Ad Space – Nintendo Will Ruin Your Life

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Ultima 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
It’s addictive!

This is a strange tack for Nintendo to take.

To a certain extent, this sales pitch makes sense. Having characters become fanatically obsessed with the product, implying it must be just that good if it can generate that sort of devotion? That’s standard commercial procedure.

What’s different here is the ad focuses specifically on the negative consequences of obsession. A great artist was given a Nintendo, they started playing Ultima 3, and got so wrapped up in the game, they let everything in their life go to hell. Where once they produced masterpieces, now they can barely tear themselves away from the controller long enough to doodle some stick figures. An artist’s career was ruined, and the world was deprived of great art, because Nintendo had become a drug.

That’s not necessarily how you want people to think of your product, as something that destroys lives and dreams. Especially since it’s rooted in reality.

You’ll rarely find anyone as obsessed with insurance or banking apps or phone plans as characters in commercials can become; those are obvious hyperbole. But video game addiction: that’s a real thing. Isn’t it in bad taste for Nintendo to use the addictive nature of their video games as a selling point?

Well, it makes sense when you realize this ad came out in 1983 1987. Back then, it was accepted that the main audience for video games was children. Adult gamers existed, but most people didn’t give much thought to them.

You might think: doesn’t that make it worse? Encouraging video game addiction in children?

Ah, but what’s addictive behavior in an adult is, in a child … just them being a child. When kids find something they like, they’ll want to do nothing but that. Taking care of their responsibilities, planning for their future? Psht! Who cares about that when there’s fun to be had?

We expect children to choose playing all day over doing any serious work. This ad, then, was going for hyperbolic absurdity, by applying that same attitude to a classical artist, and implying that Nintendo and Ultima 3 are so darn entertaining, even a mature adult isn’t immune.

That an adult might actually become so obsessed with their games that they let their life fall by the wayside: I doubt that was on anyone’s mind.