Talking Point: The Message in "I'm Not a Gamer" Commercials
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Word-play, or hiding from being a gamer?
A little over a month ago we mentioned a new series of commercials that Nintendo was planning to run, which it described as the "Play As You Are" campaign. The goal of these adverts was to show "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". That target audience was, naturally, reflected in the celebrities chosen, featuring U.S. gymnastics gold medal winner Gabrielle Douglas, Dianna Agron (from TV series Glee) and Sarah Hyland (from TV series Modern Family). We took the announcement as a prompt to look at the good, bad and cringeworthy celebrity adverts that Nintendo had used over the years, as they don't always go down well with loyal fans.
It seems as if this series has upset some, with the latest commercial featuring Sarah Hyland incurring the wrath of electricpig.co.uk, which takes exception to the "I'm not a gamer" line at the core of its message. Each of these adverts has a similar line depending on the game being promoted, and while we don't necessarily share an equivalent level of indignant outrage, the wording can be interpreted as an effort to distance the act of playing these 3DS games from making you a "gamer". It could be unfortunate wording, as Nintendo may just be trying to say that these games allow you to be something you wouldn't normally be — games are escapism after all — but some clearly feel that it's actually a slight on gamers themselves.
All three adverts are below, so you can see for yourself.
"I'm not a gamer. With my 3DS, I'm an artist"
I'm not a gamer. With my 3DS, I'm a coin collecting champion"
I'm not a gamer. With my 3DS, I'm a stylist"
We think that gaming has come a long way from the stereotypes of the 1980s and 1990s, when being a gamer typically carried an image of being an anti-social, sweaty teenager. The industry and those of us that buy its games have evolved, though clearly there's still enough sexism and lazy stereotyping around to ensure that no-one should get a pat on the back just yet.
That final advert featuring Sarah Hyland has prompted a particularly negative reaction on YouTube, meanwhile, with more "dislikes" than "likes" at the time of writing. We don't necessarily interpret these commercials as Nintendo attempting to tell the target audience that being a "gamer" is something to avoid, but the fact that a number of people think that shows the messaging is all wrong. These adverts may not be cringeworthy in the sense that they're bad, but some clearly feel that they're painting a negative picture of what it is to be a gamer.
What do you think of this campaign? Are they good adverts, are they perhaps a mis-step in that they're being mis-understood by some, or are they actually portraying the idea of a "gamer" in a bad light? Let us know what you think in the comments below.