as a dead cat to start off with. It's all very unclear what's happening, then a soldier (or 'spartan' as my three second scan of wikipedia would reveal) takes into the air, flies in to a large space craft and throws an armed explosive device he recently discovered on the ground next to an identical looking comrade in to the centre of the space craft, leaving the camera to pan out as a large explosion takes place in an almost impressively banal fashion tying in perfectly with the rest of the ad. Now I'm not accustomed with the storyline of Halo but on the surface of it it seems to be genetically modified soldiers fighting aliens in space. Am I right? I'm fairly sure that's basically it, it's about as inspired as calling your main character something hideously generic like Master Chief. Oh wait.

This banality and non entertainment makes me wonder who this advert is trying to target? It's visual dullness and confusing plot line make it unappealing and alienating to people who've never heard of the Halo franchise or even those who have played it and take a casual interest. The only obvious audience it leaves is fans of the franchise, but surely the degenerates who understand and appreciate this exercise in generic storyline and game play (there I said it, Halo is a generic and over rated game) are already convinced that ‘Halo Reach’ will be awesome and will go out and buy it without any further convincing. So why bother? It could have been made well, take a look at the recent StarCraft 2 ad campaign, an example in video game advertising done right, it’s visually exciting, fast paced, intriguing and not all that anal. Sure it’s using tried and tested techniques, you’d be mistaken on first watch that StarCraft 2 is the next James Cameron CG epic, but if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Holy fucking dog shit the video title is even more pretentious than the video itself

1 comment:

  1. Man, you're angry. I guess you're aware of the similarities with Charile Brooker.

    You do make a good point though, the ad is awfully pretentious for a game whose objective - shoot bad aliens - is exactly the same as Space Invaders'.

    Anyway, glad you liked the comic enough to follow/comment on it. Keep up your good work!