Day 302: The Pixelated Madness Of Advergaming, Part 2

originally published October 28, 2012

Last weekend I re-discovered some of the more blatant attempts to sell product through pandering and often sub-par video games. It almost seems as though these corporations thought so little of their target demographic that they believed we’d play anything with colorful graphics and pretty bleeps, then turn around and buy whatever product was linked with the game.

And they were probably right. We weren’t a discerning bunch back then.

I only barely scraped my way out of the 80s in last week’s article. There are so many of these things to choose from, I felt it warranted another thousand words.

One more from the annals of the Atari 2600. I don’t know if any companies still offer proof-of-purchase giveaways, but this was a huge thing in the 80s. If your family bought a lot of Johnson & Johnson oral hygiene products in 1983, then you might have played this game. This was the only way to obtain the cartridge, so I estimate they may have sold thirty, tops.

In Tooth Protectors you control the little dude on the bottom, holding a strip of dental floss above his head. The ‘Snack Attacker’ up top tosses ‘snack squares’ (white dots) at the teeth (white squares) below, and you have to run underneath and catch them. Apparently a sizable portion of the instruction manual was devoted to advertisements for Johnson & Johnson products.

I suppose when you don’t have a catchy mascot or any kind of visual corporate identity, you’ve got to do what you can. If you do have the mascots though, well that just makes everything easier.

In M.C. Kids, published by Virgin Interactive and intended to remind kids that McDonald’s exists, you control either Mick or Mack (the white kid or the black kid) in a standard platform game. The backstory is this: Ronald McDonald was showing off his magic bag at a picnic (McDonald’s has little to no sense of phrasing), when it was stolen by that constant McDonaldland pain-in-the-ass, the Hamburglar. Rather than deal with the issue himself, Ronald sends two children on a perilous journey to recover what I can only assume is a stale order of McNuggets.

I can’t speak to the quality of this product, though the McDonald’s corporation did their best to down-play any promotion for it because they felt it was too difficult for kids to play. I don’t know – the issue here seems to be the plot. Once you finally track down the Hamburglar in a volcano (where else?), you end up having to fight the magic bag in order to win it back for Ronald.

Maybe Ronald should have gotten off his ass and done his own dirty-work. Or maybe Mayor McCheese needs to be voted out of office since he can’t seem to take a tough stance on crime and lock the Hamburglar away. Shit’s falling apart in McDonaldland, that’s all I’m saying.

There was a moment sometime in the late 1980s when someone looked at the red dot on a 7-Up bottle and decided it would make a great company mascot. They threw some sunglasses on it, gave it arms and legs, and sent it off into the world, hoping it would make people thirsty.

Then they made a game for it. Cool Spot was released in 1993 for every major platform on the market, including the SuperNES and GameBoy. This is another side-scrolling platform game, in which you control the red dot and seek out other kidnapped red dots on each level. Once you free one, you move on to the next level and the spot you just freed takes off and refuses to help you because spots are dicks.

This game won awards – including a listing as the 28th greatest game of all-time, according to Mega Magazine – and it also spawned a few sequels. I don’t know why Coca-Cola didn’t turn its wavy stripe into a creature to match the Spot’s success, or why Pepsi didn’t…

…oh right. Pepsi made their spot into the full-bodied Pepsiman and released that as a game too. Every great idea gets its own bastardizations, I guess.

“As is Chester Cheetah way, is one-person play.” That’s a direct quote from what appears to be a poorly-translated instruction manual for Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool, a game released for the SuperNES in 1992. Not a lot of info on this game, though it did spawn a sequel, Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest. In the latter game, you have to run through cities, devouring Cheetos and stomping on enemies. If you don’t eat all the Cheetos before the level’s timer runs out, you die.

This reinforces a good lesson: eat junk food as quickly as possible or you will die. Reviews for the game fell somewhere between 2/10 at to 6/10 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. As much as I’d love to seek out an online version so I can test it and report its quality (or lack thereof) with accuracy, I think I’ll pass.

Okay, that picture is the stuff of potential nightmares.

If you ate at a Burger King in late 2006, you may have picked up this Xbox 360 game for a  mere $3.99 along with your value meal. The plot of Sneak King involves the Burger King’s King mascot skulking around a neighborhood in search of hungry people, then forcing them to eat crappy Burger King food, lest they discover something with some nutritional content in their kitchens and eat that instead.

Reviews of this game were understandably mixed. On the one hand, the graphics were sub-par and the gameplay rather antiquated by 2006 standards. Still, it was four bucks, and for a four-dollar game it was pretty elaborate. And/or creepy.

This last entry had a short shelf-life. Viva Cruiser was an in-browser game that you could find through an ad on In the game, you ride a bike while being inundated with ads from the game’s sponsor, Viagra.

The Food & Drug Administration felt that advertising boner-pills through a video game was in slightly poor taste, and they ordered it to be taken down.

Given the fact that the first generation of video game kids is aging, I expect we’ll see more adult-themed releases in the advergaming world. I see a world where Retirement Fund Invaders, Cialis Command, and Pac-Depends will show up as hot new releases for the Playstation 4.

My money is here, game-makers. Come and take it.

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