Last month, the Federal Trade Commission released a video game designed to teach American tweens (ages 8-12) how to recognize and critically consume (not just downright ignore) the barrage of daily advertising tossed at their snotty faces. All of this happens through a customizable avatar (kitty mask? robot head?) between series of sequentially harder run and jump combinations that lead to info screens (and questions) about examples of real world ad placement.
In a unexpected twist owing to someones’ masters thesis on reverse psychology, later levels educated users about copywriting, stock photo selection, and consumer targeting via the “admosphere.” Seriously.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, how was the gameplay?
Pretty crappy. Controls are finicky. You don’t get to pick up any guns. Levels are entirely devoid of explosions. I tried kicking this thing once and it didn’t even move and then I got stuck behind some boxes and had to restart. So that sucked too.
Some have compared it to Pitfall or Mario but I was getting a more “Sonic meets the Esurance cartoons” vibe.
Back when I was addicted to cereal, I remember finding a CDROM in my Corn Chex box. It’s like the future was happening before my milk-tainted lips.
Some forward-thinking marketer had taken (popular at the time) Doom’s gaming engine and re-skinned it as Doom meets nurturing breakfast. I think you played as a piece of Corn Chex. Or you were a milk carton shooting Chex pieces from outerspace. I can’t remember.
The Admongo storyline is like that but a little better (though minus the bloodless cereal murdering). Advertising is split up into familiar theaters: outdoor, home, and in-store. To get to the next level, one must find each piece of advertising content and examine it.
“A coupon is only a deal if it’s for something you need.”
“This ad is inserted into a newspaper, so it’s call an insert”
There’s also something about collecting coins and stomping on the heads of oscillating yellow-cat-things. The blue-cat-things are your friends, naturally; they wear glasses.
Better than Pitfall. Worse than if Pitfall came out for the XBox 360.
Actually…the music was fantastic. The score was nothing short of enchanting, which was surprising. And they say the gubmen’t can’t done do nothin’ right.
Takeaway for Marketers?
American kids aged 8-12 are very susceptible to broad advertising claims and are extremely gullible when confronted with media that doesn’t look like advertising. Suckers.
In a stab toward the rising stars of our industry, the FTC is obviously trying to create a generation of cynical kids who won’t just trust everything they read on the internet. For instance:
“Ads on sties where you meet and chat with friends—like Ourface–often seem to be for things you like. Not an accident. They’re posted based on information you’ve told the site: your age, your gender, your hometown, your hobbies…”
A game like this will never be successful with that type of downer content.
But credit to the FTC for trying to help out our nation’s awful public schools. Lots of 4th grade teachers will now be able to update their Facebook profile in peace while giving the kids an excuse to goof-off in the computer lab.