In-Game Advertising Will Soon Destroy Immersive Gameplay

In-Game Advertising Will Soon Destroy Immersive Gameplay


A recent article on IGN claimed that in-game advertising is set to boom in the near future, at least according to analysts. At first this may appear to be little more than a slight nuisance to gamers as it makes the scenes and environments of games seem less attractive, but looking a little deeper and taking into account the psychological effect of advertising reveals a much grimmer story.
Gamers play games to escape. When we get home from work / school, when we are feeling down, when we’re just plain sick with the real world, we look to escape from the real world by entering the fantasy realms of gaming. [br] [br]
In order to escape from reality into a game environment it is imperative that the game stay away from reminders of the real world. To make this point clearer, imagine this scenario: You have just ended a relationship and you are looking to forget, but everywhere you look you see people wearing the same T-shirt your EX wore. What would happen? You would constantly be reminded of your Ex and so be unable to escape your present reality. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to escape into the happier world you’re looking for. [br] [br]
How does this relate to gaming? [br] [br]
The simple fact of the matter is that every time you see a product you are reminded of the real-life memories you associate to that product. In other words; when you see a can of coke, you remember the last time you saw a can of coke, the last time you had a can of coke. For example… [br]

Bet you thought of the last time you went to Starbucks (or the last time you walked past Starbucks, saw one on TV or wherever). Ultimately, you are reminded of the things you associate to Starbucks. Whenever you see an element of the real world you are reminded of real-life associations to that thing.Note that this is also why we like to sit close to the screen; by sitting closer we make the screen take up more of our vision, essentially removing real-life items from our view and hence allowing ourselves to escape further into the game.

Ultimately, the more reminders of the real world there are in games, the less immersive those gamers will be and the less of a sense of escape we shall feel from them. [br]


The case for in-game advertising that many are putting forth is that in-game advertising will work in games that take their theme and basis from real life (for example, racing games, sports games, and other games based in the real world). This simply is not true, however. Even when we play those games that take place in the real world we still look to escape. We play those games to enter into an idealistic real world, and the only way to enter into an idealistic real world is to remove all the negative sides of the present real world. Now, I don’t know about you, but the vast majority of advertising seems less than idealistic to me because we are constantly being bombarded to buy this that or the other. To put it another way: an idealistic world does not include aggressive advertising. So again, we cannot escape fully in games whilst advertisements continually vie for our attention.

Thankfully, these very psychological rules are also likely to prevent in-game advertising from getting too extreme. If we cannot escape into a game we will be less likely to pay money for the experience, meaning games developers will not profit in the long term, because the money they gain from in-game advertising they will lose from sales. [br]
In conclusion, it simply is not possible to put product placements in a game without deterring from the sense of escape we feel when playing.


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Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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