A History Of Weird, Sexist Video Game Ads [NSFW]

Alright, folks. We’ve got a lot of potentially offensive images to go through, and not much space for preamble. So let’s just cut to the awful, awful chase. In a previous gig, I edited one of the last gaming magazines in the southern hemisphere. It’s a shrivelling medium that was once overflowing with full-page print advertisements, though that’s certainly not the case anymore. Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.

Note: This is NSFW.

Nowadays, the latest AAA games are pimped at you from the side of a bus, or some random patch of wall at a train station, or during the first 15 seconds of a YouTube video you want to watch.

Anyway, while researching some nameless, retro-themed feature, I perused 30 odd years of gaming rags in the hopes of finding amusing and/or quaint ads about stupid products. You know, the sort of colossally stupid contraptions that, if printed in a modern magazine, would soon be scanned, posted online and mercilessly memed to death by our Internet hive-collective. During this search, I created two directories on my desktop labelled “Funny”, and “Shit You Really Couldn’t Get Away With Now”. I’ll let you guess which one was chockers by the end of my journey…

In olden times, third-party peripherals were much more prevalent than they are now. In a largely offline society one could easily sell a whole bunch of crazy and/or worthless crap to unsuspecting teenage gamers. Things like stylish force-feedback vests, or gaming gloves that “protected” the wearer from minor friction burn (yet increased said user’s risk of verbal and physical assaults from their mates).

My rediscovering of these unusual peripherals soon took a turn for the smutty, however. Manufacturers selling perfectly useful products – like cheat devices that must have been irresistible in an age without Gamefaqs.com – figured their best promotional options were infidelity and soon-to-be-pants-less female models.

Also, inexplicable breasts. Try those. As I flicked through issue after issue it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a trip down mammary lane as well. A firm pair was seen as the perfect way to entice gamers into noticing a useful and low-cost controller. Failing that, derrière was the next best bet to shift a cheat device that could in no way deliver on the implied promise of that mythical Tomb Raider nude code.

Earlier on I touched upon female models with a lack of garments below the equator. As my slog through sleaze continued, I noticed a few bottom-line-obsessed companies were a hell of a lot “edgier” than others. Needless to say, if an advertiser tried any of these today, they’d be nuked from orbit in no time.

When a lack of basic lower-body attire wasn’t enough to peddle one’s piece of crap game, or flagging video game console, some suits weren’t afraid to up the ante to full nudity. Sometimes implied, other times not.

But, to be fair, I did find one isolated instance of full monty of the male variety. That came with what one could argue to be a side order of homophobia.

And it’s at this point that I’d like to acknowledge that back-in-the-day-Sega was one of (if not THE) worst and repeat offenders for “smut-sells” advertising…

Even though I lived through this era of gaming, and religiously devoured magazines like these on a regular basis, I’m now genuinely surprised by how widespread the cock ‘n’ balls innuendos are. Dicks. Like, man-dicks, referenced everywhere. Do you know which gaming peripherals are shaped like dicks? The best kinds, apparently. And you should buy them.

And a few more peen puns to prove my point…

As amusing as male genitalia can be to the developing mind, I did spot a few ads that would quite rightly fire up the pitchfork brigade. Lame get-in-the-kitchen references, and basically the typical exclusionist bullshit that should have been stamped out from the get-go of our medium, but wasn’t.

So what did I learn from this brief, back to the future leap through gaming magazines? What should be our take away from this? Personally, I think it’s this: modern gaming and gamers are constantly roused on for their immaturity when dealing with sensitive issues (race, gender, you name it).

I’m not arguing against the fact we have a long way to go – we absolutely do. But can we all agree that, at one point in time, it was a helluva lot worse.


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