As commercialized citizens, most of us have heard of advertising and know why it is used and how it affects us. We also know what the term “gaming” means and associate it with video and computer games. Put the two concepts together, now we have “advergaming”. Advergaming is the concept of creating an online game, aimed at children ages 5-14, based on a certain product, and inserting the brand’s message into the game, persuading children to be a consumer of their product. When I was younger, I remember receiving CD’s consisting of fun games that came along with my cereal. Today, the epidemic is even greater. Children can go online to the site of their favorite channel, toy, or even their favorite food and play adventurous games, not realizing they are receiving a very long sales pitch. As fun and harmless as advergaming might seem, the question of this form of advertising is right or wrong and whether it goes against the terms for commercial running times.
According to It’s Childs Play, “98% of children’s sites permit advertising, and more then two thirds of websites designed for children rely on advertising for their primary revenue” (Moore P.1. 2006). Say a child goes to the nickelodeon website, not only will they see ads for the many shows nick provides, but there will also be ads for brands like Papa Johns and Pepsi. The copious amounts of advertising on a single website could appear absurd to a media literate scholar, but to children, it is just more entertainment and more items to put on their wish lists. The article, “Marshmallow Power and Frooty Treasures” claims, “online gaming sites, to be effective, must encourage not just prolonged visits but also repeat visits”(Thomson p.441. 2011).
There are concerns that advergaming goes outside the rules of commercial times, according to CBS news (CBS 2009). Television commercials are roughly 30 seconds long, when a child is playing advergames online, they are being sold to for endless amounts of time, “inserting brand messages into video games…play can be utterly absorbing” (Thomson p.439-440. 2011). Another concern is children are exposed to yet one more influence that does not allow them to use their imagination or provide any exercise. Not only are kids sitting at the computer, they are also persuaded to ask their parents to go an buy yet one more unhealthy brand of food, all because they have been starring at it as they play their game.
The persuasive technique these companies are using is the use of repetition. Advertisers use repetition to reinforce their point, using words, sounds, and images (Media Literacy Project p.8). As children play advergames, they are consistently seeing that product for how ever long they are enticed by the game. The purpose of the repeated images is to persuade the kids to develop the desire for the product and end up begging their parents to go out and purchase their new favorite merchandise. Advertisers are embedding their product into young minds in hopes that their product will be the next big thing.
The advergaming epidemic is a clever way for advertisers to get children to consume their product, but it is demoting the importance of being a kid. Advergaming is preventing children from playing outside and using their imaginations with their friends. Instead, they are sitting at a computer or begging their parents to take them to the store and get the latest and greatest product they just “adventured” with. It is important to educate children on what they are actually absorbing while playing their online games, so they understand they are being sold to. Educating them will help their future and teach them how to be smart consumers.
1. Moore, Elizabeth S. (July 2006). It’s Child’s Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children. Retrieved from: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7536.pdf
2. Lagorio, Christine. (February 2009). Play It Again: Advergaming. CBS News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/15/eveningnews/main2808272.shtml
4. Media Literacy Project. Introduction to Media Literacy. Retrieved from: http://medialiteracyproject.org/resources/introduction-media-literacy