This week’s blog post asks me to address “gamification”, a buzzword that is sweeping through the gaming industry that represents a type of video game used by schools, governments, businesses, and nonprofits that intend to engage their constituents. In the past, we’ve talked about another genre of video games known as serious games. It’s pretty hard to distinguish the difference between serious games and gamification because they are essentially played out in the same way. However, gamification differs just a little bit because it includes advergaming. Advergaming has the same goals as gamification, aside from the fact that advergaming attempts to sell you on a product through a seemingly entertaining game. For this analysis, I will be reviewing an advergame called Doritos Crash Course!
Doritos Crash Course was and advergame developed by Wanako Games for the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade service. The game was a concept by Jill Robertson that won the Doritos-sponsored “Unlock Xbox” competition in 2010. Doritos Crash Course was later released for free on December 8th, 2010. The game was inspired by various gameshows that we all know such as Ninja Warrior and Wipeout. The game later went on to win second place in the Unlock Xbox competition.
I was fortunate enough to find the game through a PC port online. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. I’m not sure how well the game played on the Xbox 360 at the time, but the port wasn’t very good and it didn’t lead to a very compelling gaming experience for me. However, the game played exactly like what it was designed after. It felt like I was playing American Ninja Warrior the video game; except there was a looming presence of product placement throughout. If I had to describe the graphics/animation of the game, I would call it a Wii game. If you came up to me before I researched this game and told me that it was made for the Wii, I would believe you. The characters literally look exactly like Mii characters. I also found that players with Xbox Live memberships could compare times with friends or play online against other players. However, I didn’t get to experience this because I played on the PC port.
The game play consists of your character having to run through an obstacle course that becomes increasingly more difficult as you go. There are checkpoints along the way, but the levels still feel long. The game has three different areas you can choose to play at which include USA, Europe, and Japan. Each one of these areas has five different levels. As you progress, the obstacles become harder to avoid and it takes longer and longer to complete each course. There are many different traps such as vertical pistons, swinging hammers, trampolines, swinging ropes, metal climbing chains, conveyor belts that vary in speed and direction, collapsing floors, levitation platforms, water balloons, etc.
Since the release of the Doritos Crash Course game, there has been a good amount of interest generated around it. The Doritos Corporation actually made a successful game that people liked, and they wanted more! In addition to that, a journalist for The Content Strategist by the name of Gabe Rosenberg wrote about how the Doritos Corporation “turned user generated content into the biggest super bowl campaign of the year” (Rosenberg). In today’s game industry, user generated content is huge; before the Doritos Corporation came out and offered the opportunity for gamer’s to help create the game, there wasn’t much user generated content being created. In fact, the first version of Doritos Crash Course was so successful, that they decided to make a second game called Doritos Crash Course 2 which made it a game series!
Now that I’ve explained the game, let me talk about how it is a form of advergaming through gamification. As I stated above, this game was listed under the Doritos Corporation’s name. Which in turn makes it a form of gamification. Although I must admit that there wasn’t much in this game in the lines of advertising. Even though it was obvious that the game was published under the Doritos Corporation, it didn’t seem to cram advertisements and product placement down my throat the entire time. The game wasn’t exactly a “good” game, which is usually a pretty good description of advergames in general, but it also wasn’t terribly bad. The reason I chose to review this game over that of other advergames was because it did its job without being annoying and boring. I feel that the Doritos Corporation was actually really successful in releasing this game for that exact reason. It gave the player a free game with multiple levels that looked and felt like a real game while still maintaining to get their brand message across; well done Doritos.
Overall, if you can find this game somewhere and play it, I totally recommend it. It’s not a completely boring game that was created for the sole purpose of trying to promote and sell a product. The reason for this was probably because it was submitted for a competition by a fan and it wasn’t directly envisioned by some corporate big wig who thinks they know how to make a video game. Advergaming and gamification in general can be pretty annoying at times, but when done right, it’s not such a bad thing.