Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nintendo, why do you say 'gamer' like it's a bad thing?

Nintendo has made millions of dollars since it began attracting 'casual core' gamers a few console generations ago, but its latest 3DS ad campaign takes the casual approach a bit too far by openly denigrating the term 'gamer'.

The female-focused ''Play As You Are" ad campaign stars Glee's Diana Agron, Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas, and Modern Family's Sarah Hyland all showing how much fun young women can have with a Nintendo 3DS.

All well and good so far, until each of the three ends the commercial by looking up at the camera, smiling, and saying "I'm not a gamer."  This ad campaign is the equivalent of having Eli Manning do a commercial for the Harry Potter series and ending it with the tagline "Don't worry, I'm not a reader."

With a coy smile and an extreme close-up, the illusion of a gamer girl playing on a 3DS is shattered and replaced by an offensive marketing gimmick meant to pander to the mainstream at the cost of insulting the product's main fanbase.

Admittedly, the quip is part of a hook at the end of the commercial (Douglas's is "I am not a gamer... I'm a gold coin collector!") but it's no less damaging no matter how it's qualified.

By having each celebrity openly distance themselves from the word 'gamer', the term takes on an extremely negative connotation and becomes something to be avoided.  'Gamers' become everything these girls are not: shy, reclusive, and ugly things afraid to be in public and young girls learn that it's ok to play on a 3DS because - don't worry - it won't make you a gamer.

Both are extremely powerful, and extremely wrong, messages for a company like Nintendo to broadcast.

It's confusing enough that Nintendo would market a gaming product to a large audience and then distance itself from the word 'gamer', but what makes this campaign double, super extra confusing is that Nintendo is doing everything in its power to attract hardcore gamers with the  upcoming Wii U's launch titles like Assassin’s Creed III.

They are different demographics for different consoles, granted, but it still doesn't do well for Nintendo to use the word 'gamer' clearly as a negative in its marketing language.