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Death of a Consumer September 28, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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The following article was originally written on November 9th, 2004, just after I had attended the midnight launch of Halo 2.  It was submitted to my freshman college English class that following day where it drew a cult following among the students and the Professor.  What follows is a slightly updated version of the article, mostly just minor tweaks.  The article is about advertising, and how it differs gender to gender.

A lone figure walks down a dark shadowed hallway.  The hallway is made entirely of metal and looks like the corridors you’d see in a futuristic spacecraft.  The figure is clad in space armor and walks down the hallway with purpose.  The light shines upon him and the viewer recognizes the figure.  It is none other than the Master Chief, the hero of Halo.  Reaching into a weapons locker, he grabs a rifle from the cabinet and enters an elevator.  Over the speakers play distress signals from across the galaxy, military forces in dire straits with need of help.  Finally the Master Chief makes it to the bottom of the elevator and steps outside of it.  Then the following two voices are heard.

“Admiral, tell your men to hold their positions, re-enforcements are on the spoke.”

“The entire fleet is engaged, Cortana.  With respect, what the hell sort of re-enforcement have you got?!”

The Master Chief looks out a window in the spacecraft.  In the darkness of space a familiar object is seen.  Earth is under attack.

At the end of the trailer appeared the subtitle:  “Stop Destruction of Human Race…In Progress”. 

The Master Chief readies himself to be blown out the airlock and opens the airlock doors, sucking himself into space and on top of the closest alien ship he can hit.

Sounds like a scene in a movie doesn’t it?  It’s not from a movie at all.  It’s from a commercial.  This one advertisement for a game that would be two years away started a new generation of gamers.

“Lose inches off your waist with no money down”, “More absorbent then the leading pad”, and “Have a very happy misses at home” are just a few examples of this strangle hold the advertising media has on the country.  It stays subliminally in our consciousness showing in between breaks of our favorite and not so favorite television programs.  It takes time away from our lives to corrupt us to feed money into the capitalist machine that is the world.  Yet advertising is all around us.  By integrating itself into our everyday lives it has us working jobs we hate to buy stuff that we don’t need.

You can see the trends in advertising marketing with the major difference in style of the first Halo 2 trailer and the Halo 2 commercials that aired on television.  The internet is seen as a different type of medium than the television.  The first trailer was intended for the people who loved the first Halo game and would use up their internet bandwidth to retrieve it to watch it.  Even though it didn’t show much except some new footage of the Chief going down an elevator and then later blowing himself out of an airlock hangar to hopefully land himself on board an alien ship’s hull while subtitles played, the intent was more to jar the memories of the first game with the players of Halo 2 using extremely simple methods while making a simple nod to where the second one will go.  It also showed off an early version of the new graphics engine to whet the appetite of what would be possible for the second game visually.

This is quite different then where the current TV commercials for Halo 2 are targeted.  They are more action oriented with an attempt to appeal to a person who is unfamiliar with the Halo universe.   These ads are professionally done, more targeted around showing off what the game can do to appeal to people who have a casual interest in video games other then the demographic of Halo gamers who the advertising agencies probably figured were already set to buy the game regardless of advertising.   There certainly wasn’t any intent in the commercials to make the game appeal to women.

Men and women are hardly alike.  I must admit this is hardly a controversial statement to make.  Such books have been written to show this very statement, including the very popular book, Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus.  Personally I would’ve preferred to come from Jupiter, but that’s not the point.  Men and Women have different tastes and different interests.  It’s not true in every case.  Sometimes women share interests with men and men share interests with women.  For example, cooking is not a common practice for only women.  There could be a man who is an excellent skilled chef like Emeril or Wolfgang Puck.  However, if there was one gender demographic that would be stereotypically assumed would be done by males would be gaming.

Advertising only recognizes trends using either surveys or sometimes just relying on stereotypes to market their product.  In the end, to the advertisers we are nothing more than empty vessels, ready to consume regardless of gender.  If it’s not a stereotype and their surveys don’t show a need for something, they won’t bother with it, and they saw no need to market Halo to women.

Now because of the amount of time that advertising has been harassing people it would take forever for me to write a paper about all the different examples in advertising for targeting of gender.  Perhaps if I had a grant and no life I would find it interesting, but it’s hardly a requirement of this article.  So for that reason this paper will be focused on one particular advertising campaign which has recently gone into full effect, the Halo 2 launch.

In November 2001, Microsoft launched their home video game console, the Xbox.  The flagship video game that was launched with the console and became the must have game for the console was a game called Halo.  In the span of four years, the game has sold over four million copies in its existence and to this day is the number one game to play at parties for teenage males.  So much of a fan base was created by the game, it was inevitable for Microsoft to convince their developer, Bungie to create a sequel.

Their prayers would finally be answered in September 2002, when Bungie announced development of Halo 2.  With the announcement came the very first commercial for the game, which was the very same commercial that was described at the beginning of this article.

The only game to actually successfully appeal to women was Will Wright’s The Sims, which was never the original intention of the designers, but strangely upon release the designers saw women loved the game more than men.  Halo, when it was released, was considered the norm.  It was viewed as a game that only young men enjoyed.  Because the game industry usually doesn’t make games they feel would appeal to women, they don’t waste time trying to advertise to them.  The outcome was as expected.  When Halo 2 was finally released on November 9, 2004 at 12:01 AM across the country, lines formed out the door.  Stores who said they were expecting sales of over a thousand copies.  Each!

The people who waited in line were gamers by every definition.  There was such a difference among all of them in appearance and style the only thing that actually held them all together was the fact that they all loved Halo and wanted to be among the first to play the sequel.  In the crowd of a hundred people at the release party I attended there was roughly a ninety-six percent male population in the group.  Of the four girls that were actually in the line that night, about half of the girls looked like they were there just to hang out with their boyfriends and had no actual interest in the game, but the other half of the girls left in the crowd were actually there for the game.  It was a genuinely disheartening statistic, but not a surprising one.

It was kind of sad to see this enormous imbalance along the genders in the crowd.  Over the years gamers have accepted these trends but still profess to attend events like this out of love for the games.  With these numbers they must be, they’re certainly not doing it because they think they’re going to get laid.

The question remains, will these trends remain?  As time goes on, a casual trickle of female gamers are appearing in LAN events.  This is a very encouraging sign of the changes to come, and I welcome it, I just hope advertising joins me.

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