Friday, June 27, 2008

Pocket Monsters

In this chapter from Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter take aim at the cultural capital and control fueled by the marketing industry and how it has been applied to the relatively new medium of video games. The authors start by providing a broad overview of the marketing apparatus in question and the potential power it has to shape the development and adoption of new product.

Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter then move into a discussion of the management of game systems and properties as “branded” commodities, requiring the development and maintenance of brand cachet and loyalty. This loyalty must withstand assault not only from competing games and game systems but also other entertainment options (as we only have so many hours per day).

The discussion of games in relation to other media outlets leads naturally into a discussion of how video game marketers use these opposing media for the promotion of the game products, thereby co-opting some of the threat posed to their properties. In order to distribute the image and message desired to the target audience, namely media-savvy, cynical gamers, these video game advertisements have become less like ads and more like the media they are embedded within, taking cinematic, dramatic or humorous, tongue-in-cheek approaches to promotion.

The barriers between the different mediums are further blurred by the synergistic flow between television, movies, books, music and video games. This flow exists in all directions, with properties being passed between all potential outlets with no restrictions. The flow even allows entertainment products to be incorporated into advertisements, as well as advertisements to be incorporated into entertainment products (i.e. product placements). To illustrate this fluid and all-encompassing approach to the creation and control of culture through marketing, Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter provide examples of the reach and deliberate cross-genre production marketing effort put forth by the Pokemon franchise.

Leaving aside the fact that Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter take a somewhat elitist view of media, culture and advertising, there is another aspect of this cultural marketing effort which they neglect to address: counter-arguing. The marketing field is represented as an all powerful juggernaut, able to impose its will on the masses without limit. Despite the view put forth by videogame marketers that “marketing…can turn a mediocre game into a successful one”, the roll of independent reviewers, particularly in this age of wikis, blogs and instant information access, is hard to ignore and should not be discounted.

(As an aside, if anyone has not seen the “ZeroPunctuation” videogame review series, you really need to check it out.)


Sarah. R. said...

"...the role of independent reviewers, particularly in this age of wikis, blogs and instant information access, is hard to ignore and should not be discounted."

I agree with your point here, and I would actually just add that the savvy marketers out there are already all over this trend, doing thins like creating fake reviewers, planting reviews and even creating entire blogs and sorts of misleading media to trick people into thinking they are getting independent viewpoints.

Eric M said...

This article brought back many distinct memories of the games that did fail when they attempted to be built across other forms of media, usually in the movie realm. For every Pokemon that is successful, there is a Super Mario Brothers movie which is just plain horrible. I would agree that the media is very successful in making bad games/products popular, but as Jasun and Sarah have pointed out, in today's age, we have so many alternative viewpoints from those who actually consume the product, not only from those who produce through ads, etc.

Nick S said...

A game turned movie we didn't talk about in class was Doom. I know there was a ton of hype before the movie game out, there was even a scene where the screen became 1st person. I'm not sure how the movie did at the box office, but I saw it a couple months after it came out and didn't think it was horrible.

There was also a part in the article that made me feel the other never tried the Pokemon game out. She said, The game focused on the adventures of the main character, Pikachu, and his friends, as they attempt to capture imaginary creatures called Pokemon..."

I think we all know the game isn't based around pikachu, unless you wanna argue pokemon yellow was, but rather it was based on the guy you control. In the 1st pokemon games pikachu doesn't show up until the later "zones"

Jasun said...

Nick- Doom failed horribly at the box office.

rtaylor said...

while the super mario bros movie is not a cinematic masterpiece, i think there is still some good in that movie. taking the fun images from the game and turning them to humans is difficult, but i wonder why they decided to take the fun away from it and make everything slimy. this is definitely one symbol that has had its presence felt throughout many different modes of media and the discussion in the article was very interesting to know.

Jon72585 said...

I'll continue to harp on the topic of video game movies. Did anybody ever see Street Fighter? Or Mortal Kombat? (The movies, of course). Street Fighter is so bad that it is almost good. Jean Claude Van Damme never ceases to amaze. It was just ridiculous on every level. Mortal Kombat somehow managed to not be such a horribly bad movie, but it's no Godfather 2.

And to think, they are still churning out bad movies based on fighting games. DOA anybody? Here's hoping for a "Clayfighters" film.

I wonder why it is that (for the most part) they can't cross over to make successful movies out of games. Maybe it is because the games themselves are somewhat cinematic already?

Sarah. R. said...

Part of the problem with that definitely stems from the fact that they have to have concordance among the various "media properties" such that a movie can't mess up the mythology presented in the game, and vice-versa. Makes it hard to do a story with any real plot line, in my opinion.

Adrian said...

Re: Pokemon

TOTALLY. I find myself constantly wondering how many of these researchers and writers are fish-out-of-water when it comes to these games. They often say things, but they clearly don't know enough about the topic that they bring up SO often.

It reminds me of the concept of alien vs. native users that someone brought up. Anthropologically speaking, these people have definitely (in general) NOT gone native.