Friday, May 27, 2011

Are we that juvenile?

It seems we've reached another low in gaming history.  Duke Nukem Forever, that game for which we've been waiting forever, released a new trailer... where Duke throws faeces. That's right, as part of the promotion material for the game, the developers thought it would be fun and encourage people to buy the game by demonstrating that you could throw faeces and that Duke would comment about it.

Really? Are games that lacking in creativity that they need to resort to that kind of advertising in order to gain attention? Sure, the "Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2" campaign was bad enough, but now we're forced to endure garbage like this? Surely games as a medium have more credibility than that? Let's just consider the history of Duke Nukem for a moment to realise how stupid this truly is.

You just flushed your credibility down the toilet.

Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996, and was rated 18+ in most countries. Even if we consider that the youngest players might have been around 10 years old when it came out, those same people would be 25 years old now. Do the developers honestly think that this kind of toilet humour is going to win over a faithful audience of 25 years or older? If we're going by people who were legally allowed to buy the game when it came out, they are now 33 (or 30 in Australia) years old. To me, this video is a prime example of the kind of hideous mis-steps that developers, publishers and marketing teams are making when creating games. I, for one, will not even remotely consider a pre-order of Duke Nukem Forever now because of this video. In fact, I imagine that I'll probably wait until it drops significantly in price before I bother buying it, even if the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. How can I expect to be treated to a fun and witty gaming experience if this is what was chosen as "good advertising material"?

Of course, I can't let this pass without lambasting IGN for their comment when posting this video... "The insane shooter game Duke Nukem Forever may have a Mature rating, but this trailer shows the fun things you can do with poop." There you go, IGN approves of this marketing and declares this gameplay to be "fun". Neither "absolutely disgraceful" nor "utterly shameful" come close to accurately describing the situation.

Perhaps they are trying to capitalise on a different market? Maybe we need more promotional material like the brand-new super-exciting, put-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, "No-way!-It's-going-to-be-the-best-game-ever!" trailer for Modern Warfare 3. I loved MW1, thought MW2 was a serious step backwards, and based on the trailer, I'd say that MW3 looks set to continue that downhill trend.  Given the incredible hype, I almost wondered if I'd watched a different trailer. All I saw was something that looked like it was trying to imitate the "non-stop action" and "cinematic excitement" of something like Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The methodology appeared to be to cram as many famous landmarks as possible in the video and blow them up or have exploding vehicles near them and watch the fans go crazy.

MW3: Has a higher protagonist death toll than ever before!

Yes, I'll admit that I'm exaggerating (though only slightly) to demonstrate a point, but I feel it's something that simply doesn't seem to be gaining much credence in the biggest AAA franchises. As someone who loves video games I'm ashamed by the large number of developers selling big name titles that resort to this ridiculous over the top attitude, cheap-tactic marketing campaigns, or purile attempts at humour in order to get attention. What worries me more is that in many cases it seems to be working. The frenzy over the MW3 trailer was phenomenal, and the Duke Nukem juggernaut appears unstoppable riding on over a decade of "Are we there yet?" waiting.

Where are the intelligent advertising campaigns? Where are the games that are actually trying to be bigger and better rather than simply trying to break a new "explosions per minute of gameplay" record? Where are the games that are actually trying to be funny instead of making bad attempts at toilet humour? They're out there, certainly, but they're overshadowed at times by uninspiring material like these two examples.

More importantly, why is the gaming population pandering to such behaviour? Why are we not telling publishers "we deserve better" when terrible marketing campaigns (or games) are shoved in our faces? Or am I as a gamer that far removed from the pulse of the general public that I no longer accurately represent that biggest market segment that publishers are trying to get to buy their product?

There have been some truly great gaming titles that not only provide some fantastic gaming experiences, but also give us something to think about long after we've put the controller down. We've played games that have given us amusing quotes or lines just as powerful as any book, movie or tv show. Gamers have grown up. Games have grown up. Can't advertisers and developers get on-board and deliver the type of experience that our favourite entertainment medium deserves?


  1. The target audience for Duke Nukem games has always been immature 18-21 year olds, that's why you could make wisecracks to strippers and use the toilet in the original. And Modern Warfare sells millions of copies in every release. So the short answer is yes, you and I aren't the target market.

    Intelligent advertising campaign for big budget game? Dead Island's cinematic. Halo's alternate reality games.

  2. I thought that the majority of the goodwill towards Duke Nukem was based on the people who played Duke 3D when they were younger. Those people aren't 18-21 anymore. I would have said I was part of their target demographic, or at least what their target demographic *should* be. I was interested to see and play Duke Nukem 3D. Heck, I would have probably pre-ordered. But not after that.

    I believe I've stated on my blog before that I loved the original Modern Warfare. I thought it was a fantastically put-together piece of work that provided fun and balanced multiplayer, and had a superbly crafted and executed single player campaign. It hit all the right notes, made you care about your character and put them through the wringer to give you a rollercoaster action ride. MW2 threw all that out the window with its incoherent plot, multiple protagonists (who kept getting killed or almost killed) and over-the-top sequences that were too far fetched even for the corniest action movie. I still love excellent FPS games, but MW2 wasn't one of them.

    But I guess there's a difference between being part of the market, and the key market the game is aimed at.

  3. I only ever played duke nukem EGA edition.