Hey Powerwolf Pack!
The Mailbag is back. We’ll be appearing on Wednesdays moving forward. It messes up the alliteration of Monday Mailbag, but this will allow me to get my weekend reviews out earlier, and allow more time to write well thought out responses to all your pressing questions. Keep sending them, otherwise I’ll just have to do two Editorials a week instead. (BORING!)
Today’s mailbag delves into the gamification of the entertainment industry and ends with us counting the stars!
Señor Lobo de Poder:
I just saw an interesting video from Matt Lees talking about the design elements of addictive games leaking into the rest of the world. It struck me that this may be happening already in the entertainment industry.
Theaters are offering “reward cards” with seemingly random payouts. Movie studios are betting big on their own cinematic universes that pressure you into spending money on all the movies to keep up with the shared culture. Ubisoft wants us to pre-order movie tickets for up to $1,200…
Are these signs of the gamification of an increasingly manipulative market, the desperate straining of corporations reaching their growth limit, or just typical bumps for this kind of industry?
The only certainty (other than death and taxes) is that people will keep trying to find new ways to sell us stuff. Lees makes some interesting points. Data that figures out the best ways of preying on our addictions doesn’t necessarily doom the human race to a future of hive-mind-like conformity to our capitalist overlords, but knowing that these kind of potential abuses are out there is important, and helps us, as a culture, to focus more on the positive side-effects of our addictive behaviors, (like how Chibi-Robo! reprogrammed Lees into someone who obsessively recycles).
It’s weird, really, what we human beings will turn into games. Then again, we’re not the only ones. Anyone with a pet knows that if they don’t give their animal some way to keep its brain active by playing, it’ll make up its own games, usually at the owner’s expense. I think it’s safe to bet that a longing to succeed at things, no matter how trivial they are, is simply a byproduct of being alive. Different individuals will respond to different goals, obviously, but even without being manipulated, we need to keep in check what we spend our time and efforts on and how it reflects on us as a measure of success.
It occurred to me once, after noticing that I had played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for 200 hours of my life, that if I had spent as much time exercising my mind and body in real life as I had in the game, I would have been in much better shape as an actual human being. Then again… I wouldn’t have been able to fight skeleton warriors and save Tamriel, so I suppose it’s give and take.
As for whether or not gamification of entertainment advertising has already happened – kind of?? I’m not sure who first came up with Rewards Cards, but if they didn’t make at least some people feel like they were “winning,” I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be around anymore. Then again, coupons, “exclusive” fan clubs, and gambling establishments have been preying on human tendencies longer than videogames ever have. Rewards Cards feel more to me like a combination of the former.
As for the “pressure” of keeping up with a shared universe. That’s definitely not a result of videogames, but of Marvel Studio’s success in bringing their comic book formula to the big screen. Actually, I think they’ve improved upon it, because they’re earnestly attempting to make each standalone movie work for the uninitiated, despite having ties to an ongoing narrative. It doesn’t benefit Marvel for an audience member to be alienated by Captain America: Civil War because they haven’t seen Ant-Man yet, and don’t understand why he’s involved. It does benefit them tremendously that even the Ant-noobs LOVED Scott Lang’s small role. I actually think it’s possible that Civil War will be responsible for putting more butts in theater seats for Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) than even the original Ant-Man. This kind of cross-marketing has been happening forever. This is just the first time that parallel film franchises have so seamlessly bolstered each other.
To be clear… Marvel is still the only studio that has actually been successful at this, though many clueless studio heads are tripping over themselves trying to replicate it.
Finally, we arrive at Ubisoft’s $1200 CROSSBOW EDITION of the Assassin’s Creed movie ticket purchase. Um… yeah. You got me there. There is totally some videogame pre-order bullshit going on there. Somehow, I’ve got the feeling that the expensive package tactic isn’t going to stick to an industry that isn’t based around owning a tangible disc.
I think the most troubling “gamifications” of marketing are still to come. Not to sound nihilistic, but if capitalists and politicians can find a new way to prey on our distractibility or addictions, they will. That’s not a possibility, it’s a fact. Our international capitalist system is based on the premise of winners and losers, and (in our current system) winning mandates corruption. It’s just one of many reasons that it’s our responsibility to pay attention, not just to ourselves, but to the world. We need to call these abuses out, as clearly and as widely as we can manage. We need to keep a dialogue going and never take for granted that the way things are running is “good enough.”
Remember to vote, kids!
Ok, silly me, but I notice things and need to know. Why are there 22 stars at the beginning of Paramount films?
There weren’t always! The original Paramount logo apparently came from a “boardroom doodle” that the company president created in 1914. It had 24 stars in honor of the 24 actors that had signed their lives away to Paramount under the soul-sucking old studio system.
The number was reduced in 1974, shortly after the byline A Gulf+Western Company was added to the bottom. I wasn’t able to find an exact reason, but I’m assuming that after the byline, those two extra stars made the logo self-conscious because its “butt looked fat.”
This factoid has been brought to you by addictive videogames and the crowdsourced information of Wikipedia! (Even Slate references them. I checked!) The San Diego reader also created a pretty great timeline of the logo for those interested.
Will pay-to-play videogames doom the world to a future of apocalyptic hive-minded doom? Are the heads of Paramount members of the Illuminati? Let your voice be heard in the comments section. And keep our mailbag full by emailing us all your entertainment related questions and theories at firstname.lastname@example.org!