Let's sell a game

Peter Serafinowicz on Dark Souls II

“When it was announced and, like, the first trailer came out… I, er, had a huuuge… erection,” says Peter Serafinowicz of Namco Bandai’s beat-’em-up videogame Dark Souls II on the website of respected UK broadsheet newspaper, The Guardian.

Peter Serafinowicz is 41, so will still get erections in relation to products that he’s selling. My beef’s not with a working actor – no matter how much I underrate his abilities as anything other than a voice on very tall legs. Fair play to him and his erectile function.

My beef’s with The Guardian: a once a great newspaper that should have marked as ‘Advertorial’ this video of Peter Serafinowicz talking about a product that he’s getting paid to sell.

Today, however, the newspaper runs a video for the game and the actor with the headline:

“Peter Serafinowicz on Dark Souls II: ‘The best game ever'” and with the following caption:

Best known for his appearances in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Look Around you, actor and comedian Peter Serafinowicz will next be seen – or more accurately, heard – in forthcoming fantasy adventure game Dark Souls II. Here, the keen gamer discusses his role as mysterious character Pate, and his love for what many regard as the hardest video game on the planet.

The theory must be that if it’s fine to run movie star ‘interviews’ featuring paid staff lauding their own movies, then why not the same for video game companies and their products? But let’s not stop there, let’s not say, “its a good game”, let’s say, “It’s the best game ever” that will do for game consumers.

But why not also for candy manufacturers? What of KFC or McDonalds CEOs popping videos up for free on broadsheet newspaper websites?

Why not let the makers of Candy Crush Saga run uncritical videos on The Guardian? Ah. Now then. The guys of Candy Crush Saga are not the cannily cast Peter Serafinowicz of Spaced fame.

That show hit the man-child demographic head-on in the erection. Guardian readers like and trust the guys from Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. They do not like the evil guys (or animated fruits) from Candy Crush Saga. This is true even though both gaming products are trying to achieve the same ends: entertain you and make money for themselves.

Let’s have a quick ad-break. A videogame ad-break now.

So, The Guardian is making a choice here. It’s making a judgement. Gamers have been told not to love CCS and its maker, King (games) due to King trying, absurdly, to trademark the word “Candy”. Grrrr. But Peter Serafinowicz, he’s lovely and tall and still has erections at the mention of products… that he’s then paid to be in. He’s OK.

We can be sold to by him and Namco in a way that KFC, McDonalds, Coke, Ford would not be allowed to sell. Hell, Namco doesn’t even need to pay The Guardian for placement of this advert into an area with a healthy, spending demographic. Or does it? I’m hoping to find out.

To be scrupulously fair: I run a games site. We’ve been running videos as stories for years. These videos are delivered to us by publishers or are foraged by us. I’ve felt bad about this for a month now. Although we tend to deal with them quite differently and acerbically, I am also changing the way we report these videos as a matter of course.

Now, before we get back to my beef… here’s another product advert that tried to get away with being just guys and gals talking about a lovely thing that might have given some of them erections.

We’ve come a long way since then, right?

I was once a reader of The Guardian, a consumer of Steve Bell and Duncan Campbell; Nick Davis and Joe Queenan; C.L.R. James and Maggie O’Kane; Mary Stott, Francis Wheen, Paul Lewis, and Philip French. I also play videogames. I also write about videogames. I can also see videogames in a wider context.

All of this makes me sad that a once great paper is treating its consumers, and the consumers of a potentially great medium, that of videogames, as foolish bumpkins to be fed rubbish with no analysis or even context.

Serafinowicz and his erection don’t surprise me; it shows that he’s down with the kids. It’s “banter”. It means that he can keep getting work as an entertainer, that’s his job. He plays off a voice and his ability to create pastiches of other cliches. Good luck to Peter.

But, please, news outlets – stop treating entertainments and their sales videos as any different from any other advert or advertorial.

Instead of:

…the keen gamer discusses his role as mysterious character Pate, and his love for what many regard as the hardest video game on the planet.

How about:

Peter Serafinowicz sells Dark Souls II in this advert we’re not charging for, for some reason.

But let me be fair. It’s not as if the specialist video games press does any better. In fact, it does a great deal worse.

So, while we’re here, let’s check out even more advertising masquerading as Games Reporting. This time it’s IGN looking very much like QVC… during an amateur hour trial run. I have no idea if anybody in this shilling piece of reporting had an erection or not.

You can see the entire Guardian video here.

Please leave a comment. Many thanks.