Early Advergames, Part I

atariadver.jpgIt's time for more weird stuff from my personal collection. One of the things that has interested me, both in my research and my design work, is advertising games (three chapters of my recent book Persuasive Games are devoted to it). We may think that advertising in games is as new as the web, or dynamic in-game ads, but it goes back much further than that.

The games depicted above aren't the first advergames (more on that another day), but they are among my favorites. They are Chase the Chuckwagon, created for Purina, and Tooth Protectors, for Johnson & Johnson.In 1982-1983, enormous numbers of games were created for the Atari VCS by large and small developers alike. The flood of games on the market may have partly contributed to the so-called "videogame crash of 1983". But it also represented a time when anyone could create, manufacture, and distribute a game for the most popular home console system.

One of the groups that became interested in such activities were corporations trying to market their wares to kids and families. Remember sending in UPCs? These two games were created as promotions for purchases. You would have to buy Purina dog chow or Johnson & Johnson dental hygeine products and then send in the UPCs to get the game.

As far as the games go, they aren't world changing experiences, but they are interesting attempts to integrate the products into a game. In Chase, you have to steer a dog to the Purina chuckwagon, avoiding a dogcatcher. In Tooth Protectors, you have to protect the teeth from attacking food bits. A full brushing regimen can be used to revitalize. I've got much more about how both games make claims about the products they advertise in my book.

As these games were only available by mail and for a short time, they are pretty rare. Some speculate that Chase is part of the inspiration for the title game in the novel Lucky Wander Boy, although I don't think there's any evidence for that claim. Chase actually came in a box, although I don't have it. Tooth Protectors was simply shipped in a foam insert.

Chase the Chuckwagon [Atari Age] Tooth Protectors [Atari Age]


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