Historical Advertising Study

This is not a specific analysis of advertisements for Nintendo Entertainment System, but rather all consoles that appeared in the same time period since they shared similar qualities and their companies used similar tactics in order to market the consoles during the early years of personal computing and gaming.

 

One of the most important aspects of video games is to immerse the player; make it feel as if they are really there inside of the game. This is because one of the primary attractions for video games are as an escape from reality, and the more convincing the game environment is, then the more immersion and enjoyment will come out of the video game. Immersion in today’s video games are primarily achieved through compelling storylines, realistic characters, and realistic graphics, but in the 1980s we were stuck with simple arcade games such as galaga and pac man due to technological constraints and the infancy of a new technology. The goal then was the same goal as now, namely immersion, but with just a few pixels floating across a machine it raises the question as to how marketers for these early arcade games could compare the virtual world to the real world while also targeting certain audiences for their games. This billboard shows an example of multiple targeted audiences, as well as a parallel between reality and the virtual world. The most important thing to note is that in the game Mrs. Pac Man, Mrs. Pac Man does not look like this. She looks like this, with a more common depiction outside of the game being this. With the large, poofy scarf and sexualized features of a bow, hair, eyeliner, blush, lipstick, eyebrows, gloves, high heels, and long legs (note, pac people do not have legs), it’s obvious that Mrs. Pac Man has been likened to a model, though comedically so. Of course, it is highly doubtful marketers attempted to raise a sexual attraction to Mrs. Pac Man, but more rather liken her to a human being, blurring the lines between real and virtual for the children of the world. Pac people are given human features (the most desirable ones, at least), which draws them closer to real people. Another notable aspect is that this billboard is for Mrs. Pac Man, rather than the original Pac Man, which is likely an attempt to appeal to the female gender, a largely unrepresented demographic of the gaming population. This billboard shows that the association with men and gaming is outdated, since the woman of the year, implying modern times, was Mrs. Pac Man.

 

This next advertisement for the Game Boy Pocket Color appeared over a decade after the Mrs. Pac Man billboard and focuses less on the appeal of video games themselves as the Mrs. Pac Man bill board did, but more so on the machine. Advertising a machine relies on more traditional means of toy and entertainment device advertising, so it is less new than the Mrs. Pac Man advertisement and primarily targets the traditional avenue of gaming revenue: young boys. By 1997, the gaming industry had more or less solidified and established itself as a popular product for entertainment, and did not need as much exposure as the a comedic depiction of a video game character, but more a safe “tell your parents to get you this for Christmas”. The advertisement was initially printed in a November Newspaper, and clearly targets a Christmas audience with the fir branches and slogan likening the Game Boy Pocket Color to the classic Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, while also referencing a “White Christmas” in contrast to a colored Game Boy. These are nice wordplays, but altogether safe and bland, which is representative of the stability in the industry that occurred in just over a decade. By this time, marketers could not risk the excitement and revolution of a fledgling industry that relied on attention for survival, and so they preferred to make calm advertisements that would never stick in one’s mind past Christmas. There is no message, or draw, besides “here’s our product, now buy it for Christmas”, but it is good to see how the advertisement reflects the stability of the gaming industry.

 

Rather than reflecting the gaming industry, the video in this article for Nintendo Power Magazine is more representative of the general era. This advertisement is again clearly marketed towards young, excitable boys with its bizarre animations, dancing “cool kids” in sunglasses, brilliantly flashing lights, wacky wordings, loud announcers, and nonsensical gigantic explosions with fire. Though this commercial appeared in the 1990s, just as the Game Boy Color ad did, this advertises another aspect of the industry: critique and review. Similar to the television industry’s shows, physical sets, and critics, we have seen the video game industry has its games, consoles, and reviewers. But what is most different about the video game industry is this reviewing section, since the market for video games is niche relative to the television, and so the demand (and need) for review is far less). So, in order to garner readers and subscribers, magazines such as Nintendo Power needed to resort to more exciting advertisements, similar to the Mrs. Pac Man advertisement and contrary to the Game Boy Color advertisement. The commercial is, in a word, bizarre. But flashing lights are what capture the attentions of children, and so using this constant blaring of the brand name marketers can force the young mind to remember to buy their product. This technique is also used in other videos in the 1990s, such as music videos, other advertisements, buildings, and clothing. That was what worked during the decade, so that’s what was done for Nintendo Power.
The advertisements in the video game industry differ according to three factors: period, industry stability, and culture. This has been shown through the three different examples of ads that highlight each of these factors, and also what may occur when the factors overlap. Since the primary target audience of video games are young boys, advertisements are mainly made in order to appease the demographic, though there are exceptions to this case, but it reveals a weakness in the stagnancy of the industry as a whole for catering to a singular market, while the appeal could potentially expand across other sectors of the general population.

Works Cited

Atari. “Atari Presents the Woman of the Year”. Advertisement. 1983. Duke U. OAAA Slide Library. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Nintendo. “Boy to the World”. Advertisement. 1997. Academia.edu. Leo Burnett. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Nintendo. “Nintendo Power”. Advertisement. 1994. Wash U. Critical Gaming Project. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

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Robotic Connoisseur

Fuller’s article gives us a description of a robot as a connoisseur, in a sense, since the machine can definitively and “scientifically” calculate the “authenticity” of Thai food. Robots seem to perfectly fit the definition of a connoisseur, since no person could ever know more, quantitatively speaking, than a robot. But for a subject as wide and creative as food, a device that tries to standardize the near infinite amount of combinations, mixes, and cultures that occur in food is doomed to fail. Taste and smell, both separate and especially in conjunction, are still not fully understood by us, and therefore cannot yet be effectively implemented into a machine. In this way, the robot’s analysis of food is arguably less knowledgeable than a Kindergartener. It can only compare and rate one reference for a dish that may change from city to city, all of which taste just as good as another to a human, but rate drastically different to the robot. It’s not like the entirety of a Thai dish can be put into specific terms; the dish depends on countless other things from freshness of ingredients to style of cooking. Science has not yet mastered food, and people in Thailand appear to hold the same position as I do, saying that “the government should consider using a human to gauge authenticity”, since all that really matters is that the food tastes good. Of course, this is subjective as well, just as the robot’s “tastes” are subjective in relation to a standard set by scientists. What one person (or thing) perceives as tasty depends on their upbringing, what kinds of food they have in the environment, and genetics, so it’s essentially useless to push a standard of “good tasting food” onto others, since everybody’s different. This is applicable to any snobbish connoisseur of food, since just because they can describe and dissect the food further than the layman, it doesn’t make them right. That said, if the government of Thailand wants the world to adhere to the single standard and grade set by the robotic taste tester, then they are free to “maintain tradition” while labeling differing evolutions of food as tainted or impure replications. It doesn’t matter what they label the food as, since it’s the individual consumer that ultimately decides whether or not they like the dish; if they don’t, then they can just not eat it again.

Prosthetic Limbs

In Sara Hendren’s article here, she links a video to a documentary made by Rob Spence, a self proclaimed “cyborg”. Spence lost his right eye in a shotgun accident, and has since replaced it with a wireless video camera that fits inside where his eye used to be. It’s a bit offsetting, to say the least, and seems both impractical and looks rather painful. His “bionic eye” as he calls it doesn’t link to his brain, and there’s no way him to control it (save turning it on and off, I assume), effectively making it a glorified (low res) video camera. I guess it’s cool he made it fit into where his eyeball used to be, but I really can’t think of any practical use for it unless it could actually interact with the brain. But this doesn’t take away from the amazing work done on other prosthetic limbs showcased in his documentary.

Let me first preface this by saying that “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” is one of my favorite video games. Sure the graphics are pretty and the combat is fun, but what I really love about it is the imagination of the bionics, and the story of the conflict between those who believe in augmenting themselves for the purpose of “evolutionary enhancement” (a point made by somebody in the documentary) against those who believe in keeping the human body the way that it is (the “ethical concerns” mentioned in the documentary). It raises questions about what makes us human, and speaks to the fears of machines steadily controlling larger aspects of our lives, because there is no greater symbiosis that may occur besides the merging of two objects, namely man and machine. There’s beauty in the design of the prosthetic limbs in both life and fiction, as they are man’s attempt to recreate themselves, conjoined with the cool metal and carbon fiber so distinctive of modern high tech machinery. Though the prosthesis in real life are no where near those in “Deus Ex”, it’s still unfathomably amazing how far the technology already is. I can see why if we were able to create a perfect replication of ourselves and then add to that, how we would want to replace ourselves with something more practical, and therefore “better”. While I’m all for practicality, I can’t help but feel the prosthesis are a little… uncanny. Spence’s eye is pretty creepy outright, with a camera and mess of wires that I can almost feel crawling inside of my eyeball. But even the arms and legs are offsetting. They’re beautiful in their own right, but when I see them attached to a human there’s feeling in the back of my neck that says “that’s not natural”. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a definitive line that is drawn between prosthetic and purely biological limbs, and though they may coexist, they will never replace the other. Looking at the physical divide between the two, where flesh ends and metal begins, we know that’s not what humans are. It’s uncanny. If bionic limbs become popular enough, however, we may just see them as we look at cell phones and wearables now; they may become a normal part of life, where technology and humanity seamlessly merge. But for now, with the preprogrammed, mechanical movements of metal clashing with a living, flowing human, I can’t help but feel strange.

Research of an Art

I’ve researched many topics in the past, the most recent in depth research that I’ve done on a topic is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You might be saying to yourself: doesn’t research usually concern something mental, like an important life decision or a scientific subject? Previously in my life, those had been the two primary subjects of research. But once I started BJJ I realized that any topic could be researched. First and foremost, BJJ is a martial art, keyword art. Art is a tricky subject to research, as any art is open to the interpretation and execution of the artist. But as visual art begins with the fundamental principles of color mixing, brush stroke, and practice, so does BJJ begin with positional movement, extremity control, and pressure. There is a basic foundation to all research that must first be understood before a specific topic can be reached. When I first began training, I had no idea where to begin. There were just so many positions, sweeps, escapes, submissions, takedowns, and nameless other moves I could pick a place to begin. Then I began my research by buying an introductory book on BJJ, the famed Professor Saulo Ribiero’s “Jiu-Jitsu University”. Ribiero divides the book into five parts: white, blue, purple, brown, and black, but these serve primarily as tools for separation and fundamentals expected to be mastered at a belt level rather than a guideline for belt progression. He starts with the fundamental positions, and progresses to the basic escape from each position. This beginning serves as the foundation for almost all BJJ, since no matter how good you may be (though as a beginner, this will always happen), you will be on the bottom position. Once you’re able to use these basics (I refrain from saying master because mastery takes a few years), you move to the next division of research which further closes the breadth of the subject, and continue this pattern until the book, as a reference for the foundation all jiu-jitieros should at least be familiar with, has been completed. Each division requires knowledge of the foundation, as all things do, but builds upon them so as to reach greater heights of understanding. Once the foundation of knowledge in a body of research is solidified then can the exciting part of research occur. This is where an art becomes art; individualized, distinctive, and makes a statement. It’s an arrow in which you hold understanding better than the average person, yet not so far as to be the most knowledgeable in the field, since in such a branching subject such as art that divides and further subdivides into oblivion, you hold knowledge in the branch which you have taken the time to study. In this way, research of a subject can never be finished. Yes, you may be more knowledgeable than others, but that’s an incorrect reference that should be held to yourself. Research never ends unless you allow it to end, or until we find out everything there is to know about everything.

Explaining “Clues” to a Detective

At a scene of a homicide, what’s the first thing you notice? The body and the blood. Most murders contain those two base elements. Starting with the body, you first notice the victim’s race, gender, hair and eye color, what they’re wearing, and possibly their superficial wounds. With blood, you can obviously see that it’s red and it’s runny, thicker than water but still obviously a liquid. These basic elements can be distinguished and identified by any person on the street, but with your trained, experienced eye you can notice more details about the crime scene. The position of the body isn’t something that occurs outright to most people, but that can tell you where the assailant struck from and how the victim may have reacted. If the body is lying face down, the person was hit from behind. If it’s on its knees, then it was possibly an execution. With the blood you can tell what sort of weapon was used, and how the incident could have been fought out. If there are little lines of blood flying everywhere, it means that the assailant took the time to slice the victim multiple times rather than kill them outright, maybe suggesting a deep, personal hatred. Things like this narrow down your list of suspects and will get you that much closer to finding the killer. The sort of things that become intuitive as you keep on seeing them, and gradually make you more perceptive of the tell tale signs a murderer makes. These details could be written a large book, with each entry spelling out the particular conditions of a crime scene and what the combinations of each position of whatever body part coupled with the nameless possibilities blood may splatter out of that body part mean, but the trained eye reads the situation like a book, and needs not read a book for the situation. This type of heuristical thinking that results in an instinctive, almost immediate attribution is what Ginzburg’s Clues is all about. The major, definitive, showy aspects of a crime scene such as the rotting body or the pools of blood are what catch the attention of any layman, but what you and other detectives may notice, the details surrounding each individual case, are what result in producing actual information from the scene. You, Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock may reside in differing fields, but you all notice the importance of the detail and use them to construct clues that will aid you in completing your goals.

Beautiful, Personal, Handwritten Letters

Theodore’s job in Her slightly reminds me of Ed Dante’s job as a ghostwriter for students as he describes it in his article The Shadow Scholar. They both take advantage of the anonymity of the internet, the laziness of the client, and the specialized skills of the writer. Both jobs represent a newfound disconnect where there are too many people in the world while there’s much too little time to do something such as write a heartfelt letter or a paper. So in our world of automation with an emphasis on time efficiency, it only makes sense that these types of jobs would appear. Why do anything when everything can be outsourced? After all, most personal letters are basically just forms of “I love you”, so can’t each person’s letter be put into a template with the simple addition of a few details about the client’s relationship? I’m not saying that love itself is generic; just these meaningless Hallmark cards they exchange with one another. They’re essentially a “How’re you doing today?” type formality that lack in depth and meaning, but happen nonetheless because the absence of them would be notedly negative. Theodore’s job, the company he works in, and any company that writes “Beautiful, Personal, Touching” whatevers fill a gap in the demand for these quick formalities.

The Beautiful Handwritten Letters company is expected to be accepted in this world, but not without a bit of discomfort. Since the essence of a personal letter is that it’s, well, personal, and the anonymity of a company is the exact opposite of that, there’s an obvious conflict between the values of the two goals. But this conflict only occurs if it’s found out that a company was used, and another goal of the company is to write a “beautiful” letter that could only seem to have come from a loved one, who managed to break down their relationship with a person into a few key details so that a company could write a personal letter for them, contradicting the very definition of personal. The existence of this company is hilarious due to its irony, but it still does manage to show a general disconnect between actual people in the movie’s world (maybe our own emerging world as well) where there is a gap looking to be filled that’s large enough to fund a good looking office.

The existence of the company pairs well with the overall theme of Her, which questions man’s (or woman’s) relationship to machine, and how complex essentialities such as life and love can be defined. The traditional view that may have existed a few decades ago, that a man ran into a woman at such-and-such and they hit it off, got married, and had 3 kids doesn’t really exist anymore in our world of online dating and internet anonymity. Plenty of people on the internet have connected and become friends even though they may only know their username handles. Sure, it could be a company or artificial intelligence agent could be slinging the most probable and appropriate thing a human may reply with, but if that’s what the person was going to say anyways then who cares? Meaning out of the letter, or email, or IM was still felt by the receiver, which is why the client would bother to send in a request in the first place. It’s not the content that matters, it’s just the meaning that matters.

Dante vs. Goldsmith REVISION

There’s a problem in education that I’m sure all of you have faced. Cheating. Whether it takes place in the form of one child casually (or not so casually!) looking at their neighbor’s test or whether it’s an elaborate conspiracy your students have devised in order to take a peek at the next answer key, we can all accept that it takes place in our classrooms. But what I’m about to talk to you about in this month’s issue of Teachers Monthly is a specific form of cheating that has become oh-so-prevalent in our interconnected world: plagiarism. With the advent of the internet there is access to great databases of knowledge, but with all of that information comes the temptation to use it for one’s own means. In particular, there are even some companies that offer the service of writing an essay for a student, as described by Ed Dante in “The Shadow Scholar”. Dante used to work for one of these essay writing companies, sometimes even writing and talking through the dissertations of students who are “Desprit to pass [ther] spring projict”, in that spelling. In it, he also claims that it is the college professor and administrator who is to blame for the epidemic of cheating through the workload that they give students, and the fact that they accept that their students are cheating. But even if the professors and administrators do recognize this, there isn’t much they can do about it save looking over the shoulders of each one of their students while they complete each assignment. The way that Dante customizes papers, researches each subject in depth, and even inserts such things as typos makes the paper buying cheaters nearly impossible to catch. If I were a professor I would of course want to catch the cheaters, but the clandestine way in which they cheat is nearly impossible to detect. This is primarily Dante’s fault, since if he didn’t write the papers the students couldn’t cheat. He shifts the blame to the educators, going so far as to name them as the primary cause of cheating, as if they actively encouraged it, but I highly doubt any educator is actively trying to fail their student. As it’s nearly impossible to counter the cheating epidemic, my advice to you would be to just continue teaching your students and try to support them to the best of your ability, and also try to make them understand the importance of their own work and take pride in that.
But on the other side of plagiarism there are some people who accept its existence, and use it create a new form of art, in a sense. In Kenneth Goldsmith’s article “Uncreative Writing”, he writes about one of the classes that he teaches as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania: Uncreative Writing. In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. Not surprisingly, they thrive. Suddenly what they’ve surreptitiously become expert at is brought out into the open and explored in a safe environment, reframed in terms of responsibility instead of recklessness. As children of the internet, students have long thrown away the idea that any of their individual thoughts are truly original. A quick google search for the “new ideas” that come to my mind reveal write-ups, in-depth descriptions, and sometimes even patents. But to take computer programming as a model, it’s the utilization of previous works that creates a new, creative work. Programming languages have finite amounts of syntax and libraries which the programmer may use, but obviously not all programs are the same. It’s the creativity and ingenuity with which the programmer, similar to an artist or a writer, executes his work that makes it unique and genius. There is meaning in the plagiarism taught in Goldsmith’s class, as opposed to Dante’s endless pages of empty words, repeated lines, and fillers with the purpose of making himself money. Yes, stealing is bad, but the purpose for which it is done might not be so bad.

Blog Post 9/19 Prompt 3

The relationship between Brad and Jan begins when they share a party line and grow to hate each other’s voices. Their voices carry along with them the personalities, behaviors, and all other characteristics that can be conveyed auditorily auditorily. They are surprisingly candid with the stranger on the other side of the line, but that honesty, though bitter, is broken once Brad takes an interest to the rest of Jan and changes his voice. A central plot point to Pillow Talk is Brad’s impersonation of a fictional cowboy from Texas named Rex. As his real voice of a bachelor songwriter is recognized and hated by Jan, Brad feels the need to impersonate another personality in order to win her over. This works incredibly well on Jan, with lines such as “you make me feel like I’m sitting next to a pot bellied stove on a frosty morning” further entrenching Jan in her own belief of Brad as a mysterious, charming, polite gentleman-cowboy from Texas. But this isn’t because Brad is doing a particularly good job of impersonation, as we can see from the carriage ride where the cabbie immediately sees through his ruse and his constantly changing “southern” accent. It can be speculated from this that Jan is tricking herself into believing what she wants to believe by continuing to see Brad as Rex, furthering her misperceptions the longer she stays with Brad, culminating to the point that she wants to marry him within a few weeks time even though she was “perfectly happy” living alone for however many years before she met Rex. So in Jan’s case misperception is not primarily due to Brad, but rather her own desires that she wants to fulfill.

Another point I’d like to propose is that the writers of the movie are trying to say that “Your Voice is You”. While I don’t necessarily agree with this statement, there seems to be a fair amount of evidence in the movie suggesting that it’s one of the messages they’re trying to say. Brad’s real voice, overheard by Jan, is who he really is: a singing bachelor who woos multiple women at a time. Jan, whose voice stays the same (as does her personality), hates who that voice is, which is Brad. Brad changes his voice in order to disguise who he really is, trying to become a different “you”, which works in wooing over Jan. But once Jan hears Brad’s real voice, the real Brad, everything comes back together. Rex’s voice is still Brad’s voice since only Brad would try to disguise his voice in order to win over someone who hated his voice. No matter who Brad presents himself as, his voice will always reflect who he is, since the meaning of what he says always underlies the sounds he actually makes.