Tag Archives: advertising

Today in Bad Advertising: Nintendo 3DS “Not a Gamer” campaign

If you’ve watched TV recently you might have seen this set of commercials promoting the Nintendo 3DS as a device that’s not just for gamers.  The commercials show one popular female star (such as Sarah Hyland from Modern Family) playing a 3DS as she relates to some real-life experience and connects it to the game she’s playing.  At the end, she says “My name is ______, and I’m not a gamer.  But with my 3DS I’m a INSERT WITTY THING HERE.”

It’s pretty clear that handheld video games have taken a huge hit by the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android gaming devices.  These devices have managed to bring a whole new demographic of people into the world of games-on-the-go, and Nintendo clearly wants a piece of that success.  These commercials are an obvious way to attract women who don’t see themselves as ‘video gamers’, trying to set the stage for the 3DS to be a handheld device that the mass market purchases to play games on.

I roll my eyes when these commercials come on, as there is a whole slew of problems associated with them.  The fact that women who have a handheld gaming device in their hands, who are literally playing a game have to say “I’m not a gamer” at the end could be read in a few ways.   Is that because women can’t be lumped in with the gamer label?  Is that because being a gamer requires you to only play hardcore shooter titles on your Playstation 3?  Is it because the types of games that these women are playing aren’t legitimate games?  All of the above? Here’s the videos, decide for yourself.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Multiplayer Trailer Makes Me Cringe

Last week, Ubisoft posted a trailer for the multiplayer mode of upcoming game Assassin’s Creed 3. Predictably, it features whites and Native Americans, both men and women, killing each other with rifles, hammers, daggers and the like. Standard procedure for a multiplayer.

But my coworker and I both agreed that there was something ‘off’ about the trailer. Something that made it hard to watch. At first I thought it was the violence, and then I told myself to get a grip, because violent combat is pretty par for the course in videogames, and I’ve certainly cheered my share of vicious takedowns in the first two Assassin’s Creed games. But I forced myself to watch the video again, and then I realized: it wasn’t the violence that makes the AC3 multiplayer trailer hard to watch. It’s the gender ratio of the violence. Continue reading

Today in terrible video game advertising: Call of Roma

Presented without commentary as this ad completely speaks for itself.

A women dressed in very minimal clothing bearing most of her breasts, her midriff, and her underwear. The game's logo, Call of Roma, is on the top of the skyscraper ad. Below that, text saying "One Click for a Roman Orgy!"


(Okay, a little commentary needed.  It’s hard to find out anything about this game, but it looks like it’s just another browser-based strategy game similar to Evony.  I’m not doing them the favor of linking the game, so Google it if you’re really interested in a Roman orgy.  Though my guess is that there is no orgy in this game at all….)

Ivy from Soul Caliber is shown with an image cropped closely on her chest which is largely exposed except for a fur vest.  A snake is around her neck.

Today in terrible video game advertising: Soul Calibur V

Ivy from Soul Calibur is shown with an image cropped closely on her chest which is largely exposed except for a fur vest. A snake is around her neck. The slogan "Go big or go home" is printed above her cleavage.


Today in “advertisements that tell me absolutely nothing about the game other than reaffirm that I will not be buying it” features Soul Calibur V, the latest game in the iconic series from Namco Bandai.

You know what other images would work just fine for the catchphrase “Go big or go home”?  A closeup of an elephant.  A Boeing aircraft.  An enormous mansion.  The planet Earth.  All of these things would be just as completely irrelevant to the game as this ad.  Sure, it’s has the character Ivy from the game, but who in the heck can tell that it’s her when her only body feature deemed worthy enough to be displayed in the ad are her completely exposed and overly-shiny boobs?

Boke18 on Twitter, a very concerned male gamer says the following:

A screenshot of two tweets from Boke18, the first saying "So the fuck what. Ivy is a staple character in the series and has been oversexualised for as long as I can remember." and the second saying "Seriously gamers will cry about any damn thing. Some people won't buy Soul Calibur V because there is a promo pic focusing on Ivy's chest"


Silly me.  How dare I try to change absolutely anything?  We should just accept that things are the way they are because that’s how they’ve always been.  You know what else we’d still have if we took that stance?  Slavery. Women who can’t vote.   This guy actually claims that Ivy has always been oversexualized.  Yet it isn’t a big deal, because he is not personally offended.

File this game under my neverending list of games that I’m clearly not in the target market to buy.  And all this before I’ve even read a damn thing about the game.

[h/t to jaredr, via this link]

Catherine: Is this mature rated game about more than just sex?

Logo from Catherine. It shows an image of a female with Catherine as the left half of the woman in the image and Katherine as the right half.

Catherine is a new story driven, puzzle based game from Atlus. It is being advertised as a mature game that discusses adult relationships including the issues surrounding cheating, love, marriage, and commitment. It is told through the eyes of the male main character, Vincent Brooks, and deals with his anxieties and experiences with his long time girlfriend named Katherine and a new women he just met named Catherine. I wanted to know if this game explores adult relationships or if is just an excuse for cutscenes with sex and cheating. After finishing the game I have mixed feelings about its success. There are definitely some positives, but there are also several strong complaints that I have with both the content of the game and the advertising surrounding it.

Note: This post will be done in two segments, the first will cover general comments about the game and the marketing while the second half includes late game story spoilers. I will warn before entering the spoiler section so those that people can easily avoid them.

I had plenty of fears about this game before release date. Most of them are a direct cause of the marketing campaign. Based on the imagery I imagined a story in which an overbearing girlfriend “forced” Vincent to cheat because she made his life so miserable. I was worried that she would be painted as a nagging, cruel, and overbearing partner.  For Catherine I was concerned that she would be a temptress presented as an opposite to Katherine: where  one is sexual the other is not, where one is kind and free-spirited the other is cruel and overbearing. The sheep made me think of these men as lambs sent for slaughter and I imagined Catherine as nothing more than the temptress/shepard leading men to their doom. With the images of Vincent running from a monstrous version of a baby or of his girlfriend Katherine I envisioned him as a caricature of a man afraid of commitment in his relationship, which is a an often seen trope in media. I did not want to see men painted as immature and afraid of relationships and women as either smothering, overbearing figures or reduced to just their sexual appeal. The largest problem for me with Catherine is that while it is not the game that I feared, it did not break through those stereotypes and instead relied on them to create drama in the story.


The Deluxe Edition “Love Is Over” version of Catherine comes with the following extras: a T-shirt similar to one worn by Vincent in the game (it says Empty and has a row of hearts with only the first few hearts filled in), a pillowcase with the game logo and an image of a sprawled out Catherine in her lingerie-like outfit, a cardboard pizza box with the logo of the bar “Stray Sheep”, and a pair of boxer shorts similar to the ones worn by Vincent during the game’s nightmare segments. This deluxe edition of goodies is aimed at male gamers. The boxer shorts and the large shirt will either not fit or be worn by a significant percentage of potential gamers. The pillowcase specifically is a nod to maturity meaning nothing more than sexuality. The art book included with the game has an image of Catherine eating a slice of pizza. This image was also used in early advertising of the game and it is very sexually suggestive. Catherine’s box art itself was also deemed too risque by some stores. The original versions of the art were cropped into alternate covers which are now being sold by many retailers. This advertising and art design reduces the game’s Mature rating to code for BOOBS! Boobs! Boobs!! Sex! Boobs! That does a disservice to a game that Atlus claims is about the mature themes of relationships,  commitment, and desire. With so much of the advertising focused on the sexual imagery, it makes it difficult to take the claims of maturity seriously.

Catherine original cover art. For the Xbox360 it is an image of Katherine lying on her stomach with Vincent hanging on her shirt. Several sheep surround her. The PS3 artwork is an image of Catherine standing and moving the straps of her shirt down over her shoulders with Vincent stuck in her cleavage and several sheep falling around her.

Alternate covers for Catherine. Both the PS3 and the XBox360 artwork were cropped to show a closeup of either Catherine or Katherine's faces with falling sheep around them.

Love is Over/ Deluxe Edition of Catherine. Included a Stray Sheep pizza box, art book, music CD, the game, Empty heart t-shirt, boxers, and the pillowcase with the game logo and an image of Catherine sprawled on the pillow.

Purely in terms of Catherine as a game, I really enjoyed it. The puzzles were challenging but fair.  The undo button was a nice addition after complaints of high difficulty when the game was first released in Japan. Save points before every puzzle made it so that losing progress was never an issue if a specific puzzle was extremely difficult. There is also a Very Easy mode that can be unlocked in the opening screen of the game for players that have trouble with the high speed and intensity of the puzzles. With both Vincent’s cutscenes and the tales of the patrons at the bar I wanted to see where the story would go next. But at Border House we look at more than just if a game is fun and it is with the story of Catherine where most of my complaints are found.

Vincent’s actions often feel inconsistent with his stated desires. He claims several times that he wants things to stay the same in his life, which should mean that he wants to continue a relationship with his long time girlfriend Katherine. Yet his affair with Catherine is in clear contrast to this desire for things to remain unchanged. My annoyance with this is increases when I felt a lack of control over Vincent’s actions. He continues to make choices that seem to contradict how I answered the questions during the nightmare sequences and the responses I gave for the text messages on his cellphone. The only effect those choices have on Vincent are his thoughts during the cutscenes, but the major actions and decisions around those scenes are largely unaffected by my choices. This player lack of control mirrors Vincent’s perceived lack of control in his own life. He acts as those the relationship milestones and issues with Katherine are things that are happening TO HIM rather than something in which he is an active participant. In much of the game we see Vincent reacting to events in his life rather than taking responsibility for his decisions and their consequences.

One of the things that is done exceptionally well in the game is the voice acting. I especially like the voice work for Katherine. My initial worry of her being painted as nagging or angry was mostly erased through the wonderful voice work. At times there are lines of dialogue or segments where she is upset or angry but for the most part the acting did not steer her toward the stereotype I had feared. It feels ambiguous enough that the player can decide for themselves how they perceive Katherine.

A general complaint from the game is that it is primarily a male centered story. It tells the tale of a 32 year old guy and his worries and anxieties. The other sheep in the nightmare segments are also male. The majority of bar patrons are male. As a whole it feels like a game about men, for men, written with the male point of view in mind. Even when adding the stories of the other bar patrons and their anxieties the game lacks a greater diversity. It is mainly a tale of heterosexual men hanging out with other heterosexual men in a bar.

Now is when I now need to discuss some of the detailed story elements of the game. Spoiler territory ahead! Turn back now if you don’t want to read it.

Not only is this a game about men it is also extremely heteronormative. As the game progresses it is assumed that the men dying in their sleep are all heterosexual males who have been having affairs.  The very end of the game reveals that this is not the entire story. The antagonist of the game is one of the most heteronormative figures I have seen in recent games. It is revealed that this force making men undergo these nightmares is a god who explains his goals in the following terms: “Wasting a woman’s time of greatest fertility is a hindrance to the future of the species. So, we separate these non-fruitful couples and redistribute the women to men who can follow the natural order, you see.” This is an antagonist who literally sees women as nothing more than baby incubators. Through these nightmares and the help of Catherine he puts men into situations where they will cheat and therefore allow the women in their lives to move onto other men so that they can procreate. His argument reduces both men and women to their biological functions and says that this is the sole purpose of humanity. Love, compassion,  and partnership are never mentioned because all this god cares about are people having children.

Luckily, Vincent disagrees with that narrow view of humanity. He yells back at him  “Look men and women… they’re more complicated than you think!” and “Despite what you think, we don’t need any herding.” and finally, “But I AM human! And I’m free to choose how I live!”.  Sadly, this is not fully explored within the game. Throughout most of the storyline we see Vincent fear commitment, fear having a baby, fear taking responsibility, and fear talking to either woman about his true desires. Rather than being a complex character he is the often the stereotype of a man who cannot take a relationship seriously. His relationships with Catherine and Katherine are full of complexity but he chooses to not deal with either of them. He does not discuss his fears and anxieties with the women in his life and instead spends his time drinking at a bar with his friends. He is avoiding making a choice and living with the consequences of that decision. Men and women are more complicated than the god claims but Vincent shows little of that until he finally defeated the god at which point the majority of the game is long past. It is only at the end of the game that he begins to make conscience choices and live with the consequences of his actions.

Another revelation is that the blue/red scale used to gauge text message responses and confessional booth answers within the game represents Freedom versus Order. Choices that lean toward selfish desires or Catherine are Freedom, and those that care about the needs of a partner or favor Katherine are Order.  This just adds to a false dichotomy presented with Catherine/Katherine. Early on during their relationship Catherine she tells Vincent that she is happy to be his girlfriend but only if he never cheats on her. That comment mirrors Katherine’s desire for monogamy in a relationship. So both women want that “order” in a relationship yet Catherine is seen as Freedom whereas Katherine is seen as a restrictive Order choice. Instead, I saw both women as similar in some ways. While they may dress differently and have different physical appearances both women care about Vincent, want to spend time with him, contact him frequently by phone, and want a monogamous relationship. I have a difficult time seeing the two women as complete opposites like the game suggested with the Freedom versus Order dichotomy.

One large disappointment with the game came from a revelation surrounding Catherine. We are told that, “She is a succubus. She appears at will and seduces men under the curse by appearing as their ideal woman.” She is that shepard leading sheep/men to their slaughter. The overt sexuality she exhibits and the clothing that hints at lingerie exists because it is Vincent’s true sexual desire. Which means that the two main women in the game are portrayed as either coercing Vincent into commitment or as little more than a personal seductress. This reveal made Catherine a far less complex character and turns her into a pawn in the antagonist’s game. I am currently replaying the game and will be trying to choose Catherine as Vincent’s end game partner. I am unsure how the game will deal with this decision in light of the fact that she is not a real person. One small positive is that when discussing the affair with his friend Orlando, Vincent says that he knows Catherine would not be “his type” and he knows this because she is Vincent’s “type”. This bit of dialogue shows an understanding that sexual preference is varied and individual.  While Catherine is Vincent’s personal ideal he knows that this would not be true for everyone.

After learning the truth about Catherine it becomes obvious that the affair is not physical, but rather something that likely only occurs in Vincent’s mind. There is no physical Catherine and thus no physical affair. The only person that ever saw Catherine was Vincent, even when they were supposedly sitting together in the Stray Sheep bar. Yet Vincent said the following to Katherine in my game, “It may have been fake, but in my heart I was still cheating on you…. I’m sorry. I know you can’t forgive me for what I’ve done… I finally woke up.” His understanding that he did have an affair, even without the physical contact, was a high point in the game for me. He is in a monogamous relationship and therefore his belief that he is having an affair with Catherine and his lack of desire to end that relationship is a betrayal to his pledge to Katherine. That discussion showed a level of maturity and care for his relationship that the rest of the game was lacking.

Erica, the red haired waitress from the Stray Sheep bar. She is wearing a yellow uniform, with a white apron, white and green sneakers and is holding a tray with a beer and a rum and coke.

Finally, I cannot discuss Catherine with talking about the character of Erica Anderson. She is the waitress at Stray Sheep. She is cheerful, friendly, flirtatious, and has known Vincent and his friends since they were young. Toby, a younger friend of Vincent’s, has a crush on Erica. As the story progresses the two of them date and have a sexual relationship which is significant to Toby in part because it is his first sexual relationship. At the ending scene in my game Erica walks over to Toby to give him a hug but he pushes her away and says, “The guys knew you as Eric back in school. I want my damn V-Card back!” She replies with “Sorry, but once that hole is punched, there’s no refund!”.  That short scene informs the player that Erica is a transgendered character and there are both low and high points to how this is portrayed within the game. During the entire game Erica is referred to with female pronouns. In the art book and in the game guide her description also uses female pronouns. Sadly, there are several instances where Vincent’s friend hint that Erica isn’t a “real woman” but they could be easily overlooked at the time as them teasing a friend, but in hindsight they seem cruel. I did find it as a positive that they never tell Toby about Erica’s past throughout the bulk of the game. I saw this as a sign of acceptance of Erica by her friends. Therefore I am quite upset at Toby being told of Erica’s past at the end of the game by his friends because that is information that should be disclosed when Erica felt comfortable doing so, not given away as gossip. A further striking choice was made by Atlus when they decided that Erica would undergo the nightmares along with Vincent and the other men. I assume that she is having the nightmares because she is not able to procreate, but since only men are lured into that dream world it hints that she is not truly female, at least in the eyes of the god controlling the nightmares. That decision gives license for players to also not see her as truly female and that is the biggest failing in her portrayal.

Overall, Catherine is a game that fails to shatter stereotypes. In its attempt to tell a mature tale about adult relationships it thrives in cliches. Vincent wants everything to stay the same yet he fears a permanent commitment to his relationship. The idea of a having a child causes him great anxiety, so much so that a child is the boss in two separate nightmare stages. When he is unhappy with his relationship, rather than talking with his long time girlfriend, he instead sits in a bar getting drunk with his friends. Vincent’s “ideal” woman is a blond, blue eyed, younger woman who is sexually bold and wears provocative clothing. This is a set of over used cliched that are never shattered. Vincent’s conclusion that people are complicated creatures is never fully explored by the game. In the end, I wish Catherine showed more depth and examined its adult themes with more care. For games that do these things I recommend some previous titles by this team: Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 and Persona 4. In fact, Catherine alludes to those games several times with images of characters or icons from the Persona series scattered around the Stray Sheep bar. Personally, I am thrilled that an Atlus game sold 200,000 copies in the first week but I wish it had been one of those two gems rather than this latest project. The Persona games handle complex character stories much better than Catherine and I would recommend those games for players interested in mature themes that really do mean more than just boobs and sex.

Mother’s Day Video Games

This weekend will be Mother’s Day in the United States. Many websites are selling gifts geared specifically for what they think will sell to mothers. We see a lot of the stereotypical items being pushed right now: flowers, chocolate, perfume, jewelry. The website Amazon.com is advertising their electronic book reader and video games along with the often peddled flowers and perfume. But they continue to heavily gender stereotype what women want in their video game selections.

Some of the suggested video games for Mother's Day through Amazon.com. This shows the first 3 rows of games, over half of which are exercise titles.


There are 48 items listed in Mother’s Day video games segment of their website. Here is the breakdown by Title, System, and Genre:

Title System Genre
America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking Nintendo DS Recipes
Baby Pals Nintendo DS Simulation
Babysitting Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Bejeweled 3 PC Puzzle
Challenge Me Word Puzzles Wii Puzzle
Cooking Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama 3: Shop and Chop Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama World Kitchen Wii Simulation
Cooking Mama: Cook Off Wii Simulation
Crafting Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Dance Central Xbox360 Dance
Dance on Broadway Wii Dance
DanceDanceRevolution Bundle Wii Dance
DanceDanceRevolution Bundle PS3 Dance
EA Sports Active Wii Exercise
EA Sports Active 2 Wii Exercise
EA Sports Active 2 PS3 Exercise
EA Sports Active: More Workouts Wii Exercise
ExerBeat Wii Exercise
Fit in Six PS3 Exercise
Food Network: Cook or be Cooked Wii Simulation
Gardening Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Get Fit with Mel B PS3 Exercise
Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout Wii Exercise
Gold’s Gym Dance Workout Wii Exercise
Happy Cooking Nintendo DS Simulation
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010 Wii Exercise
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2011 Wii Exercise
Just Dance Wii Dance
Just Dance 2 Wii Dance
My Fitness Coach Wii Exercise
My Healthy Cooking Coach Nintendo DS Recipes
Nintendo 3DS System
Nursery Mania Nintendo DS Simulation
Personal Trainer: Cooking Nintendo DS Recipes
Picross 3D Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzle Expedition Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzle Quest 2 Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzler World Nintendo DS Puzzle
The Biggest Loser Challenge Wii Exercise
USA Todays Puzzle Craze Nintendo DS Puzzle
What’s Cooking? With Jamie Oliver Nintendo DS Recipes
Wii Fit Plus- Software Only Wii Exercise
Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board Wii Exercise
Your Shape Fitness Evolved Xbox360 Exercise
Zumba Fitness Wii Exercise
Zumba Fitness PS3 Exercise

The gift recommendation composition by genre. 37% exercise games, 26% simulation, 15% puzzle, 13% dance, 9% recipes.


The gift recommendation composition by system. 45% Wii, 38% Nintendo DS, 11% PS3, 4% Xbox 360, 2% PC

Looking through the list of recommended games many things stand out. There is only 1 PC game (Bejeweled 3) and it is a puzzle game. The only games on the PS3 or the Xbox360 are either exercise or dance games, and these 2 categories make up the bulk of the buying suggestions. There are also 4 titles on the list that are cooking demonstration/recipe compilations. What I notice here is a lack of diversity. Based on this list the assumption is women mainly play the Nintendo systems and they love to exercise and cook. Literally half the simulation games are the Cooking Mama series.


Amazon started with a step in the right direction. Since there is a video game section for their Mother’s Day gifts, they must realize that women play video games. But that is where they started and ended their journey. The gift guide show us a stereotype of a female gamer rather than a full array of games women enjoy. There are definitely some great games on that list, but the compilation as a whole lacks diversity. Where are the role playing games? Where are the strategy games? They have a lot of puzzle games on that list, but where is Portal 2? Why is that game missing? Is there an assumption that women cannot play games with dual stick controls? None of the games on the list have that control scheme. If these gifts are aimed at women, why are there no Teen or Mature rated games? There are no shooters despite that genre selling millions of games. Women want more than just exercise and dance games. I see this as another failure in a long list for marketing and advertisement. Making a diverse list is simple, so why do we not see one here? By lacking variety in their recommendations Amazon chooses to ignore a wider audience and perpetuates a stereotype of women both in terms of their general interests as gamers and as people.

*NSFW* Top Spin 4: Selling female athletes and gamers as sex symbols


Top Spin 4 is the latest installment of 2KGames’ tennis series featuring playable character depictions of actual tennis stars.  This latest promotional video features professional tennis champion Serena Williams and the “world’s sexiest tennis gamer” Rileah Vanderbilt, and it definitely doesn’t focus on either of their talent or skill.  The video features both of the women in scantily clad outfits with gratuitous shots of their breasts and asses, and slows down their athletic grunts to sound like something right out of a porno.  How sad is it that someone like Serena, who at one point was the top woman tennis player in the world, who has won two Olympic gold metals, who is considered one of the best tennis players of all time, isn’t enough to sell a game about tennis without removing most of her clothes?

This video also focuses very little on the actual video game that it is promoting.  Kotaku states “…maybe this is what it takes to get people (or just horny dudes) to notice 2K Sports’ latest Top Spin game, a title that’s not known for its titillation, sweaty cleavage and spurts of flame.”

It’s a completely overdone way of advertising games that have little in the way of decent gameplay. It’s basically like putting a big sign on the game saying “Our game sucks, and it is so uninteresting to play that we have to resort to sex to sell it.”  Although it does do us a favor by showing us exactly which games to avoid purchasing.

(via Kotaku)

Trenched – for men, manly men! (no girls allowed)

A screenshot from Trenched. It shows a large robot attacking an equally large blue creature.


A new game has been announced from Double Fine.  In this game you can control huge robots against what appears to be a science fiction type  alien menace. A large variety of gigantic robots can be controlled by the player. Not much information is available about the game yet but that premise sure sounds fun to me! Robots? Sci-fi aliens/creatures? I am interested!! So I checked out the trailer:



Double Fine (ominous laughter)

They are coming. Coming for your freedom. .. for your family… for your children. (shows aliens attacking)

(image of an alien screaming) The Monovision menace has destroyed our army, our navy, our air force. Who is left to fight?

(image of a huge robot commanded by a male soldier rises up from the ground) The mobile trench brigade! (image of men doing one armed push-ups) An elite force of experienced soldiers trained to command a revolutionary breed of weaponry.  A combination of mobile firepower and stationary defenses that will turn the tide of war in our favor.

(a fast scrolling gallery of images that always show a male soldier standing in front of a different robot) Handle cutting edge weaponry designed specifically for mobile trench warfare. March side by side with allies from around the world. You can join us, or just stay home and wait for Vlad to knock on your door.


Turn no man’s land into REAL MAN’S LAND!

Did I just hear that correctly? This game is for MEN! MANLY MEN!! No girls allowed, because war is for MEN!!

I do not know if the game will include playable female soldiers. It may or it may not. But even if the game itself only includes male soldiers, it could still be appealing to female and male gamers. Yet the advertising strongly states that women gamers are not welcome. It yells that this is “REAL MAN’S LAND”! Why, oh why, do we still see this kind of advertising? In one line, my excitement diminished and my anger rose. Here is a game that interested me when I heard the premise but the trailer specifically screams that it is FOR MEN; it is not for me. That line was unnecessary and did nothing but exclude part of the potential audience. The way I see it, it is a sign of bad advertising when I go from excited about a game to feeling angry and excluded in less than 2 minutes.

Ad Copy Done Wrong: BTO Online’s sexism, racism, & classism

Wundergeek is a straight, cis white woman who recently was asked to write an article about sexism in gaming and found she couldn’t shut up about in once the article was done. She’s since started Go Make Me a Sandwich, a blog mostly devoted to ranting about sexist imagery in all areas of gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, she is an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

BTO (or Business Tycoon Online) is yet another translated Chinese browser-based free online game. It’s published by Dovogame, which also publishes a free online browser RTS called “WarFlow”. (Which isn’t the worst name I’ve heard for an RTS, but it sure as shit isn’t the best by a long shot.)

Unsurprisingly, like pretty much all others of its ilk that I’ve encountered, it uses pretty women and big fake breasts in its ads, despite the game having pretty much nothing to do with sex – unless distribution and franchising is the sort of thing that gets you hot and bothered. If you stumble across one of their tamer ads, like this one, it might seem pretty indistinguishable from the legions of ads just like this one:

I am totally hot and fiscal for you! (an Asian woman displaying generous amounts of cleavage with the BTO: Mansion logo)

Albeit one whose translations are not as good as some other Chinese-translated games out there:

Fix you typo! (A "limited gift code giveaway" banner featuring a blond white woman showing lots of cleavage. The banner has a button right next to the woman's breasts that says "get you code".)

Make money like a former Senate Republican? Woo! What fun! (An old white man in a suit surrounded by cleavagey young women. It reads "be the boss and make your frist million")

All joking aside, the second banner about making your “frist” million pretty much sets the tone for the whole ad campaign. Boss = man = clothes. Subordinates = women = BOOBIEZ. And that makes sense, right? If there’s one thing that I learned from the few years I worked for a multi-national corporation it’s that only men get to be fully clothed. And let me tell you, showing the amount of skin mandated by corporate policy got pretty damned uncomfortable in the winter, what with being in Canada all. I had to resort to drinking margaritas at my desk to keep warm!


Boobz = profits is one of the biggest laws of economics. (Two banners, both featuring white men in business attire alongside women in very revealing outfits.)

I have to hand it to BTO. They actually have a pretty diverse range of ads in that they steal from pretty much every other online game’s ad campaign ever. We have the Breast Now Button from games like Evony and Caesary:

Three banners for gift package giveaways that feature text over or right next to the breasts of scantily clad women. The top banner has a woman behind a large gift box that appears to be naked.

There’s also the “half-naked woman with o-face with cars” from… just about every car ad ever:

TOP: A woman with a sultry expression and most of her breasts showing next to two expensive luxury cars. BOTTOM: A banner that reads "create your dream car now". A white man in business attire is on the left, in the center are four expensive luxury cars, and on the right is a woman with a seductive expression and a very revealing outfit. There is a button placed right next to her crotch.

I have to say, it’s pretty surreal seeing all of this sex-based marketing applied to a game about building a business empire. I mean, sure I guess the sexist advertising matches up with the misogynist reality of corporate boardrooms, what with less than 4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs being women. But even so, there seems to be an even larger disconnect between the ads and the game than with other free mmos that use these advertising tactics. When I think “business empire”, I usually don’t associate it with women’s crotches. But apparently, the BTO advertisers would like me to:

treature”. There is a treasure chest right in front of her crotch.”]

Two banners. One with a scantily clad woman that says "30 Million players" and has the BTO logo over her crotch. The second has the same woman in front of an old nautical map and reads "Dive deep and claim your [sic

Not exactly subtle, are they? Amusingly, I think the advertisers may have fallen into their own trap. It seems like they were so busy staring at this poor woman’s crotch to notice that they misspelled treasure – unless they’re trying to invent new marketing slang. (Treat + treasure = punany?)


All of this is bad enough, but BTO really goes for the gold with this one:

Two white men in suits with the BTO logo. One is clearly modeled on Warren Buffet. The other is... perhaps a Kennedy? The banner reads: POWER-UP YOUR WEALTH AND SOCIAL CLASS.

…by becoming a white man, amirite? I haven’t seen a single woman resembling an avatar in any of these ads. All of the women shown as presented as rewards, not as people or potential characters.

Also, look at the ads and really examine the skin tone. The first woman looks Asian, and a few of the others might be (it’s hard to tell at such small resolution). But all of the ads feature only figures that share a certain paleness of skin tone. The woman in the first ad is even paler than the JFK-ish guy on the left in the “Power-Up” ad! I didn’t find a single figure with a skin tone darker than light caucasian tan until I went hunting for screen shots and found this gem:

A game screen titled "please select your secretary". There are 10 female portraits. One secretary is selected who is describes as "stylish". She is a white blond woman who is showing most of her breasts, most of her midriff, and is wearing a micro-mini skirt. She has a very alluring expression.

So I guess the lesson is that it’s okay to be non-white, as long as you’re a hot chick willing to bone your boss, who will always be a white man and may also be ugly and/or old. Remember, it doesn’t matter if men in corporate culture aren’t young and attractive because we don’t hold them to such shallow standards. As for the women, tits or gtfo, bitches.

What I really, REALLY love is that if you squint hard enough to make out the words, each portrait is captioned with not a name but a generic descriptor. Like “sociable”, “sweet”, “innocent” or “dutiful” – none of which really tell you a whole lot about what sort of assistants they would be. Then you have the even LESS helpful descriptors like “gorgeous” and “stylish” – which describes the highlighted secretary with her shirt open.

…stylish? I can think of a few adjectives to describe her, but “stylish” isn’t the one that pops to mind. Generally, being stylish involves, um, wearing clothes.

And then there’s the red circle… the type was really small; I initially thought the caption was “Oriental”, which I just couldn’t believe – hence the red circle. I went hunting for a larger screen and discovered that the caption is actually “Outstanding”, which is still pretty ridiculous. Just what is she outstanding at? I think the implication is that it’s not paperwork ifyouknowwhatimean.

The thing is, when I went looking for a larger screenshot just now, I happened to find this:

A screen showing a portrait of a young woman, Asian? (it's ambiguous) wearing a blazer and showing cleavage. On the right side is a "Secretary Introduction", including: "Style: Oriental". (ORIENTAL? SERIOUSLY??)

Okay, what gives? This is a game published by a Chinese company! Even if this is a mis-translation, it’s one that should have been corrected. I mean, this is just awful. Really, unbelievably awful.

So, wow. Dovogame – you fail. A lot.

(Originally posted here)