Sunday, October 28, 2007

Putting Up With Gaming

As a gamer's wife, I have to put up with a lot. I have to put up with dinner being late because we have to wait for Grim to finish his level/game, or I lose out on the romantic night because he has to game with the guys online. I have to put up with “Just another second, hon. I've almost destroyed this rabbit! Then I will have access to the magical watermelon rind!” Plus, I have to listen to him and all his friends talk about gaming ALL THE TIME. Honestly, that is probably the worst.

Since we work in the gaming industry, we have to discuss gaming quite a bit, which is OK with me – I mean it is work after all. However, one would think that we live, eat, sleep, and breathe nothing but games, given how others react when they learn what we do. Especially for me, since I also teach at a technical school, whose fight song could be entitled “Game on, Game on, for Freeport . . .” This is the type of school where, if MMOG was offered as a major, that would be the only major. No one would attend the school for any other subject. This is a school where, when you walk down the halls, no only do a slew of students duke it out in a game of Magic, but wireless laptops are open and it looks like the owners have a terrible habit of talking loudly to themselves (“To the left! To the left! Behind you! AHHH!!”).

Needless to say, I don't broadcast that I work with or write about games for a living, and I sure as heck have learned not to mention that Grimwell is my husband. I've had students actually recognize the name and then want to do nothing more than talk about him all night long! I have to live and work with the guy, and the last thing I want to do is talk about his gaming habits with a bunch of MY students all night long! If I should let it slip that I edit his website, all I hear for the next hour is, “Does he play this? What does he think of that? What server is he on?” Or, God save me, even worse: “Do your play EQ2?” What server are you on?”

To tell the truth – I have no idea. When anyone starts talking about mmorpgs or PS3, it's like someone flipped a switch and now everyone is speaking in tongues. I, on the other hand, then have the ungrateful task of trying to bring attention back around to whatever it is the students are supposed to learning.

And it's not just students – our personal friends also fall under this banner. Take our friend Jay. When we are together with Jay and his wife, Jay is a normal person. However, get him alone with Grim (or, God help me, Grim and myself) and it is non-stop game talk. My eyes start to glaze over and I begin to mentally rearrange my shoe closet. Even worse, sometimes Grim is not even there, but since I am, I become the gaming conversationalist by default. As an example, last week I was at a girl-gathering with Jay's wife at Jay's house. In the midst of our superficial talk, Jay came home and asked his wife if he had time to play his new game downstairs. Then he proceeded to share all the info of his new game with me – how he got it for free with trade-ins, how he can't wait to play it, how he talked to Grim about it for some reason, yadda yadda yadda . . . and my eyes begin to lose focus.

It's not that I am against gaming or anything; quite the reverse. There are many games, online and PC games, which I play. My kids play a variety of PC, online, and console games as well. We are a gaming family, and I have learned to accept that. It is just so difficult to talk about gaming ALL THE TIME –especially when I am seen as little more than Grim's proxy game conversationalist. I am not a gamer – not in the way Grim and his associates are, so the only thing I ask is that, sometimes, can we talk about something else? How about those Lakers? I hear the weather can be nice to talk about. Do you have any boring tales about your family? Because I would LOVE to talk about all that.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How (Not) to Sell!

I have dabbled in marketing and advertising for a while now -- quite a few years ago with Allstate, then on my own as an independent contractor for smaller businesses. I have worked on pieces that eventually became advertisements, internal communications, media kits, websites, and other odd communications. I have also written some articles as of late as well. Throughout all of this work, my highest priority has always been language. To select the right word, the perfect word, le bon mot, is essential to the overall product. In my writing classes, the one aspect of writing I emphasize most is that of language -- finding that one perfect word.

So it surprises me considerably to see commercials on the air, commercials for which companies have paid MILLIONS, use atrocious or awkward language, especially when one small change could have made all the difference.

Take for example the recent Dos Equis beer commercial. Here they present the quintessential distinguished gentleman, surrounded by his harem of attractive women, and how do they advocate their product? "I don't always drink beer; but when I do, I drink Dos Equis." I don't always drink beer? If you are a beer company, that is the ONLY thing you want your audience drinking! To promote an alternative, even as a means to set a certain tone within the commercial, fails entirely. In advertising, you want the core of your commercial promoting your product, and if that product is beer, then that better be the only thing your hottie older man is drinking! Imagine this one small change: "When I drink beer, I drink Dos Equis." The same message is conveyed, and the option of NOT drinking beer (God forbid) is implied, but not overt. To the casual watcher, the only beer is Dos Equis. There is no option for any other drink of choice.

Ford Motor Company did something similar, but instead of just dropping the ball on endorsing their own product, they tarnished it to millions by admitting the LIED to the general public. In their most recent commercial, they promote their vehicles via a "swap" -- a driver swapping his or her current vehicle for a Ford vehicle. Then, in an almost comical undertone, the announcer admits, "We didn't tell them we were from Ford. We said it was market research." I'm sorry, but instead of coming clean with these people and saying, "Hey, we're from Ford and want to get your opinion on our vehicles. Drive one and tell us what you think," they admit to MILLIONS OF VIEWERS that they were willing to CONNED the people whose opinion they solicited! And admit it on public television! In a commercial THEY paid for! Talk about irony! Paying to admit that you defrauded others?

The problem here is that no one CARED if Ford admitted who they were or not. Had Ford contact me, a non-Ford driver, and said they wanted me to drive their car and see what I thought, I would have said, "Sure!" Whether or not they were from Ford or from some market research firm would make little difference. However, to baldly LIE to others in order to garner information, and then use that as a selling point in their commercial, really defeats the overall purpose of the commercial - you lied to me about your company, why should I trust you when you say you make good cars? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Again, the irony here is all they had to do is change the language a bit and they would have been fine - We at Ford are conducting market research. It is essentially the same thing - market research - only Ford would not have been LYING when they said it.

Of course, my son thinks that car commercials are boring and all the same, and the only ones worth watching are the funny ones. Given the high viewership of those comical Superbowl commercials, I think he is right - and he's only ten! I know that the only car commercials I care to watch are the funny ones, and there are pathetically few of those as it is.

Maybe if advertisers focused more on their audience, those of us who have to WATCH those stinking commercials, we wouldn't have these language issues. But who am I? Oh, right. I'm a consumer. They need to market to me.