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  • Book Excerpt: Game Design Complete: Advergaming and Sponsorships

    [04.06.06]
    - Patrick O'Luanaigh
  • The following is a selected excerpt from Game Design Complete (ISBN 1-933097-00-0) published by Paraglyph Press.

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    “Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.”
    Marshall McLuhan

    In the clean and pure world of a game designer's head, the idea of selling advertising space within a game, or having the logos of sponsors cluttering up a perfectly designed GUI, is often a horrible thought. It's very easy to feel that you're “selling out” by having in-game advertising. But it's something that you need to address, and in the modern world, where it's starting to cost more and more money to develop games, it can often make sense to raise some money back in return with some advertising if done subtly and tastefully.

    In this chapter, we'll start by looking at the challenges of advergaming and the gray line that exists between licensing and advertising. You'll learn how to use various techniques, from including brand names on your product packaging as a credibility enhancement to putting branded objects into your game. Throughout, I've tried to introduce a number of different approaches to stimulate you to come up with some of your own ideas. Advergaming is a fairly new field, and the opportunities and constraints are likely to evolve and change drastically over the next few years.

    The Challenge of Advergaming

    Just as with the movie business, the challenge is to take advantage of the opportunity of using advertising without going overboard. You've probably seen a few movies (a recent James Bond film comes to mind) in which the advertising has been overdone and the final result becomes a never-ending lineup of overt car and mobile phone brands. But for every film like this, there are countless more that have successfully achieved in-film advertising and branding, and few viewers are put off by it. The trick is to keep the advertising as subtle as possible. Even back in the older days of film, when a lead character performed an action such as jumping into a Lamborghini, the action helped advertise the Lamborghini brand despite there being no payment or connection between the companies at the time; the director just wanted a Lamborghini because it looked cool on film.

    Another example involves characters in films having conversations in bars. If the actors have a particular brand of beer in their hand, it's not going to look odd unless there is an obvious close-up on the label. Yet many people will still subconsciously notice the brand. This kind of brand placement in games isn't going to ruin the experience if it's done carefully. In fact, in many ways, it can make a game feel more realistic and authentic. If you're being chased down a street in New York, wouldn't you rather see real store names as you pass by them rather than obviously fake ones? If your character has a PDA that you access to get new information, wouldn't it feel more realistic if the PDA was one that actually exists?

    Reality Check : The argument for and against advertising in games is one that will continue on and on. I'd advise you not to take a position that you become completely against advergaming. Try to understand that in some cases advergaming can make a game feel more realistic, as well as help to pay for that awesome orchestral score you want to get written. The field for advergaming is relatively new, so there are many unique ways to incorporate advertising with games. This means that you can get very creative with how you work with sponsors and incorporate marketing messages into your games.

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