A Man, a Board, a Brand
"I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit I probably spent as much time coordinating my outfit as I did learning how to pull off a Nollie Inward Heelflip. The sheer volume of products you can buy is mind boggling, especially when you consider that most (if not all) of the products featured are available for purchase with real money in actual stores. If, as the pundits have suggested, violent videogames allow troubled children to 'rehearse' aggressive and dangerous behavior, skate is providing sorely needed training for our nation's youth to navigate their local shopping malls."
Jordan Deam examines the advertising potential of EA's skate.
I enjoyed this article immensely. I have to say I was struck by how thoroughly well produced the world and game experience was in Skate. I grew up in Southern California through the 80's and 90's and the skate/surf culture was ever present in my world. Something about how Skate was realized rung true (where as the latest Tony Hawk installment seemed to miss the point on all fronts).
I see Skate as a forerunner in video game style; from the confidently art directed UI, music selection, diverse balance of aggressive and casual gaming, and on. This is an a game that can be appreciated by discriminating adults. Which also makes it a good testing ground for inline advertisements. I've been amused to see billboards and bus stop adverts change through the past few months of gameplay. In some games it can mug the game and make it seem trite... but in other games (like Skate) it helps set the mood.
It was funny, I had just finished a great half pipe session and subsequently editing a video of it when I noticed a Carl's Jr. billboard in the background and I started to feel nostalgic of when I'd ride my skateboard to Carl's for a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger then ride down the hill to the beach to watch the sun set. I guess what I'm getting at is rather than feeling cramped by advertisements I was actually brought closer to a real experience because there was bridge between the ubiquity of advertising and consumerism in the real world to that in the game world.
So, If companies are savvy enough to advertise in good games, that's great for everyone... however if the games betray the gamers as no-depth vehicles for vendors they will only damn themselves and their sponsors. This is an interesting discussion and thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I cannot agree enough with Taylor. A great article. I was excited that there was an article about skate. in this edition, as it is one of my favorite games this year. Even better that you looked at a part of the game I didn't realize. Of course I saw all the branding as well, but my disc is a bit scratched (got loose during shipping) and most of the clothing crashes the game.
The only thing that really sprang out for me was the Adidas store. Well and one instance of really bad advertising. Maybe it's because I live in Germany and there are not that many companies interested in buying virtual Ad space, but for some time San Vanelona (at least while playing online) was rather Coke Zero City. Every billboard, every poster, everything was Coke Zero themed. While I thought that was somewhat cool as the flavor just got released, it looked odd.
Now, what I really liked was taking promo shots for my board sponsor. I mean, I did a trick and tried to position the camera so that the deck was featured prominently. Those shots look extremely cool and realistic, just like a shot from real advertising.
On the whole, now that I think about it, the story mode is the real advertising here. I mean, if you chose a brand you already knew and liked, I guess you didn't realize that, but I chose Enjoi of which I never heard before. In the course of the story I started to identify with the brand, the Pro representing the brand and, as I said, even started taking promo shots for their coolest deck. This all made me like the brand so much, that I actually want to buy real stuff. This all crept up to me so slowly, I never saw it coming. Very, very effective.
I would be appalled by all the Ads in another game. Right, it fits the genre, it fits the style of the game and it is just such a great game. So, once again I agree with you Taylor. If the game is deep and great and the Ads are pulled off effectively, it is simply great for everyone.
I guess I'm going to skate around San Vanelona for a bit now.
(By the way, am I the only one who really wants this San Vanelona zipper hoodie from the skate store ? After all EA did create its own brand with this game as well.)