The prompt for this blog entry gave me a great chance to have fun exploring games that maybe I would not have been otherwise exposed to. I had the opportunity to explore games that are created with the intention of keeping product familiarity strong with the product, in this case, a television show fresh and relevant among it’s fan base.
I wanted to evaluate the video games based along a theme. The theme that I found, almost by accident, was cartoon television shows. These three shows The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park all probably intended for, but not exclusively consumed by, mature audiences. What is interesting however, is that these video games are rather trivial in relation to modern video games. Due to their menial quality and simplicity it would be easy to assume these games are in fact intended for a younger audience, contrary to its presumed viewing audience.
My assumption of an adult viewership is based on the complex plot lines presented in the episodes. The sequence of episodes over the course of a season, with pretty steady consistency, present the viewer with a story to follow and understand; a story that usually involves moving parts and comedic references that, in general, only an adult would be able to appreciate.
The first game I played was South Park-Ball Game. Appropriately named, the game places you in front of the trademark South Park Elementary, and much like the classic “miniclip” game Bubble Trouble, your objective is to survive as long as possible by dodging sports balls. As the game progresses, the challenge increases as the balls come faster and more frequently. This game is proof that just because a game is considered “low-budget” or simple, doesn’t mean it cant be just as enjoyable as a complex story-line based epic of a video game. I myself fell victim to it’s less than unique addictive trap.
The next leg of my theme brought me to a page full of about nine Family Guy themed video games. One interesting thing about these particular games was that the vast majority of which were actually puzzle, thinking-based games. To get the best sense of the intention, I played what seemed to be the most popular of the most common type of game which was Family Guy Puzzle 1. Another simple game designed with the intention to further perpetuate familiarity with the shows characters.
What is interesting about the presented slate of Family Guy games being puzzle related is that the shows general intention is not to be informative of scholarly, but rather satirical humor. One would think shows with such a basis would have games featuring slap-stick character interaction.
The final video game analyses was focused on games that featured characters from the series many consider to be the most famous animated series of all time. The Simpsons, which has been around seemingly forever, has done a blueprint-like job of developing a familiarity with it’s characters and it’s audience. So much so that even those who don’t even watch the show can identify at least it’s main protagonists.
So why would a series with such success need to continue to saturate it’s audience with content? Simple, because enough is never enough when it comes to successful organizations like FOX, which still airs new episodes of it’s cornerstone program on Sunday nights at 8.
The Simpsons themed games offer a wide variety of games ranging from Simpsons Coloring, to Homer the Flanders Killer 3. Naturally I could not resist playing the later. This game was easily the most popular I tried and was a simple first person shooter game where the object is to shoot the Flanders Family to achieve points. Like the others the game is simple and involves little to no memorization of controls and commands. One main objective is present which gradually becomes more difficult.
One of the most famous examples of tv shows turned video game is Simpsons Road Rage and Simpsons Hit & Run, which was a huge success when they came out for PlayStation in the early 2000s. The game was developed by the creators of the TV show and practically set a blueprint for familiarizing your fans with your cast of characters. Check out a youtube video of this first person experience of playing the game.
It is easy to explain the variation in content when it comes to the Simpsons themed games; because whether the intention or not, people of all ages watch and are familiar with the Simpsons.
Obvious are the comparisons between these examples of games which are designed maybe with alternative intentions other than simple enjoyment and maybe a few hits. Each game features main characters and spin off references to actual episodes. Though the games may not be created or maintained by actual individuals somehow involved with the corporations, they are however indirectly advertising the shows themselves.
One thing these same companies have done given the advent of twitter and social media in general, is integrating the use of hashtags during throughout the viewing experience. Finding social media “trends” relevant to a series can be instrumental to this idea of further perpetuating familiarity of your characters. In an industry where you go through periods of relevance and absence, known as seasons, it is necessary to continue the exposure of your product with it’s audience. As the industry has adapted further efforts have been made to saturate social media with content that ultimately brings your mind back to when the next episode is.
Furthermore the reliance of companies on smart phone applications has continually stressed the importance of advertising in video games. Video games played a huge role in the adolescents of apps. At the dawn of the app age video games were the most commonly downloaded type. (O’neil)
All of these factors lead to an increase in attention payed to the inner workings of advertising as it takes place on social media. Shows use hashtags to gauge reaction to events taking place throughout the course of the season. Nowadays these shows are evolving the use of such hashtags in the form of games and polls to continue constant interaction among it’s audience. However the plan of attack, the goal remains the same.
Simpsons Hit & Run