After being gone for an extended time, the Sociology of Video Games is back!
We’re coming back today with….A research study that suggest some video games promote unhealthy food.
A Michigan State University Research team conducted a study on “Advergames” and their prevalence in the video game world. An Advergame, for those of us who don’t inherently know made up words, is defined as an online game that specifically promotes a product, service, or company. This isn’t surprising, as marketing teams have realized the obvious connection between kids playing games and kids getting their parents to buy them things. Of course, such games have been around, even before the advent of online video games. Let’s take a quick look at some of those great titles!
McKids was the fine product of copying Mario Brothers and McDonalds. Players got the chance to play around the magical Mcdonald world of talking food products, creepy clowns, Hamburger thievery, and whatever Grimace is. If you’re up for the challenge, you may even get your hands on Ronald’s Magic Bag! Oh boy!
Chex Quest (1996)
Chex Quest was the best cereal based first person shooter of all time. Taking control of The Chex Warrior, players battled their way through levels fending off Chex hating aliens. The game was released as a free-in-cereal-box title for those who bought Chex cereal. Just beware, the game will make your computer smell like Chex!
Playstation All-Stars Island-Sponsored by Coke Zero (2013)
One of the more recent offenders comes to us from Coke and Sony. Playstation All-Stars come together for IOS minigames and promotion of coke! All proceeds go to Coke, Sony, and having no respect.
But we have to ask: is this a concern for video game players or advertisers? These games are going to made regardless of players consuming them or not. Similarly, it begs to reason that if a company (like coke or Mcdonalds) is big enough to be able to create an entire game based around their product it’s probably not the best product in the world.
“One of the things we were concerned about was that the majority of foods that received the most interest were those that tended to be energy dense — high in calories — and not high in nutrients,” said Lorraine Weatherspoon, a co-director of the project and an associate professor of food science and human nutrition. “These foods typically included high-sugar snacks and cereals as well as instant or canned soups, sugar-sweetened beverages and several types of candy products.”
Well..yeah, that’s because those companies that are big enough and well known enough for these types of marketing stunts to actually work are products that kids and consumers already know about.
So what’s to be done? Should Video Games cut ties to big corporation and marketing stunts all together? No, because that’s not something that can realistically happen. Corporations are going to make games to market their products just like anyone can make a video game to push whatever strange idea or thought they have. If anything we shouldn’t be surprised that corporations are using video games to promote their unhealthy products.