Tuesday, May 14, 2013

With my 3DS, I'm not a gamer! Wait, what?

Hi friends!

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
As a communications student and budding professional in the industry, I find this messaging to be so off. Nintendo is first and foremost a gaming company! It is completely counterintuitive to not label the people who use your products as gamers. At first I thought it was just idiotic marketing, but it goes much deeper than that. It is insulting to their current fan base and succeeds in talking down to their prospective consumer. I love my 3DS and so many other Nintendo products, but this campaign makes me feel like there is something wrong with being a gamer. Consequently, the gaming community begins to segregate itself even further.

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

Concerning the female focus of this campaign, I understand what Nintendo was trying to achieve, but I do not think it was executed correctly. As stated by GGS Gamer, "Nintendo aims to change the mistaken public perception of who/what 'gamers' are with the campaign." I certainly agree that there are an abundance of stereotypes attached to gaming, especially when it comes to gender. However, talking down to women in order recruit them is not the way to go about things. The campaign itself carries the implication that women are not capable of being a part of the boys gaming club, so you'll need to redefine yourself within the gaming world to be included.

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


  1. Nintendo always puts up with this crap from "gamers". Honestly, to gamers you can put up anyone who has bought Nintendo over the past 10 years under the caption, "I'm not a gamer". Grandma at the old folks home? "Not a gamer". Little sister playing Nintendogs? "Not a gamer". Think Zelda is better than any of the crap peddled by EA? "Not a gamer". What a surprise that Nintendo is catering to this vast audience they found when they stopped caring what gamers think.

    It's not Nintendo that's divisive here. It's gamers that get butthurt any time Nintendo doesn't pay lip service to their fragile egos. Gamers are the be-all, end-all of gaming, not Nintendo! Praise Bioshock Infinite as the masterpiece of our generation, or GTFO. Are you a successful actress or athlete? We don't want you here!

    I don't get the fake outrage from Nick Boisson. It's people like him who say Nintendo's current world of gamers doesn't include "gamers" like himself. If you're not a mindless button masher who plays an artistic game critic om the internet, but you're a coin collecting puzzle mastering artist, you don't exist to gamers and any suggestion that you do exist is offensive.

  2. Why not include the little girl playing Nintendogs and expand the definition of gaming itself? I personally do not associate myself with the egotistical gamers you are referring to and find that most of my friends and family want more people to understand and partake in their passion for interactive media. Nintendo has a huge opportunity to shine a positive light on the diverse aspects of gaming but chose to take a negative approach toward gaming itself.

    It's almost as if Nintendo is making the term "gamer" synonymous with "loser" with this type of marketing. Instead, the company could try to jump into the silly conversation made by many of the elitist gamers you are referring to and stick up for people who play all types of games, whether it be Bioshock Infinite or Gardening Mama. You are a gamer, too!

    I'm not quite sure I understand the point you are trying to make in reference to Nick Boisson, though. I do not sense any sort of "fake" outrage on his part. He discusses his opinion critically and intelligently and encourages an open discussion among his readers. He did not claim that any particular group could not exist as a gamer, in fact, he is pretty open about the need to reach out to new audiences. But please, correct me if I misunderstood your point on that last bit.