Coin-Op Gaming – Are You Worthy?
A single man stood behind 5 crumbling shields protecting the earth from invaders from space, he was worthy. Another man navigated through a labyrinth grabbing power pellets while being hunted by four ghosts, he was worthy. Life was simpler then. Arcade gaming started with Space invaders and Pac-Man. The late eighties brought new technology and a different type of gaming. This new type of gaming brought competition to the arcade game market and new challenges to advertisers.
“WE’RE NOT WORTHY,” the ad for Samurai Showdown II, basically questioned the self-worth of the gamer. The ad showed seven gamers bowing down before the arcade game in a worshipful pose, with their heads lowered to the floor, with arms outstretched in reverence. The game machine towers over the gamers like a pagan god in a sunbeam spotlight accepting the homage of the gamers. This ad made the gamer question himself and wonders if he is good enough to challenge the game with his skills.
During the early eighties, as coin op arcades increased game producers needed to find new ways to attract more customers to their stand up units. In order to grab attention of kids in arcades, gaming units had to stand out from the pack. The first generation of arcade games had basic black system cases. This particular unit, Samurai Showdown II, stood out from the rest of the arcade games due to the details of the case. The use of large red Japanese words on the sides of the machine grabbed the attention of the teenage gamers. The background on the case behind the game name and Japanese words was an attention grabbing shattered glass print that brought the focus to the front of the machine with lines converging onto the front monitor. The game designers succeeded in making their product stand out from other games in the arcade.
In this ad, the use of emphasis in the text showed the advantages. Near the bottom of the ad, the advertisers used bold text to shift consumers’ eyes to some power words. “CONTROL,” “AFFORD,” “POWER,” “YO DUDE,” are some examples of the words the advertisers used to grab the reader’s attention. They also used bold upper case large colored fonts over the image of the game to bring home the idea the gamers were not good enough to play their game. In the white text towards the bottom of the page the use of “YO DUDEability” shows readers the ad was not aimed at the well schooled upper middle class yuppies of the eighties but the quarter slamming arcade kids of the era. This ad was targeted towards the gaming community of its time.
The advertisers used a dark background with a highlighted shot of its product. This use of contrast brought the potential game player’s attention towards the game machine, and made the reader take notice of what they are not worthy of. Contrasting the brightly colored machine were the seven gamers dressed in dark clothing bowing down before the machine in deep respect. The pose of reverence drew attention to the product with the outstretched arms pointing towards the product. The author also used white text over a black background in text to draw attention to the text about the benefits of playing their machine.
Advertisers of the eighties often used hyperbole to convey their message. In this ad, the inference of the arcade game as a demigod was obviously overstated but gets the reader’s attention. It is an effective use of hyperbole and has succeeded in capturing an audience for the product’s message. Readers do had to make a decision if they were good enough to play the game. The advertiser posed a question, “You’re not worthy?” This question was answered with a tongue in cheek, “Maybe not, but you’ll never know unless you try SAMURAI SHOWDOWN II.” It is overstated but effective.
This ad tried to convince the audience that it needed to play this game in order to fit in with the good gamers of the time. Many games of this era were competing for a special new group of gamers. Gamers had been used to playing mindless games that had the gamer playing as a character trying to graduate levels that got faster with no real skill involved. Games such as Pac-Man and Space invaders were classics that used these faster and faster levels. Gamers were getting better at games by a trained faster response time not enhanced gaming skill. The newer generation of games had a better computer that could handle many more operations. This new computer technology brought the gaming community what is known today as “artificial intelligence” better known as “AI”. Players did not just play a game that got faster, but now the levels got smarter. Now the top gamers of the era were beating games with strategy instead of faster response to stimuli.
The new generation of video games was a different monster; these games pitted gamers against each other in new roles. Samurai Showdown II, depicted in this ad, was one of the new fighting games. Each fighter the gamer had to beat was better at fighting then the previous. At any time during gamer’s progression another gamer could “challenge,” which would save the gamer’s current progression and would go into a fight another actual person. This was unique to fighting games and brought a new element to the gaming community. “Player vs. player” gaming was born and brought the human ego into the equation of gaming. Now the self-worth of the gamer was directly related to beating a high score AND beating other players.
The question of worthiness to play a video game was dependent on the individual gamer. Many gamers played to compete with friends. Many gamers played for enjoyment and relaxation. This ad targeted the competitive gamer. Samurai Showdown II was a fighting game. Fighting games of those times could be played in one player mode or two player mode. It allowed a person to compete against another player or a high score stored on the individual machine. This ad does not differentiate between the two. It questions if the individual player was capable to be good enough to do either or both. Therefore it was effective in making the reader question his worthiness and excites the primal urge of gamers to prove their own worthiness, whether it is against another or against the scoreboard.