We suspect it’s very difficult to work in game advertising. Videogames are a scary new artistic medium, and as such, not everyone knows how to market them – even to their target demographic. More than with anything else, videogame ad-makers love to target their audience with sex and sexy imagery, but that’s nothing surprising – advertisers have been using gender dynamics to sell products on TV since the Folgers coffee days.
Above: “Good thing he likes my coffee – otherwise I might lose him to the secretaries at work!”
Still, as games branch out and begin to reach a wider audience, advertisers are relying on more and more out-there PR stunts to get their product noticed. Where is this marketing madness heading? Well, we certainly don’t have the answers here. What we do have is a collection of game ads that veered way off course in trying to appeal to their target demographic, and instead came off as 30- to 40-second chunks of ridiculous, outrageous sexism.
Sony’s recent spate of PlayStation 3 ads have generally been a big improvement over its usual marketing, seeing as they’ve gone from being incomprehensibly creepy to actually promoting the system’s games and capabilities with a decent measure of humor. The ad for Uncharted 2, however, takes a baffling stance toward the ever-rocky relationship between women and videogames – and in the process, dismissively sandwiches footage of one of 2009’s best (and, ironically, least-sexist) games in the middle of a gag about how girls don’t understand technology.
Above: ‘Dear Sony, my hot girlfriend is an idiot who thinks videogames are movies. Please advise’
The joke is that Jason’s girlfriend thinks she’s been watching a movie while her boyfriend plays Uncharted 2, with controller in hand, presumably dying over and over again. For two days. And OK, that’s kind of funny, and it smartly underlines the ad’s central message: Uncharted 2 is a damn fine-looking game. But the punchline – the girlfriend’s adorable stupidity is all fine and good, because she’s hot – just leaves the guys looking sleazy and falls back on the tired old idea that women, and attractive women in particular, are utterly clueless when it comes to tech.
Oh, Mr. Butler, you clever VP of Big Action Moments, you. Of course it’s not an issue - Mr. Melvin’s getting laid either way! AMIRITE?
In the interest of fairness, though, it’s worth noting that Sony offset the above ad’s wry chauvinism with the “Unsatisfied Girlfriend” ad, starring a woman upset because her Luddite boyfriend won’t hook his PS3 up to the internet.
See? Women aren’t all idiots when it comes to technology. Some of them are also harpies who complain about you to strangers and will never ever be satisfied with anything you do. Not sexist at all.
OK. Normally we’re all for messing with traditional gender tropes, especially for comic effect, but our biggest issue with this ad is the suggestion that Peach should be a role model for little girls. Excuse me, Mr. PR man: were you aware of the role Princess Peach plays in the sexual hierarchy of the Mushroom Kingdom? You sure you want girls to emulate that?
Above: Real progressive pouting there, gals
Princess Peach’s legacy has been an everlasting scar on the world of gender politics and gaming for decades, and this ad only rubs salt into the wound. We’re all for giving Peach the ability to prove herself as a courageous heroine equal to her male counterparts, don’t get us wrong. But does the game Super Princess Peach tear down traditional gender roles or reinforce them? …Well, let’s put it this way: in Super Princess Peach, Peach uses her wildly fluctuating emotions to defeat her enemies.
Above: Clockwise from top left: Joy, Scorn, Calm, Sadness. Oh, and in the center is Vacant Stare
Have you ever seen an enemy defeated by drowning them…in your tears?
Above: Yes, that’s Peach crying into Petey Piranha’s mouth to defeat him. We can only hope this doesn’t lead to more hentai
Mario gets to throw fireballs from his hand, whereas Peach and her army of followers get to do…that. Obviously, not the best role model for little girls. Wanna know the worst part? We know from experience (and many rounds of Super Smash Brothers Melee) exactly how strong Princess Peach is capable of being:
Haha, if Peach is shown displaying any kind of agency or strength, it’s hilarious.