But it's the magazine advertising campaign for the latest Hitman installment that is the quintessential example of the "boobies and bullets" depiction of games. Each advertisement depicts an airbrushed model, recently killed in a gruesome fashion. If you were basing your impressions of the game on these ads, you'd clearly be concerned about Hitman's social message. After an hour or so of playing the game, however, you learn that your targets are murderers, drug dealers and child pornographers. The violence is present, obviously, but it's not centered on the brutal murders of seemingly innocent women. In fact, of the more than 20 targets in the game, fewer than five are women, and all of those are portrayed as violent and unstable, not the helpless victims portrayed in the advertising campaign.

People tell me you need to appeal to the lowest common denominator when marketing products. They tell me it's difficult to present the more ethereal elements of a game coherently. They tell me the poor market performance of games such as Beyond Good & Evil and Psychonauts means the industry will continue to focus on visual glitz, violence and sex appeal. But I feel this approach has done us a disservice. And by "us" I mean all of us - from the developers and publishers who sweat over their game to the player who craves quality entertainment. The games we produce and enjoy are deeper, richer and more socially relevant than is being portrayed by our own marketing.

There are signs that this is slowly changing. If the 12 Steps toward responsible game marketing that John Geoghegan, Executive Director of The SILOE Research Institute, laid out at the Game Marketing Conference earlier this year are any indication, it's clear that game marketing and promotion is taking a more serious tone.

It couldn't come at a better time, either: The average age of a "gamer" skews older every day, and older audiences are bound to demand more mature content from not only their games, but from the way those games are marketed to consumers. The "screenshots and boobies" approach is going to have to grow up with the rest of us, or marketers will have to resolve themselves to losing the 18- to 25-year-olds they're continually wooing every seven years.

Corvus Elrod is a storyteller and game designer who is working on bringing his
16 years experience into the digital realm. He has a habit of taking
serious things lightly and frivolous things seriously, a personal quirk which
can be witnessed on his blog, Man Bytes Blog.

Comments on