Video game adverts, you used to be cool

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If there’s one thing that the video game industry used to have, it’s a sales department with a pair of brass balls the size of a pair of Hummer cars. Back in the day before the Internet took over, they needed to sell you games and do so with the boldest lies possible. And that’s how you ended up with full page adverts from when print was still relative, like these examples.

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Here’s a 1990 advert for Crystalis, which I never played due to the fact that I was quite possibly not yet alive at the time. As far as I can tell, it’s a game about fighting the ultimate hairy one-eyed monster while a gigantic toddler re-enacts scenes from Attack on Titan. This is what the game actually looks like:

That looks like Link mixed his washing with red clothing by accident. But you can bet that advertising like that helped sell the game. And that’s what good advertising does. It lies to you about just how marvellous something is going to be, in order to shift those numbers. The clued-up gamer is going to do research before-hand, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t admire the skill and effort that goes into making one of these pages.

Look at Witchaven here, a game from 1995.

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Look at how freakin’ badass that night looks perched on top of a column of skulls. That’s the kind of image that deserves a heavy metal music video. These days though, when you need to show off the hero of your game, you get the generic combination of recycled imagery to create this instead:

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Hell, we can’t even get a decent teaser advert these days either. Like Battlefield 3, which released this piece back in the day and tried to play it cool:

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Which when compared to these pieces from Final Fantasy 7 or Mortal Kombat II, just doesn’t compare. People hate having to play a guessing game, but making a bold piece like this that hinted towards something epic being on the horizon, while also proudly showing off which game it was going to be, was endearing.

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I miss the crazy, experimental ideas that were thrown into adverts.

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But I’ll admit that there was a ton of sexism in them as well.

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I miss the playful jests of certain adverts, when gamers could still take a joke before the politically correct crowd bitched and moaned those ads into extinction.

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But most of all, I just miss the sheer imaginative artistry of these ads.

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I know I’m not the only person complaining. Hell, the older guard of the advertising world has been complaining about how clients who need quick results has resulted in a brain drain of sorts where creativity is discouraged in order to get something out by the next day.

There’s no love anymore for these products. It’s all too consumable, and then thrown away. And that makes me sad. Maybe one day we’ll rediscover how one good and creative piece of advertising can help sell a game. But it won’t be anytime soon.

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Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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