March 21, 2013

Ads From The Old Days – Part 1: Video Games

In this first instalment looking at print advertising from the past, I examine a variety of video game ads dating from 1992 to 1995. I know I've referred to it as "the old days" in this post's title, but it was a couple of decades ago now. Personally I can remember those years clearly, but if you weren't born yet, I suppose they really are the old days. Although the great god Google Analytics (whom all of us Blogspot drones are beholden to) can tell us accurate stats about our viewers, it cannot tell us how old they are, so "old days" it is. Still, away with such small talk. Let's take a look at how they used to sell stuff in the British gaming press back then.

This is what passed for video game promo in 1994, kids. Now, you'd have screenshots galore, release date prominent, and a nicely Photoshopped logo, with a URL in there maybe. But back then – console logos, game title, stock art of the main character. Done. Next.

Haha, "cruisin' for a squeaky voice". It's funny 'cause 'e's gonna cut yer nadgers orf with a pair of garden shears. Anyway, what stands out to me about this one is that "Gus The World's Greatest Gamer" clearly rips off was inspired by Fido Dido, a character created about 8 years before Gus threatened to castrate those who only moderately liked Flashback.

Sega's handheld console, the Game Gear, could be turned into a portable TV. Good reception not guaranteed, of course. What's interesting here is that the kid is watching Blaze Glory which, if you click to enlarge, can be seen to be rated 'AO'. (That's 'adults only', the early '90s Australian equivalent of the M-rating.) Beats me why a kid in 1993 would be watching an old Western film from 1969 on a Game Gear screen, but who am I to question the machinations of the Sega propaganda department?

"The throbbing power between your legs" eh, let's not 'ave any of that sort of talk 'ere lads, there might be ladies present. Ha! As if. Anyway, if you once again click to enlarge and look closely, you'll see that the joypad ports on the front of the console have nothing plugged into them. Which makes me wonder where the joypad is actually plugged in. Let's wonder no further and move on.

I have no idea what this means.

Sometimes advertisements take the form of a comic strip. Nearly all the time they are cringe-worthy and incredibly puerile. There aren't many ways to disguise blatant propaganda in comics, so these ones cheerfully admit they are shameless sales tools (like their creators) and get on with the job. In any case the above is a typically cheeseballeriffic example, appearing in the very mag it was advertising, and it seems whoever put it there also saw fit to print it on the other side of the very same page.

Another example of how not to do comic strip advertising, although this one is done in fumetti style. Whoever did the layout decided to dispense with the dull rigours of having the speech balloons follow in logical order from left to right. Whatever. If you ever see 'Great Guy', give him a slap 'round the face from me.

Now this is how it's done. The then-Tottenham Court Road Computer Exchange got cartoonist Charlie Brooker to do this strip, entitled Here's Toby!!, for a year or so. There was a new one each month – none of this recycled strip nonsense. Anyway, this one has it all. Bizarre mood swings, psychotic behaviour, mindless violence and gags that were funny. There should have been a whole mag of this stuff; I'd've bought it!

"Right people, we need a Lego Technic slogan for 1995. Any ideas?"
*tumbleweed blows by*
*87 years pass*
"What about you, Poncingtonthorpethwaite?"
" about...'It's Technofunctionomical'?"
"No, that won't do at all. It's not a word, and it's stupid. Anything else?"
*long silence*
"Right, I guess we'll go with that then. By the way, what's 'Lego Technic'?"

Ha! Are you telling me footballers have evolved past the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal stage?

*flickknife is held to throat*

I retract my statement.

Here's a great way to promote a game. Don't show a single screenshot, but instead have a page-sized grotesque close-up of some dodgy geezer in a Santa hat who has nothing to do with the game. Well, I assume so. Perhaps he was the main coder or character designer, but I doubt it.

Oh looky here, it's a full-page ad with one of those stupid 'magic eye' pictures. Turn the page and there's another one with a big cartoon guy on it. If there's one thing that should be expunged from the world of visual arts it's those moronic stereogram things. I'm glad they're now obsolete. Anyone at my school who said they weren't fake got beat up and quite rightly! Be gone, Marko's Magic Football, and take your pseudo-3D quackery with you!

Believe it or not, this is what female gamers used to wear when they'd hit the SNES to play some lame wrestling game starring some loudmouthed goofball in a yellow tank top. Honest, guv'. Although I do tell a word of a lie. Because there actually weren't any female gamers back then. I really had to search around for the product name in this ad and when I finally found it, it was something I'd never heard of.

When promoting a magazine that covered the 3DO, PlayStation, Saturn, Neo Geo, Jaguar, Ultra 64 and PC, why would you mention "hot babes". Whoever they are, they ain't comin' near anyone who plays video games. Nice try, "X-Gen"!

This one I like. Click to enlarge, and read this secret diary, which has been left open on a desk in full view. Bonus points for use of the term 'smegger'. But 20 years on, I still have no idea what "nearly hurled in the lantren" means. Over to you, British viewers!

Ho ho, Night Trap– the game named as one of the main catalysts for teenagers' allegiances to Satan himself, by pompous out-of-touch busybodies and underachieving lardcakes. Still, you would need incontinence jocks when playing it – because you'd piss yourself laughing at the stilted dialogue and ear-shredding singing. Still, gotta love that post code at the bottom there. PI5 5SS, indeed.

BEAST MAN. Behold, he cometh. He's my Year 9 Maths teacher, the one who wasn't a kiddy-fiddler. Good to see in primitive beastly days of yore, the monsters had access to ray-guns. Probably helped them slay the mighty mammoths and homo erectus easier than axes or chipped stone tools did. Also what's with that "Mastermix '92"? Makes it look like a naff dance music compilation CD. In the small print in the bottom corner, it makes a point of mentioning the Shadow Of The Beast logo is copyrighted. Relax, Psygnosis Limited. I'm fairly sure no one will be copying that.

Imagine a complete fantasy world...where ad designers used calligraphic fonts and sentences in all caps. Jeez, I know there were less typefaces available 20 years ago but at least try to make your cod Olde Worlde warrior talk legible, man.

Just one more, and I've saved the worst for last. I don't know about you, but when I peruse inane ad copy from the drones of Dunbartonshire, Scotland, I'd rather not, right off the bat, be called a "dweeb". I'm a potential customer, see. The last thing you want to be doing is have me insulted by a crudely-drawn Bart Simpson knock-off. Or maybe you would? Do you really think I'm a dweeb, badly-drawn Teenage Bart Simpson? My heart says no, but the look on your face tells me yes.


  1. What the fuck man, that last one is fuckin creepy. And the drawing looks soooooooo gay! Looks like 2 minutes work went into it!!!

  2. that guy with the santa hat looks like a rapist

  3. You seem pretty mad you never got the hand of magic eye pictures.

  4. Maybe a few years too late, but there was a comic in the early nineties called Elephant Parts that had LOADS of Charlie Brooker's stuff in it - of a somewhat similar "ilk" to the Toby comics.

    Have a look at them here if you want:

    1. Thanks for the link, TwoHeadedBoy! I'd never heard of Elephant Parts. I've always liked Charlie Brooker's style. The info under his Toby strips usually mentioned another comic of his called 'Superkaylo', I'd like to check that out as well.