In this section on advertising, Bogost explores the complex intersections between games and mass-market forces, specifically analyzing the use of purposeful persuasion to advertise a specific message. He offers hope to the consumer, however, arguing that players interact as active participants when playing games and are therefore better able to critique their position in these practices.

Chapter 5: Advertising Logic

            Bogost opens his section on advertising and games with a synthesis of advertising theory and practice. Using Seth Godin’s work on permission marketing as a frame, Bogost considers the movement of advertising from a rationalist strategy to a strategy based on spectacle and emotion (150). He explores Milgrom and Roberts’ three-part taxonomy concerning advertising—demonstrative (shows what a product can do), illustrative (shows a product in a social or cultural context), and associative (shows the intagibles of a product, such as status or fun)—suggesting that both advergames (games designed specifically to advertise something, such as Mountain Dew Skateboarding) and traditional games with advertisements in them, such as the Coca-Cola machine in SWAT 4, rely more heavily on associative advertising logic. Interestingly, including advertising in computer games has been found to increase the realism in the play experience; many players actually liked the advertisements in the game. The problem that Bogost identifies, however, is that currently advertising agencies are limiting themselves to the tried-and-true tricks of advertising. Advertising in games remains predominantly visual—digital billboards and lighted vending machines. He concludes this chapter with a fairly strong statement admonishing advertisers: “unlike television commercials, magazine ads, outdoor billboards, shopping bags, or even t-shirts, videogames are not fundamentally characterized by their ability to carry images, but by their capacity for operationalizing rules” (171). Advertising in games, it seems, has not made use to the specific rhetorics available in this format.

Chapter 6: Licensing and Product Placement

            In chapter six, Bogost explores how advertising can be enacted through the procedural rhetoric of games. He writes, “In the domain of advertising, videogames deploy procedural rhetoric when they simulate player-consumer interaction with products and services, rather than merely simulating advertising through the application of images into virtual environments” (173). He goes on to suggest that interacting with advertising in the game format opens spaces that allow for a critique on consumptive practices precisely because games require players to do something meaningful within the interpretation of the game. This opens up the game, the franchise on which the game is based, and subsidiary advertisements to interrogation. Further, product placement in games, Bogost argues, gains something that is lacking in other forms of niche advertisement campaigns: context. A game allows the player to use the product in a certain situation, and the logic of the context—the procedure—defines the use value of the item while simultaneously creating desire for that item. Thus games use the successful model of product placement, but the processes is improved because the product becomes usable in its virtual placement. Bogost concludes that games diverge in two ways from traditional advertising because they must meaningfully operationalize products: 1) advertisements must be integrated into gameplay, dismantling what Bogost refers to as the media buy, and 2) games undermine previous obsessions with the image because games’ persuasive power comes not from visual rhetoric but from procedural rhetoric (197).

Chapter 7: Advergames

            In this final chapter of the advertising section, Bogost explores both advergames and anti-advergames. Advergames are those games designed specifically to advertise a specific product, such as Volvo Drive for Life, The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man, and Tapper. After providing a brief history concerning the evolution of advergames, Bogost argues that computer games can simulate experiences with products and services, which creates a space for consumers to “interrogate those products as potential needs and wants” (205). By creating uncertainty about a product, computer games have the potential to convert consumers through discourse rather than getting short-lived consumer interest through emotional appeals. While Bogost presents a positive view of advergames, he also sees the benefit of the anti-advergame—those games that critique consumer culture. He offers the McDonald’s protest in The Sims Online game as one example wherein players were encouraged to picket the McDonald’s kiosks in creative ways. In addition to resisting advertising in preexisting games, Bogost examines such games as Disafffected! and Book and Volume as games designed to specifically question and expose the problems of major corporations. Because the player goes through the process, or the procedure, of getting annoyed, feeling like there’s nothing to do, and getting disaffected, these games convince players that there are major problems—problems that don’t sound so bad when they are simply stated in words.