Video Game Marketing, The Age Of Convergence, And Cleaning My Desk...

Yesterday I cleaned my desk – for the first time in God knows when. If I had to choose one word to describe the experience, that word would be ‘traumatic’.

There was a Tupperware container - I can’t remember what it used to contain, but the bulbous residue seems to suggest Pumpkin soup. There was a shirt, sprawled across an entire section, laying next to a bent coathanger for some reason; a plate that I ate a giant Muffin on; a Back to the Future mug my Mum bought me for Christmas, decorated in tea stains like you wouldn’t believe.

Oh, and absolutely shitloads of video game related tat.

Blu-rays, a Mafia 2 playboy calender I never opened, WWE All Star figures, Bayonetta playing cards, Sackboy plushies, video game soundtracks...

But, you know, in this everest-esque mountain of marketing material, there were remarkably few video games.

And it got me thinking.

Most of us got into this whole gaming ‘thing’ for one single reason – the games themselves and the playing of said games. But somewhere down the line it seems like someone had the smart idea of transforming our hobby into some sort of ‘lifestyle’ choice – something that defines us, something we need to spend countless amounts of money on. I’m sure that idea has made a lot of people a lot of cash – but it has also resulted in a lot of utterly pointless crap strewn across my desk.

If I had to take a guess, I would say that it’s part of a grander effort to have gamers engaged in their universe of choice for as long as possible, until it completely consumes them, until every cent of their disposable income is spent on it. Halo fans can read the books, watch the Blu-ray, decorate their room in Halo figurines, check their stats on Bungie.net, post in the forums, flick through the comic book...

And if they have time between all that, they might even turn on the game.

This is the age of convergence at work, and it’s just the beginning.

EA is leading the way in some regards. Their franchises exist as universes waiting to be exploited – Dead Space has the Blu-ray, the comic, studios are bought for the specific purpose of building mobile ports of their biggest selling games, designing its very own online network with which to ensnare you.

And by all accounts Activision is gearing up to crank things up yet another notch with Modern Warfare 3. Its newly formulated ‘Beachhead’ studio exists solely for the task of maximising the social aspect of Call of Duty – constant quotes from Activision execs and press releases would suggest that Call of Duty is about to take on Facebook.

Gaming is evolving – I get that. I want to be a part of that, I’m just not so sure if I like the direction it’s heading. In a sense it seems as though some video game publishers, and their incessant marketing machines, want customers who define themselves exclusively as gamers. They want us to sign into our gaming network, wear the t-shirt, display the figurines, walk around endlessly as an ambassador for their brand – but is that really what we want for ourselves?

I turn 30 tomorrow, and the older I become, the less keen I am to define myself as a ‘gamer’. Not because I don’t love games – I do - and not because I’m embarrassed to be a gamer – I’m absolutely not – but because it’s merely a facet of my person. I do other things. I am other things – a husband, a brother, a son - a bloody human being!

The more mainstream a lifestyle becomes, the less it needs to be mercilessly marketed at, the less it needs to be force fed down the throats of others. As a symbol of our growth as a collective, I think more attention needs to be put on the games – not the tat that surrounds them.

My work area is little cleaner now - I can actually breathe without fear of inhaling pungent pumpkin particles. Without the clutter, I can actually see the white of my desk – I feel like I can think with a little more clarity. I still have my Sackboy plushie - I’m still drinking from my disgusting Back to the Future mug. But maybe now I’ll be able to get some work done!


Comments

    Existentialism isn't allowed in this office. Box. Your Stuff. Now.

    But honestly, I agree. I've even begun to despise people who brand themselves as a "gamer", because 9 times out of 10, they are a 13 year old boy who spends more time swearing in the lobby of COD:MW2 than actually playing the game.

    At least I can now AFFORD games! xD

    MUHAHAHAHAHA. I LOVE the fact I can edit my spelling mistakes now!

      I'm 26 in about 12 days...

      can i still call myself a gamer if i punch a 13 yer old?

      And they are also a 13 year boy with no real understanding of technology or any geekery that was a given back in our day.

      I was using a dos prompt when I was 8. Back then you had to know your way around a PC to actually play games on it (my NES notwithstanding).

        Luxury.

        When I were a lad, we had to write our own games in raw binary, transcribe it onto punch cards and load them into memory one by one in order.

        But we didn't complain. Twas a simpler time, we had no graphics but we were happy.

        *snore*

          Back in my day we played an MMO by sending morse code to each other!

          beepbeepbeepbeeeeeepbeepbeeeeepbeepbeep

          If you don't win Kommunity Kudos for this, I seriously will not understand. I snorted my coke through my nose after reading that and laughing so hard!

          Epic.

          Coca Cola, not Coke. I wasn't snorting Coke...

          Epic Four Yorkshiremen reference.

          I saw and I approved.

    Mark Serrels. Husband. Brother. Son. Gamer. Slob.

    One-time game critic, but general digital media academic Henry Jenkins will explain it all to ya:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=RlRVNikT06YC&printsec=frontcover&dq=convergence+culture&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=PlDLTfvWBYj8vQOPotXgBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=1&ved=0CDEQ6wEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Love Henry Jenkins - he actually used to write about Pro Wrestling, cited that bearded bastard multiple times in my thesis.

        Shit, really? I cited him a whole lot in my Video Game Studies unit last year - probably my favourite game theorist out of all the stuff I read. But he wrote about pro wrestling too? Champ!

      Henry Jenkins is great, heard of him through a friend who is taking a digital communications/media subject.

    I know what you mean. I'm a 'gamer' but I'm also a great deal more.

    I'm not sure I like the direction gaming is heading in. I don't really game online and that's the way games seem to be heading. Social gaming is a great idea, but I think I still prefer hanging out with mates, being daft, and chatting about shite as a social interaction.

      I think this online gaming thing is really a big problem. Like I was telling my ex-guildmates, the biggest problem with wow is that you're playing it with people.
      As a direct contrast, the tiny Kotaku Minecraft server is awesome.

      The problem is the anonymity that being online brings (irony not lost on my handle), and the lack of skill-matching of a vast online community.

      Refer to John Gabriel's greater internet f*ckwad theory: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iscari0t/4777514492/

        I agree with Jamie regarding the multiplayer but it's not that you're playing with other people for me, its that I don't know any of them.

        I like to play games with my friends, I like the social contact involved in playing multiplayer games. Most FPS games these days though most people are just going to abuse you and the few people you do talk to that are intelligent and mature are gone again in 5 minutes time.

        I want to sit around a tv with friends and play together, have a chat, hang out a bit. Do the normal guy things. I loathe the way multiplayer is all moving to online competitive and completely neglecting the split screen/lan fans.

          I only play mp games with my mates, never with randoms. It's the only way I can avoid all the sexual comments I get from most guys/kids because I am a woman gamer.

    Happy Birthday for tomorrow.

    Mark, I'll help you out with that Sackboy plush if you need to clear your workspace in a fit of anti-consumerist rage.

    Also, good article and I'm sure a lot of others feel the same about other hobbies/interests. My friends who are surfers spring to mind: it's easy to identify the people who live the label and lifestyle which that affords them, and the people who just enjoy surfing.

      As someone who plays the bagpipes, I can tell you that some hobbies won't be going mainstream.

        Bagpipes rock! They get such a bad rap, which I don't think they deserve.

    "The more mainstream a lifestyle becomes, the less it needs to be mercilessly marketed at, the less it needs to be force fed down the throats of others."

    True that. Not even just gaming, to get all existential.

    I'm also wary of the convergence of gaming culture to such an extent that it could become a lifestyle (and often is) - but I would defend the right of publishers to publish, and consumers to purchase, other media that taps into the universe of their choosing. I don't doubt the creative ambitions behind, for example, comic series or novels spawned from gaming IPs.

    Moderation is key, I think. It's wise to keep perspective of the many, many things that make up a person other than one particular hobby.

    Great article. Very true on all counts.
    ...Well most of it. I don't for a second believe that you never opened the calendar. :P

    A very Happy Birthday for tomorrow. 30 is a big one, enjoy it.

    Very well written, totally agree with the statement that we are more than gamers, and slobs ^^

    It's similar to movie & comic franchises.
    For games I really (& would admit to be a fan of), I quite like getting "the extra stuff". My bf is a Halo fanboy, he has the 360 legendaryedition, 2 halo controllers (odst & reach),

    I agree with TadMod's statement regarding the word "gamer". It can often be taken to me the annoying child/teenager who seems to think the entire gaming world is that years Call of Duty. You can see hundreds of examples of this by just reading the EB Australia Facebook page.

    When in reality the word gamer should describe someone who is into the majority of games. Someone who likes different genres, different styles, etc of games, and who's life involves this.

    It doesn't mean there life is based entirely around it. It should be used as a tag for someone who enjoys games.

    The same way the tag, surfer, car enthusiast, painter etc would be used to describe a person keen on those hobbies.

    Finally, that is an awesome mug of the BTTF1 DeLorean, and there is nothing wrong keeping it stained. It's better than the artwork fading in the wash.

    I see this as a convoluted ruse to inform people that it is your birthday tomorrow and you don't want to be given generic gamer crap as gifts....

      Hahaha nice one.

      Yeah if that is not an abuse of his powers then nothing is... problem is, how many of your family (the ones likely to buy pressies) actually read what you write. I know my wife has no interest in my online life... will this *subtle* message actually get through?

    Merchandising! Merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs the T-Shirt. Spaceballs the lunchbox. Spaceballs the coloring book. Spaceballs the Flamethrower...

    Big props for the Pluto manga. Loved that series!

      I was hoping someone would notice - Pluto is awesome.

        Did you know that Despicable Me team doing live action/cg movie of Pluto?

    Strangely enough, almost all of the game related merchandise I own was a gift. From the sackboy plushie to the Luigi figurine. I don't actively seek it out, it just finds its way into my possession.

    I try, as best I can, to focus on the actual games. Still, the culture that surrounds gaming is fun to be a part of. Games attract a certain mindset and I happen to find that mindset fun to be around.

    And no, I don't mean the twelve year old with the four letter vocabulary. I mean people like me, who find enjoyment in puzzles and quickly adapt to new systems of arbitrary rules for their enjoyment.

    George Lucas has a lot to answer for!

    On the whole idea of 'gaming' it interesting to note that only a few years ago if you said the word 'gaming' people could reasonably assume you were talking about gambling.

    I don't know the implications of that, just an observation...

    You "snorted your coke through your nose"?

    Tad - you know what the Allure Media policy on drug taking is!

    Wait till lunchtime!

    DAMN YOU AND YOUR NEW FOUND ABILITY TO STEALTH EDIT!

      Is the policy 'take early and take often'? You must have been on drugs to pen the StreetPass piece, Mark.

    Mainstream = marketing really. Anytime something heads into the mainstream people make money off it. Surf culture, V8 racing.. mark webber.. hell even Facebook. How many marketing campaigns have used that in them.

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