The other day I was waiting patiently in the doctor's office for what felt like an eternity. In my boredom, I decided to flip through the Marie Claire magazine on the shelf. I found myself caught off guard as I stumbled upon a Nintendo ad featuring the Play As You Are campaign. I'm apparently a little late to the party on this one, as the campaign was released in October of last year. Give me a break though - since I don't have cable or subscribe to any sort of literature, it slipped by me.
Now, why exactly am I bringing this up anyway? What was so surprising about this ad? All you have to do is take a look at the first sentence on this image:
"I'm not a gamer"
I had quite a few conflicting emotions when I turned the page to this ad. Initially, I was pretty confused. Once these feelings subsided, I started to get defensive. It does not take a rocket scientist to guess that this ad campaign is targeted to women. It is featured in a popular women's magazine with a famous actress sealing the deal. Nintendo is telling women to play as you are but here's the catch - that doesn't actually involve being a gamer! I knew right away that I needed to go home and learn more.
The campaign actually features several celebrities, including Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas. Her commercial spot is particularly strange, because even though she's playing one of the most famous video games of all time, she is still "not a gamer."
According to Pocket Gamer, Nintendo launched this female-focused campaign in order to "illustrate 'how all kinds of women and young girls can explore their interests and express their individuality using the portable Nintendo 3DS - whether they consider themselves gamers or not'." To me, the company does not accomplish this. I would be completely fine with the campaign if it was revised to say something like, "I'm not just a gamer" or "with my 3DS, I'm an artistic, puzzle-solving gamer." Instead, Nintendo is nearly stigmatizing casual gamers. Let me explain more of what I mean.
|1985 NES ad campaign|
I simply find this campaign to be inherently divisive. Okay, Nintendo is trying to reach a more diverse demographic, I get that. But in order to broaden your inclusiveness and diversity, you need to communicate that anyone can be a gamer! It's all connected to this casual versus hardcore gaming conversation, which I utterly despise. I hate the fact that some gamers judge each other based on the types of games that they play or the amount of free time that they have to play them.
|Famous females featured in the Play As You Are campaign|
While you'll find a variety of news sources sharing opinions of the subject, I felt that this article by Nick Boisson at Comics Bulletin really hit the nail on the head. In response to a reader's comment, Boisson states that Nintendo is essentially inviting new people into the gaming world by commenting negatively on its current world of gamers:
"That commentary devalues an entire industry and what Nintendo has been doing for nearly four decades."
So, putting all the debate aside, here's the big question. After this campaign was implemented, did Nintendo sales increase? It's a difficult question to answer. With the information that Nintendo has made public from quarterly reports, it appears that most news outlets focus on the disappointing performance of the Wii U. The 3DS is projected to continue doing well. But to be honest, I don't look at things strictly from the sales perspective. I look at things from the communications perspective. How is Nintendo projecting itself to current and future customers? While money means just as much in the video game industry as it does in any other, I still firmly believe that image can have a direct effect on success in the long run.
I freely admit that I might be looking into this too much, but I just can't help it! As a major player in the gaming world, Nintendo has the power to unite or divide consumers. It is crucial for the company to constantly evaluate the message it is sending out to the industry. Besides, communications folk can't help but analyze and critique the world around them. It's our job after all :P
Until next time!
-The Girl Informer