We’ve Come A Long Way Since Pac Man • • • • •

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So I’ve been an avid gamer since 1982 when my parents bought my brother and me an Atari 5200. In the years since, I’ve spent far more time (and money) than I’d like to admit feeding my incessant urge to push buttons. But last night while watching TV I came across a video game advertisement that pushed my buttons. Not in a bad way really — I guess you could just say it gave me pause.
The ad was for the upcoming game DJ Hero 2. What struck me about it wasn’t how great the game looks or how much fun I’m going to have when I get it next week (with my wife’s permission, of course), but instead how it seems to use the game as a way to make a social statement — a statement that I believe would’ve been very provocative in Pac Man’s heyday. Take a look:

Nowadays it’s not all that unusual to see a game advertised with such heavy sexual overtones. After all, sex is second only to violence when it comes to selling video games. What I found interesting is how boldly the ad portrays interracial (and arguably implicit homosexual) relationships between the teenaged partygoers. The game itself is cast as the unifying, or “mixing,” force which brings people of all colors and genders together, ultimately resulting in the two gamer DJs switching bodies/mixing races.
So what to make of all this? First of all, I think it’s a pretty cool ad. And it’s unapologetically “racy” in more ways than one (especially considering it’s target audience). But mainly I find it fascinating that this industry of gaming, which was once pigeonholed as purely mindless amusement, has reached such a place that this type of ad could work. In this spot, the game play and graphics are secondary; instead, the experience of playing the game is the focus.
Needless to say, I think it’s a very interesting example of how those silly video games can be marketed. It’s certainly far different than the video game ads of my youth. For a bit of perspective, just have a look at this Ms. Pac Man advertisement featuring a familiar voice. Fair warning: There are some mild sexual overtones.

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Rob Womack

If there’s anyone who can honestly say, “Been there, done that,” it’s Rob. After traveling the world for seven years in his 20’s, Rob went to LA and started working in film production. Then it was off to New York, where he learned how to program, which eventually brought him back home to Louisville to build websites. At Current360, Rob heads up our in-house production studio, creating all things digital for our clients — videos, commercials, radio spots, and a lot more. 

When he’s at home, Rob likes to create things like homemade kombucha and music.