In-game ads backfire in violent games - Study

University of Texas research indicates gamers have significantly worse recollection, perception of brands advertised in guns-and-gore software.

Save for a few rare instances, gamers haven't been keen on seeing real-world advertisements populate their fantasy adventures. However, that dislike may amount to more than just a minor irritation when it comes to violent games. According to a new research study, ads that appear in violent games actually have a detrimental effect on the brand being sold.

Blood spots on the left were replaced by water spots on the right.

Conducted at the University of Texas, the study was authored by doctoral candidate Seung-Chul Yoo and assistant professor Jorge Pena. It will appear in the July/August issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and is said to be the first to link "increased video game violence and impaired in-game ad effectiveness."

Two groups participated in the study. The first group navigated a number of rooms that included blood spots on the floor, while being assailed by computer-controlled characters wielding weapons. The second group was presented with a nonviolent take on the same situation, with players walking through rooms with water spots and encountering empty-handed computer-controlled characters. In the violent version of the scenario, participants were also wielding weapons.

[CORRECTION:] This article originally reported that participants in the study observed, but did not interact with, the violent and nonviolent imagery onscreen. In actuality, participants controlled a character that was either being shot at in the blood-soaked environments or not being shot at in identical water-soaked rooms. GameSpot regrets the error.

After the demo ended, participants were asked to recall the brands advertised as well as relate their perceptions of those brands. The study found that those who witnessed the violent scenario had a significantly lower score when it came to brand recall and perception.

Women in particular had a negative response to the violent game. Study authors postulated the reason for this as being that women typically have less experience with violent games or that men who more often play these types of games have become desensitized to the violence.

Yoo and Pena concluded that violent content not only pulls players' attention away from ads, but also creates a subconscious link between negative imagery and the brand. They said that a similar effect has been observed in violent television programs as compared to nonviolent TV shows.

"Advertising campaign planners would do better to spend their budget on ads embedded in nonviolent video games than in ads placed within violent video games; particularly if they are trying to reach women," said Yoo.

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Discussion

131 comments
gbrading
gbrading moderator

This is the kind of market research that needs to be done. In-game advertising has always been controversial, but if it is proved that it doesn't work, then companies don't have a leg to stand on.

fillup0
fillup0

Pepsi cans look so much better soaked in blood to be honest.

DKant
DKant

Great. Who cares? Secondly, while I get that presence in a violent game will associate negative imagery with the brand, the methods for the test do not convince me that they proved that brand recall is affected adversely. Note that in the first scenario, the characters are interacting with the player very aggressively while in the second it seems to be largely passive. So when nothing happens, what do you do? You get bored and you look around. You see the ads, you naturally remember them. When people are shooting at you, you kinda tend to ignore the background and all other unnecessary signals. So yeah, ads are not important. They get ignored when stuff is happening, and noticed when there is NOTHING happening on-screen. On the other hand if the characters were aggressively interacting with you in the second scenario, only in a NON violent manner, say by chattering on and on or waving flags and requiring you to REACT in some manner, rather than watch them and the backgrounds passively, all your attention would have been consumed by that. Now that scenario would have been a good test of comparative perception and recall of 'background data' (it could be ads, but it could be anything else) in violent vs non-violent scenarios.

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

Guns in Shooters Bring on teh Blood n Gore, yeahhh!!!!

da_nibbler
da_nibbler

"... particularly if they are trying to reach women" sounds like we are in no danger of tampon ads in FPS. :P

theKSMM
theKSMM

I'm actually wondering when ads will make it into video games. The capability is already there, and there's no way advertisers would be able to resist placing 15-30 second commercials onto an in-game billboard or television than just having a static ad. I suspect that even in a "violent" gane setting, some ads are just far effective at capturing attention than others. We see that every day in magazines, television, etc.

mrhagane
mrhagane

I wonder why people never debate about guns cause the violent act.

Zathic
Zathic

@Buck_Swaggler - Someone took Psych 101 lol

SuddenEvil
SuddenEvil

Mankind is violent...since day one

bennypeepants
bennypeepants

This is kind of a boring debate, but i'm bored so i'll put in my two cents. No one cares. I don't care about ads and I don't care about psychology 'cause I'm not a sorority girl. Although i do pretend to like it when I'm talking to girls;)

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

In other news, texting while driving is dangerous. Huge shocker. The Human brain can't process more than one thing at a time. And getting shot at is going to take priority over reading some random text on a far wall.... or note that some random blood stain has been replaced by some random water spot.

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

I'd like to know how big these focus groups are, cause you can't legitmately make any claim about the human psyche by studying 2 groups of 10 people.

DeadrisingX1
DeadrisingX1

@arsenic911 Mercenaries 2 sorta does that (destroying billboards with the producer's (Pandemic) logo on it)

lazycomplife
lazycomplife

If Dead Rising had brand name snacks and a study was done over a few hours of playing the game, the results would be much different. I think its because in shooters, the player is focused on targets rather than backgrounds. Ads are great for racing games though.

BlueFlameBat
BlueFlameBat

That's funny. Seeing in-game ads for The Event while playing Prototype didn't make me hate the show any more than I already did.

ErikElfEar
ErikElfEar

Well I imagine it would pull someone out of the experience of being in the video game when you see something going "OH HEY PAY FOR THIS STUFF" people are more sensitive about their wallets than violence.

stabby_mcgee
stabby_mcgee

@Frame_Dragger But psychologists and psychiatrists claim that psychology is a science. They are also treated like scientists by most people. Also, psychology was on the road to becoming a real science with behaviorism. Science has to start by describing, predicting, and explaining the simplest phenomenons. Then it builds upon those findings to describe/predict/explain more complex phenomenons. Takes physics for example, it started by trying to understand simple things like a ball rolling down a hill or the flight of an arrow through the air. It took physicists a very long time to be able to accurately describe/predict/explain the flight of insects and birds. That's what behaviorism did, it started by looking at very simple behaviors in simple organisms like rats pressing levers. It was building upon those findings to try to understand more complex behaviors. Sure a lot of behaviorists got a little arrogant and made the mistake of thinking that the simple principles that govern those simple behaviors were all they needed to explain complex behaviors but at least they were on their way. However, other psychologists decided that psychology was somehow special and that they could go right from rats pressing levers to things like human creativity without any of the steps in between.

MOwens9512
MOwens9512

I applaud these students for being able to BS their professors with this type of study to help them attain their degree. Education rules.

crazychords
crazychords

Really? I have another experiment for you. Lets take 2 football courts, full of ads, now in the first court there will be a match going on, while in the other court there will be nothing at all, just the court and the ads. Now, which group of people will remember the ads, the ones who saw the football match or the empty court? Duh?? And for all that they had to do a "research" with gamers?

bourne2live
bourne2live

I guess this is the kind of stuff that's so obvious, but no one really thinks bout it. Atleast the kids get their Masters

endorbr
endorbr

Never mind that what gamers really want is to not be bothered with ads in any video game.

KelsieKatt
KelsieKatt

This test sounds frustrating... Violence doesn't bother me, but from the description of this I would probably find it stressful. Wandering around in a blood soaked environment while being shot at repeatedly and not being able to retaliate? That sucks. Shooting stuff is fun, being shot is not. As it is, ignoring all that, it going to be harder to focus on the ads to begin with with all of that going on.

drswank
drswank

Because we all wonder "what kind of car should I buy?" when being shot at.

MonkerzX
MonkerzX

This is nonsense. Of course the players that weren't being shot at noticed the ads because all they were doing was wandering around inspecting the environment! In an action game the primary focus is the action not the advertisements! What a load of derp.

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

@warhawk-geeby I totally agree, I love taking my time soaking up the environment and all the little details. Obviously when the bullets are done wizzing by my ear.

Ryozo
Ryozo

I think keech calls it: any ad would be very, very far down your list of 'things to notice' in a firefight, real or otherwise.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

This is obvious a subconscience link is formed. Thus damaging the perception of the brand advertised. The image of the advert becomes part of the negative impression exprienced by the player (observer)

swyg
swyg

@Fanible That's a good thought, but they can only do one sample space at a time. Their concentration was specifically on violence in video games. Then again, that seems to be the only thing that these studies are interested in. They should probably take your advice by now since they never get anywhere, but they just keep falling into the same trap. They're always thinking "It's gotta be the blood, or the violence...ok that didn't work...let's try the blood a little closer to the screen! Hello! Gamers! Right here, it's me, Mr.Blood! Right here! Gimme Gimme Gimme!"

Shawn45
Shawn45

I don't buy products from the ads I see in ANY games, and I do it consciously. I also do the same with ads that start before Youtube videos, or on other video websites.

keech
keech

This is one of those "studies" that fails to factor in common sense. That ANY time someone is forced to put all their attention into any sort of situation with "stressors" they will typically fail to notice things not directly related to succeeding.

petracs1124
petracs1124

@Fanible, was thinking the same thing as i was reading the article

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

Of course the women reacted differently than the men... women only care about romance and relationships and drama... and chocolate. Guys could care less and would rather take down virtual terrorists imo. (at least I would anyway)

kargion
kargion

I don't know many women that play games with alot of gore

TKH258
TKH258

I don't care how much blood is there! They're video games and they're rated MATURE (18+)! That's it! Period.

Fanible
Fanible

They could have done this same test (which messes up their "results"), by having one scenario where a player is having to solve puzzles in a non-violent environment, and one scenario where they're doing nothing in a non-violent environment. Neither scenario involves violence, but I can bet you that the environment involving no puzzles where you do nothing will result in those players having noticed the advertisements more. The test is somehow trying to imply that violence in games alone distracts players from advertisements, and for whatever reason also think it relates negativity to said ads (at what point did the test show that?). All it really showed, as even stated, is that when you're distracted and preoccupied with something else, you're less likely to notice said advertisements. So in other words, if game designers want ads to be effective, they need to limit them to where the player is in a relaxed and less involved part of the game (where you're just walking or exploring). Whether the game involves violence or not is a minute point.

Twilighten
Twilighten

Do people really want advertisements glaring at them in ANY game? They're annoying and they take you out of the experience!

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

guertt
guertt

[CORRECTION:] This article originally reported that participants in the study observed, but did not interact with, the violent and nonviolent imagery onscreen. In actuality, participants controlled a character that was either being shot at in the blood-soaked environments or not being shot at in identical water-soaked rooms. GameSpot regrets the error.

eddieham13
eddieham13

You put a call of duty advert in Battlefield 3 and people will blow it up.. You put a Battlefield 3 advert in call of duty they cant do anything about it except look at the billboard that is half the size of their small map.

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

Who remembers the Lugz ad that you could not skip before playing True Crime: Streets of LA? thumbs up if you remember / thumbs down if you don't

BoabDreeps
BoabDreeps

Why bother constructing such an elaborate test sequence. Should have just had a buch of researchers down at the emergency room interviewing gunshot victims. "Hi, when you got shot, do you recall what was being advertised on the billboard across the street?"

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

Wait, so in the "violent" scenario, the player was being shot at, and I assume would therefore try to avoid being shot. While in the "non-violent" scenario, there was no such action going on, and the player was free to walk around the room at their own leisure. Of course they wouldn't remember the ads as their attention is focused elsewhere. And the fact females scored less probably indicates they aren't sued to playing those types of games and need to focus more on avoiding being shot, and even less on the environment. You would get the same result in any situation where the person is pre-occupied by something that is taking up all the focus and concentration. The results were contaminated by their own test!

Umar10000
Umar10000

wait wait, hold on, why would a woman who doesn't like violent videogames play one, so if you're trying to reach women w/ your ads, don't put them in the games they won't play.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@arsenic911 Maybe Activision should advertise COD in Battlefield 3 :P

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

All depends on the gamer..? On Portal I found myself reading the mugs on the computer desks.. 'Who farted?', 'I need a hug', 'I NEED COFFEE'. I like to have a nose around in games, might as well appreciate the attention to detail. If advertising is done well it can work. I saw the billboard in Battle LA advertising Resistance 3? That was at a hectic battle-scene moment of the film too but I still saw it :) I duno.. Maybe kids are just too focused on point and click?

Uesugi-dono
Uesugi-dono

This earns a big DUH! Blood spots aside in one demo PEOPLE WERE SHOOTING AT YOU. I, for one, don't really study tne environment when PEOPLE ARE SHOOTING AT ME!!!

HogStomp
HogStomp

Well on one test you are actually doing something fun and the other test you are just walking around. I don't think anyone would buy a game where all you do is walk around. Well not as many people.