A History Of Weird, Sexist Video Game Ads [NSFW]

Alright, folks. We've got a lot of potentially offensive images to go through today, and not much space for preamble. So let's just cut to the awful, awful chase. For my main gig, I edit one of the last remaining gaming magazines in the southern hemisphere. It's a shrivelling medium that was once overflowing with full-page print advertisements, though that's certainly not the case anymore. Don't cry for me, I'm already dead.

Note: This is NSFW.

Nowadays, the latest AAA games are pimped at you from the side of a bus, or some random patch of wall at a train station, or during the first 15 seconds of a YouTube video you want to watch.

Anyway, while researching some nameless, retro-themed feature, I perused 30 odd years of gaming rags in the hopes of finding amusing and/or quaint ads about stupid products. You know, the sort of colossally stupid contraptions that, if printed in a modern magazine, would soon be scanned, posted online and mercilessly memed to death by our Internet hive-collective. During this search, I created two directories on my desktop labelled “Funny”, and “Shit You Really Couldn't Get Away With Now”. I'll let you guess which one was chockers by the end of my journey...

In olden times, third-party peripherals were much more prevalent than they are now. In a largely offline society one could easily sell a whole bunch of crazy and/or worthless crap to unsuspecting teenage gamers. Things like stylish force-feedback vests, or gaming gloves that “protected” the wearer from minor friction burn (yet increased said user's risk of verbal and physical assaults from their mates).


My rediscovering of these unusual peripherals soon took a turn for the smutty, however. Manufacturers selling perfectly useful products – like cheat devices that must have been irresistible in an age without Gamefaqs.com – figured their best promotional options were infidelity and soon-to-be-pants-less female models.


Also, inexplicable breasts. Try those. As I flicked through issue after issue it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a trip down mammary lane as well. A firm pair was seen as the perfect way to entice gamers into noticing a useful and low-cost controller. Failing that, derrière was the next best bet to shift a cheat device that could in no way deliver on the implied promise of that mythical Tomb Raider nude code.


Earlier on I touched upon female models with a lack of garments below the equator. As my slog through sleaze continued, I noticed a few bottom-line-obsessed companies were a hell of a lot “edgier” than others. Needless to say, if an advertiser tried any of these today, they'd be nuked from orbit in no time.


When a lack of basic lower-body attire wasn't enough to peddle one's piece of crap game, or flagging video game console, some suits weren't afraid to up the ante to full nudity. Sometimes implied, other times not.


But, to be fair, I did find one isolated instance of full monty of the male variety. That came with what one could argue to be a side order of homophobia.


And it's at this point that I'd like to acknowledge that back-in-the-day-Sega was one of (if not THE) worst and repeat offenders for “smut-sells” advertising...


Even though I lived through this era of gaming, and religiously devoured magazines like these on a regular basis, I'm now genuinely surprised by how widespread the cock 'n' balls innuendos are. Dicks. Like, man-dicks, referenced everywhere. Do you know which gaming peripherals are shaped like dicks? The best kinds, apparently. And you should buy them.


And a few more peen puns to prove my point...


As amusing as male genitalia can be to the developing mind, I did spot a few ads that would quite rightly fire up the pitchfork brigade. Lame get-in-the-kitchen references, and basically the typical exclusionist bullshit that should have been stamped out from the get-go of our medium, but wasn't.


So what did I learn from this brief, back to the future leap through gaming magazines? What should be our take away from this? Personally, I think it's this: modern gaming and gamers are constantly roused on for their immaturity when dealing with sensitive issues (race, gender, you name it). I'm not arguing against the fact we have a long way to go – we absolutely do — but can we all agree that, at one point in time, it was a helluva lot worse.


Comments

    How are the blue gun, kick some balls and balls out ads sexist? #ActuallyIt'sAboutEthics

    Last edited 11/12/15 12:09 pm

      Because they're referencing man-junk.

        How is that sexist?

          Because it's, ummm, prejudiced towards men? Because that kind of reference has nothing to do with those games? Kinda weak, I suppose, but could be considered sexist.

          Because it's inappropriate sexual references which may make people feel uncomfortable. Just because it's not uncomfortable for you doesn't mean it's not uncomfortable for other people. You know - like butt sex.

      If you read the article, you'd realise that part was about the way Sega used sex related stuff in their ads. The offensive ones were presented after those.

    Well, Adam Mathew (if that IS your real name) your efforts then and going forward were no doubt appreciated nonetheless. Seriously, is that you Mark.

    This sort of bawdy, bonkers marketing is very hard to accept nowadays, yes. I'm not going to go too much into it except to add my own memorable ones. No I'm not going to link them because what the hell.

    That Gameboy BDSM one?

    The Ocarina of Time 'don't play like a girl' thing.

    Killer Instinct's worse-than-90s-Lara Croft 'sexy' characters. MK had the blood and guts, but this game had female fighters flashing enemies to death.

    Nintendo Magazine System's Mailbag page, specifically the later issues' graphic at the top of the page. If you print media types can get your hands on a copy you'll understand this reference and you'll you know what I am talking about.

    Ahhh a much simpler time when you could see something, perhaps laugh, perhaps be a little bit offended, and then move on with your day. It must be exhausting for people these days to be outraged by everything.

    Last edited 11/12/15 12:21 pm

      Because you are clearly on the side that "laughed" you cannot understand how not "little bit" was the other party offended. For you, it's a laugh here and there, with no bad intentions and no lasting repercussions. But there are thousands, millions of "you". So for the offended party, it is a never-ending stream of harassment, belittlement and dismissal.

      I'm pretty sure that most of that people are already so exhausted of suffering from all this, that they don't mind adding a bit of exhaustion if it is to raise their voices and make others acknowledge it.

        Actually, you're spot on. I cannot, and I doubt will ever, understand how a little sexual innuendo (to both men and women) in some advertisements makes someone feel belittled and harassed.
        I know it does, you only have to have a twitter/facebook account or frequent a variety of blogs to know that nearly anything, no matter how innocuous offends someone out there. But it's just not in my psyche
        As I said, it must be exhausting.

          I'm like you, in that I doubted I'd ever understand how a little innuendo can set someone off so dramatically, but I'm starting to come around.

          A friend of mines daughter had a video go viral a few years back, and she's leveraged it into quite a successful career as a sort of social media ambassador. Sorta. She's pretty, so theres modelling as well, but in general she's an online clothes horse for the various brands. To date she has something like a million followers on both Facebook and Instagram, so it seems to be working out so far

          Anyhow, I follow her on Facebook (I've known her since she was born), and occasionally look at the comments that people post. I wish I hadnt, far too many are way out of line, mysoginist (sp?), or straight out perverted.

          Plenty of them arent meant to be that way, but just come across as incredibly creepy, and I dont think I'd think of them that way if it wasnt for the fact that her parents are amongst my best friends and that I'd known her so long.

          It really surprised me when I was looking at what would have meant to be innocent admiring comments from a somewhat protective mentality.

            I feel that scenario's a little bit different - in that it's a direct comment, or attack, on the person themself. Your friend's daughter is famous and any level of fame is going to bring out some weirdo's. Look at any A-list celebrities instagram and there will always be a couple of comments calling them all sorts of horrible things. The pitfalls of fame, if you will.
            But things like adverts, or TV shows, or a comedians set, or even the name of a building (http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/09/students-demand-school-rename-lynch-hall-for-being-offensive/) that sets people off and gets them upset? Just leaves me shaking my head.

          So, if you understand (even if it is with that little wording that makes it sound as though it's those people's fault for being so sensitive) that it can be offensive for some even if it's not for you, why do you feel the need to decry their plight?

          You keep saying "must be exhausting" to disguise with pity what's clearly contempt for their presumed whinginess. You know what would they like more than complaining? Not having a reason to complain. That's why they cannot be silent now: the hopes that in the future there will be no need for all the outrage.

            Because, quite simply, not everyone's "plight" is in fact an issue that bears pity.

            If someone feels so aggrieved by a bit of sexual innuendo in an advert, or any other such little thing, that it becomes a plight... I don't feel contempt (though thanks for twisting my words into what you want them to be), I actually do feel pity for them. To get upset and crusade against something so small, I can only imagine they're upset A LOT. And being upset, I find, is exhausting.

              Because, quite simply, not everyone's "plight" is in fact an issue that bears pity.

              And who are you to, from your position of safety and comfort, think that you should decide whether the suffering of others is worthy of pity (or more importantly, change-bearing action) or not, when they are telling you that it does?

              You are the one that keep calling their problems "small" and the one wishing that they would just move on and pitying them because being upset as if /not/ being upset was the superior choice. That's where I get the word "contempt" from. However, I understand that your contempt may be as invisible for you as the reasons for their outcry are.

                Contempt implies disgust, I don't harbour such feelings. But since you again choose to believe what you want to think I'm saying, rather than what I actually say, whatever. Your prerogative.

                Suffering. From looking at an advert. Suffering??? What planet am I on? If anyone, anyone at all, looked at any of those ads above and suffered because of it, then life must be hard as fuck for them. A lot of the time not being upset IS a superior choice.
                If you are "suffering" from seeing an advert with a little sexual innuendo, then yes, I think you perhaps should have a little thicker skin, turn the magazine's page, move on, smell the roses.

                  Obviously the ads themselves do not cause any suffering. Suffering is caused by the compound effect of thousands of little and big sexist messages in media and popular culture and how they cause men to perceive women. They are just part, symptom and consequence of a system that for long time has told women that beyond some T&A and a willing vagina, they have no worth or reason to be (except, they joke, to go to the kitchen and make me a sammich).

                  None of these messages by themselves are harmful, nor are jokes and innuendo here and there. But again, when it's the whole media machine doing it, and a significant part of the population that it is influenced by it, it becomes a never-ending barrage of tiny humiliations, dismissals and invalidations that become one huge "shut up and bend over". More importantly, men and women "trained" to think in these ways are indeed going to cause suffering to women. Not every man effected by a sexist culture is a rapist, but you can bet that every rapist is someone who swallowed whole the unspoken gist of sexism. Same with wife-beaters, emotionally abusive husbands and the such.

                  You keep saying "it's only a little offensive", but a) you can't really judge that from your position, and b) it adds up, when it's everywhere. "Death from a thousand cuts" isn't so easy to just move on from.

                  I think it's the way you're blaming the victims for not having thicker skins that's getting the reactions here though. That also adds up, when it's so common.

        Boy bands are peddled to hormone filled young girls and have been since Elvis. Heart-throb movie stars with muscles and abs are peddled at women. Sexy women are peddled to boys and men.

        Sex sells, for both sexes. Get over it.

    the virtual tennis ad is neither sexist of homophobic its just pointing out the truth that no one likes change rooms be they male or female because theres always that one person who want to chat in the nude

    How is not wanting to be around naked people homophobic? Because they're men? Are you inferring that a homosexual man would be totally fine being around naked people with their junk in their face just because they're gay? I'm just confused, I can see a sexist slant to the article because no women are included in the depiction or discussion but it reads to me, using appropriate media conventions, that the situation - being in a room full of naked people - is not an unreasonable source of insecurity for any gender. The men are not depicted as gay, they are depicted as almost bumbling and slovenly - which are universal traits, sexuality is not implied at any point, just can't see it.

    HAHA Oh man these are gold. I never saw most of these in my youth, but of course any sexism would've flown over my head. Advertisers definitely got that 'go for the teenage boys' angle.

    But, to be fair, I did find one isolated instance of full monty of the male variety. That came with what one could argue to be a side order of homophobia.

    Uhh dude, you do know you don't have to be a homophobic male to feel uncomfortable sharing space with a bunch of naked men right?

      Yeah. Considering that's probably a US advertisement where changing rooms and public showers aren't particularly uncommon I'd say it's more about the awkward moments you encounter in those situations than simply making fun of the idea that male nudity = gay = gross. I know I used to hate going into the locker rooms when I worked in a gym and it had nothing to do with homosexuality.

      Yeah, the awkwardness is at least as much body image as it is sexuality in my experience.

    Were those SEGA ads actually SEGA ads or ads by third parties selling SEGA products? You've got to remember a lot of this promotional material comes from a time when you could just slap the brand logos on your store window and nobody would care. Even Nintendo, who have always been control freaks, didn't pursue that stuff as much as they do now. Protecting intellectual property wasn't an industry of it's own back then.
    I would wager a lot of these ads were trying to draw non-gamer sales from magazine audiences that weren't family friendly (tennis ads in porno magazines are a weird tradition). The ad being in a magazine like Penthouse or Playboy doesn't make it better, but we're used to seeing focused, uniform ad campaigns that when we see an ad from back then it doesn't register properly that this wasn't how they were selling the product everywhere.
    I'm not defending any of this, I found these sorts of ads offensive back when nobody gave it a second though, it's just interesting to think about the way advertising has changed and how the way we see modern ads warps how these appear when looking back. On the one hand it's great it's no longer ok for the point of the ad to be 'buy this and she'll fuck your brains out' but on the other it sucks that advertising has become so robotic and soulless.

      A bit of both I'd say. Sega in the west was definitely going for a 'not for children' attitude to compete with Nintendo and picking up every 'mature as a teenagers thinks they are' trope would be the way to go back then.

        Yeah, that attitude was feeding into everything SEGA at the time, from the official and independent advertising to the fans. It's funny when you look back and you see entire games that were nothing but an excuse to make some box art that promoted the 'mature' image of the brand.

    I am surprised to learn 'Metal & Lace: The Battle of the Robo Babes' is actually a real game.

      Wow for years I've tried to find this game. I learnt MS Paint (and now work in the digital arts) by removing bras, panties and lingerie from the girls pictures till they were completely naked.

      Note: I was a very young lad, and internet porn wasn't a thing yet.

      Last edited 11/12/15 2:01 pm

    Someone never played Street Fighter II on the SNES!

    So many memories, I remember one of my first wanks being to that half naked "she really wants it" BattleCruiser 3000AD poster. Never bought the game though, suck it Gametek.

    Last edited 11/12/15 2:06 pm

    Strangest thing is I suddenly want to buy a sega saturn

    When a lack of basic lower-body attire wasn’t enough to peddle one’s piece of "CRAP GAME", or flagging video game console, some suits weren’t afraid to up the ante to full nudity. Sometimes implied, other times not.

    Sudeki was a very good game. The game was too short tho.

    Clicked on link to see the Davis Cup one with the bare arsed female tennis player.

    Was not disappointed.

    I remember that being in all the gaming magazines back in the day.

    Seeing as Metal & Lace is actually and "Adult Game" (Megatech was one of the earliest companies to license and release eroge in english) is that joke "really" a pun? xD

    Beigeists. Beigeists everywhere.

    Reminds me of when DoA 3 (?) was being adverstised. Like some other games, there were postcards about with one showing a fair bit of leg and the caption "Die smiling" and another showed a chest with the caption "Fake never looked so real."

    Personally I don't think they were going too far; to me this is tongue in cheek humour (I know what I just said) but today even that gets one branded.

    People complain about the sexualisation of games today, yet today's games are just plain tame compared to the 90s and 00s yet people are screaming lauder now than back then. I just don't get the logic.

    I remember that battlecruiser 3000AD ad! 13 year old me was very impressed with it.. clearly it had an effect on me to still remember it.

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