Posted on April 13, 2018
In our class discussions, we briefly examined the characteristics of a game and its promotional advertisements in relation to its implied audience. After a session of Blood Money, I wondered about its marketing campaigns and whether or not it achieved its target audience. And if it did, how?
In Debugging Game History, Carly Kocurek states that the earlier advertisement for games catered towards male audiences, however, in recent years, the identity of the gamer has broadened towards females as well. The chapter mentions Ubisoft wanting to promote the idea of a “female gamer”, yet will not add female main characters to their games. The Hitman franchise’s IO entertainment is no different. While the content of their games may not explicitly reveal misogyny, their advertisements have always garnered controversy for their depictions of violence and women. In the advertisement for 2012’s Hitman Absolution, Agent 47 is seen slaughtering several scantily dressed nuns. While the video places women in an empowering state, they are still served as eye-candy for the male players and ultimately die beautifully against the signature hitman. A few years prior, during the release of Blood Money, the company went through the same kind of controversy as they released ads of murdered people. One of the ads portrayed another woman in lingerie with a bullet in her head. While the release of Hitman (2016) seemingly learned from its previous mistakes and chose to promote a more cinematic gameplay, it is clear that certain masculine-dominated elements are still needed to sell contemporary games.
However, this exclusivity does not solely exist in a binary male vs. female structure, but across several axises. In the article “The Structure of Video Game Preference”, studies reveal two dominant associations: inclusive (family oriented games) vs. exclusive (dark-themed/mature games) and niche vs. mainstream games. Both of these axises correlates with a demographic divide between infrequent, female gamers and frequent, male gamers.
The graph above divides the two axises with Hitman falling near the Exclusive-Niche quadrant. This would provide evidence that the franchise caters towards dedicated, male gamers that avoid larger, exclusive games. Divided into seven broad categories of gamers, Hitman seems to be dominated by the “Lads”, a group that is overwhelmingly male with only a 4% female demographic and plays more than any other group (47% play more than five days a week).
So while certain game companies, like IO, may cater to certain demographics, it is not necessarily just male gamers that are being targeted. It is catered toward male gamers who dedicate a lot of time to gaming, prefer darker themes, and want difficult gameplay. Despite this particular market’s display of potential violence and sexism, it would be wrong to say that the entire gaming industry is not progressing in its mission to include others.
Lowood, Henry, et al. Debugging Game History: a Critical Lexicon. The MIT Press, 2016.
Munro, Shaun. “10 Outrageous Video Game Adverts That Caused Major Controversy.”WhatCulture.com, WhatCulture.com, 23 July 2013, whatculture.com/gaming/10-outrageous-video-game-adverts-that-caused-major-controversy?page=3.
Klevjer, Rune. “Game Studies.” Game Studies – The Structure of Videogame Preference, gamestudies.org/1702/articles/klevjer_hovden.
Schreier, Jason. “Hitman Director Says Controversial Trailer ‘Wasn’t Supposed To Be’ Sexist.” Kotaku, Kotaku.com, 13 June 2012, kotaku.com/5917899/hitman-director-says-controversial-trailer-wasnt-supposed-to-be-sexist.