The 90’s were a time of great change. The Soviet Union was abolished, Freddie Mercury passed away and stonewashed denim became the greatest fashion craze to ever grace the face of the Earth.
The 90’s also saw a change in the dynamic of how video games were sold to the public. Although such colossal consoles as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had appeared the previous decade and brought video games into the mainstream, they were still very new and provided untested and unknown waters for companies to advertise in.
This basically led to an advertising free-for-all, where companies would try the most bizarre campaigns in order to appeal to what they perceived as their target demographic. In the 90’s, this target demographic was apparently people who were so obsessed with video games that not even a beautiful naked woman could distract them (AKA Koreans).
This article will provide you with a list of some of the most sexual and strange advertising campaigns that the 90’s offered us. Some of them are lewd, some of them are rude, and some of them are just so completely off the wall that it makes you wonder what the hell kind of acid they were dropping when they thought it up in the first place.
Let’s start with this one. This is part of an advert for the SNK’S Neo-Geo system. As we can see, we have a drop-dead bombshell of a woman looking heartily dissatisfied in her white lace get-up while her partner, who may very well be Christian Bale’s character from Psycho. That, or someone who looks remarkably like him from the back, is having the time of his life playing games on the TV.
The tagline for the advert is, “I remember when he couldn’t keep his hands off me!” The poor girl is clearly being neglected by her lover, and the rest of the advert elaborates upon her woes further. With 4 dimensional graphics, and 65,000 colours, how can she possible draw his attention away with her bland hair and typical skin pigmentation? With 15 channels of pure pulsating sound, 7 of which are dedicated to real speech, how could the meager sound of her dulcet tones compare?
The girl is simply outclassed. It doesn’t matter that she could provide him with hot action and fantasy games, the Neo Geo provides Possibly-Christian-Bale-From-Behind (PCBFB for short) with ninja warriors, major league sports and goddamn flame throwing enemies.
“Can you do that?” PCBFB asks between bouts of intense Neo-Geo action. “No,” comes the tearful reply, but PCBFB doesn’t hear. He doesn’t hear the packing of her bags, or the slamming of the front door as she leaves for good. All he hears now are the sweet sounds of explosions through those 15 channels of pure, pulsating sound.
On to the next overly sexualized ad, and again we are shown the image of an almost naked woman. (Completely naked if you don’t count the screenshots, and no, tilting your head to the side doesn’t work. I checked.)
This ad was for the SEGA Saturn, and proudly states that “When you’ve got SEGA Saturn’s 32-bit processing power NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.” Apparently, there was no time for distractions when you were “deep into Sega Saturn,” even if there was a hot, naked, blue-eyed blonde with eyes saying you could be deep into something else.
The ad also touts how the Saturn had 3 times as many processors as the PlayStation did, and that if you wanted real action, then you should head for Saturn. I mean, I honestly think Saturn is roundabout where the guys minds where when they came up with this ad. In this case, I think I’d stay on Earth and try my luck with the blonde.
Having returned from your trip to Saturn with blurry eyes and a hand cramp, lo and behold, the blonde has left and now you’re left on your own and thus (funny enough) more blurry eyes and hand cramps. SEGA recognises the situation it has caused and attempts to help correct it by introducing you to the SEGA Game Gear.
“Now you can play with yourself for hours!” SEGA says, and thanks to the Game Gear’s backlit screen, “you can even fiddle around in total darkness!” Once you’re done with all that “fast and furious hand action” (god how did they get away with writing this), you could even turn the Game Gear into a mini TV by plugging into your actual TV (why bother?) with the official SEGA adapter, which at the time was COMING soon (seriously?).
The ad goes on by saying the Game Gear will “fulfill your wildest fantasies!” That’s great if your fantasies include you walking around cross-eyed and naked while holding a handheld gaming console to prevent your dignity from scaring children. Not so great if your fantasies involve batteries.
It’s like the whole advert was written as a bet to see who could make the most cringe-worthy masturbation puns and get away with it. If the guy or gal who wrote that advert is reading this, hi five buddy – you’ve literally made the worst thing I’ve ever read.
Okay, so if anyone reading this has played Gex, you’ll remember that he was basically a wise-cracking gecko version of James Bond – remove the tail and some scales, and he was the spitting image of Pierce Brosnan. Another Bond trait is being good with the ladies, and Gex was no slouch in this department either, as is clearly shown.
What baffles me is that these games were typically rated for teenagers or older kids, and somehow they thought showing a gecko holding a topless model’s ta-ta’s would be the way to go for advertising to this demographic?
I mean, you can palm off to young Jeremy that Gex is just being a gentleman by keeping Brandy here warm while she finds her top, but we all know Jeremy’s older brother Tommy isn’t buying that. The teenage years are confusing enough as is, but now with Gex doing something like this, does Tommy need to begin worrying about inter-species relationships as well? Does this mean those weird tingles he got watching the Nature channel weren’t unnatural, that everyone got those when the baboons did that little wiggle with their butt?
These are the kind of thoughts confusing advertising can generate in young, developing minds. Now Tommy works in middle management in the Post Office, and leads a relatively normal life with his wife and 3 kids. Occasionally though, when the house is empty and Tommy is watching TV by himself, he flicks over to the Nature Channel, and loses himself in what could’ve been.
I don’t even know. I got nothing. I just hope that kid is alright.
In this final ad, we turn to the GameBoy Pocket. The owner of the Pocket appears to have lured their partner into the bedroom under the premise of hot nookie action, only to tie them up and leave them on the bed, thus removing the most annoying distraction they had while playing.
The look on the girl’s face is pure dejection. “Y u do dis, lovar?” she says, “Because the GameBoy Pocket is slim, stylish, and plays all existing GameBoy games” you reply. Yeah, right.
I seriously don’t understand what game companies of the 90’s obsession was with showing consoles as a way to totally ignore the woman in your life. I mean, I guess the basis was that it was portraying consoles and video games as being better and more enticing than sex.
However, all I feel they managed to get across was encouraging people to treat their partners poorly, and that video games were the cause of some serious addictions that totally ruined relationships and incited extreme behaviour, like binding your partner against their will.
This is total nonsense. I’m not going to tie my girlfriend to the bed and leave her there because I want to play games. I’m going to tie my girlfriend to the bed and leave her there because I’m insecure and I want to teach her a lesson for smiling at Kyle who lives across the hall. Ain’t no games involved here. This is purely about sending a message. (I’m kidding…)
Back to the point at hand, 90’s video game adverts were pretty strange. They’ve come along way since then, and now there is more of a formula for advertising video games to the public – bright cartoony colours and slapstick comedy for kid games, serious and epic realism for adult games. It clearly works, and now video games are a multi-billion dollar industry with production standards to match some of the biggest movie blockbusters today as well.
From time to time though, we should revisit some of the early days of gaming’s history, both to remind us how far we’ve come, and to remind us that we should never, ever use ferrets to advertise video games. Ever.