I love gaming, and wish I could devote more time to it, but no matter how much I leave a game, or console, behind I know it will always be there waiting for me, ready to take me out of myself for a few hours, or even back to a past life where I was able to while away days on end tackling bad guys.
My gaming journey started in the early 80s, with Manic Miner, The Hobbit and JetPack. As pure gaming experiences they still stand up, even if they look so retro kids today probably think Charles Dickens played them. In fact, were you to show them to a young teenager now they’d probably look at you as if you’d just handed them a disembowelled blackbird.
Advancements in home computing brought the Amstrad, Atari and might Commodore Amiga – which might as well have been designed purely for gaming. Supercars, Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, Rainbow Island, Populous and Speedball loom large in my mind. The first-generation gaming consoles brought Goldeneye, Resident Evil, Street Fighter… I was hooked.
Looking back the Noughties were probably my last great era of gaming, characterised by long nights smoking weed, drinking tea and playing online gaming and multiplayer shoot-em-ups. My first introduction to Silent Hill, Halo and a new generation of gaming blockbusters – and the first time I noticed video games featuring in mainstream advertising slots with beautifully-crafted spots for the biggest games.
Inevitably only the true blockbusters get much ad time devoted to them, so choices are naturally limited, but when they do the results are often spectacular.
I’ve little time for people who thumb their noses at gaming, and a selection of the following ads shows what a unique art form video games can sometimes be, as well as a fantastic, generally ultraviolent, retreat from reality.
I offer the following without much in the way of commentary. I just think they’re cool. And often, particularly in gaming, that’s just enough.
5 of the best: Video Games Adverts
Gears of War
Underneath every tough gear’s exterior is a sorrowful soul. Gears Of War mixes Halo’s high-octane action with a profound industrial gothic style and tone that is reminiscent of the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series of RPGs. I always thought I detected a little of Clive Barker’s hellish imagination too. Add in a dash of American war-movie cliche and you have some beautiful, melancholy nonsense, perfectly encapsulated in this stunning advert. A Mad World (Tears For Fears via Gary Jules) indeed.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
GTA’s own sense of how absurd it is rescues it from simple shock value and the series has evoked – through a blend of pastiche and fond parody – the eras is portrays wonderfully. The cock-and-balls out macho silliness of Guns’N’Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle nails it. Vice City is the best game – I still remember with huge fondness returning home with a PS2 and copy of Vice City and subsequent delight of mowing down pedestrians in a Blista Compact (Honda CRX) to Human League’s Keep Feeling Fascination – but this ad for San Andreas is spot on.
Far Cry 2
It might have been Bizarre’s Project Gotham series that first realised the superb synthesis of gaming and contemporary music, evinced particularly well here. Equal parts 80s action movies and whacked-out Apocalypse Now jungle fever, the impeccable choice of music (Barra Barra – Rachid Taha) really makes this ad for weirdy mercenary effort Far Cry 2.
Halo – Believe is just a beautifully conceived and executed 90 seconds for one of the best games series ever. The diorama is an evocative blend of realistic war horror and the hard sci-fi space opera world Halo inhabits; the fear and hopelessness etched on the faces of the many soldiers bears witness to how much time, effort and inspiration goes into making video games. Music from Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude No 15 is just a sublime choice.
Silent Hill 3
No experience has unsettled me more than playing any of the Silent Hill games alone in the dark. This ad captures that terror best of the Silent Hill adverts, even though it’s hard to beat the first and second instalments for insidious uncanny, punctuated by moments of unbridled terror. Am I the only one whose neck hairs rise if they hear a ringing alarm bell?