What a Load of Tits: The depressing success of Game of War: Fire Age

All too often, free-to-play is held up as the virus that’s infested itself within the games industry – the demon that started life on Facebook and mobile and is now, gradually, starting to make gamers from all across the spectrum sick.

I’ll give my thoughts on free-to-play right now: I don’t mind it. For some games it works, for others it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s inherently evil, even if some of the games that feature it don’t do the best job of showcasing its strengths. As a matter of principle, though, I refuse to accept that it’s a monetisation model that’s going to kill gaming – it’s just going to take some time before it settles in.

Indeed, there’s something else that I think is having a far greater impact in a negative fashion on gaming. It’s something we’ve had to contend with before and, stupidly, I thought was on the way out. I am, of course, talking about breasts.

Well, not specifically breasts in and of themselves – some people think they’re lovely. Hell, I even know some people who would openly call themselves ‘fans’. Rather, I mean their use in pushing video games. The games industry has been involved in a debate about overly sexualised women who have very little connection to the game itself being used to push titles upon boys typically dominated by the wants of their hormones, whether in the form of half naked booth babes at events or ads depicting women in an especially suggestive fashion.

It had generally been accepted, I thought, that such tactics were especially archaic and should be cosigned to history. And then Game of War: Fire Age came along.

gameofwar

I’ve not played Game of War, or even heard of it until I saw its accompanying commercial, embedded below for your ‘pleasure’. Indeed, my initial reaction when I first saw said advert was one of laughter and derision. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s so out of date and wide of the mark. Are they kidding? Is that actually the best way they can think to sell a mobile game?”

I genuinely thought nothing more of it until I then started to see headlines popping up celebrating the ad’s success. “Kate Upton’s Sexy Ads Double Game of War Revenue to $1 Million Daily” screams one news report.

The press, it appeared, weren’t prepared to criticise developer Machine Zone for hanging the fortunes of its game on model Kate Upton and a dress so tight her breasts are pushed out to a degree to make the average punter think they’ve invested in a 3D TV. Rather, they want to celebrate it, as if so-called “sexy” advertising was in some way some magical new technique they’d just discovered sold things.

Even a cursory look at the history of advertising highlights how sex – and specifically women – have been used to sell everything from cars to cleaning products since TV commercials first rolled onto the scene. You might think, however, that we were beyond such creatively barren techniques. But no, apparently not. Apparently breasts still sell video games, and the press is very keen to hammer home that idea. To what end, exactly? Hell, who knows, maybe if they push it enough we’ll get to see even more boobs in ads for games!

If you think I’m overreacting, check out your Twitter feed. You might spot, every now and again, a sponsored post supposedly from Kate herself asking you to “come and save her”, complete with a handy link to Game of War. Once again, it’s a tit-heavy technique – a particularly one-dimensional approach that equates success in a video game to ‘winning’ the girl with big norks.

This should depress you, all of you, whatever your gender. To be honest, I want to be able to play a video game without having to question whether the developer wants me to play it or not – as a gay man, I have little interest in saving Kate’s weapons of mass destruction from being consumed by war. I just like playing games, and I positively wretch at the thought that Machine Zone is making highly personal judgements about the people it wants playing its games.

Would it rather girls and gay men gave Game of War gave its game a miss? I’m guessing that – for the sake of PR, if nothing else – Machine Zone would say no, yet its advertising suggests it has one target and one target alone: Teenage boys.

What the game actually looks like in play
What the game actually looks like in play

I don’t doubt that, when evaluating just who Game of War was most likely to appeal to, teenage boys came quite high up the register, but the decision that – rather than talking about the game itself – the best way to target these boys was with big bouncy bosoms is creatively redundant. My Mum plays a lot of Bejeweled, but if PopCap started targeting her by swapping out gems for lines of different colour cocks, I’d probably have something to say about that, too.

I’m sure some people would consider this an over-reaction, that the advert is just a slightly tongue-in-cheek (and highly successful) attempt to push a video game, but it nevertheless makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’m fairly sure I’m by no means the only one. I want games to reach as many people as possible – I don’t want anyone to be put off trying a new title based on the crass nature of its advertising. Games are fantastic and wonderful and often hugely rich experiences – everything that this commercial isn’t.

Yet, while it goes on being heralded for the game’s undoubted success, I can see other developers aplenty determining that this is the way to go, that big boobs will help them stand out.

To those studios actively considering taking such an approach with a future release, I say this: Don’t be such a tit.

2 thoughts on “What a Load of Tits: The depressing success of Game of War: Fire Age

  1. I think this says a lot about the average demographic of those playing games on the app store (or at least a significant chunk).

    Reminds me of Tomb Raider, except in that case at least there was some connection between the boobs and the gameplay (:

    Though all things being equal, rather than the boobs I am annoying with games where you have to pay “diamonds” to speed up processes (like making new units) that would otherwise be slow. I’m not sure if this game has that mechanic but I can’t stand it. Especially when the tutorial forces you to go through the motions to ‘use your diamonds’ before they are linked with real money. Something very close to brainwashing.

  2. Some bemoan and wail over their age. Me, I appreciate the wisdom and perspective it gives me.

    And while I like attractive things, women included, the blatant “hey, guys, look at this! BOOBS! now go and download this game because BOOBS! seriously, BOOBS!” here is dumb and immature.

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