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Video game prostitutes walk among us. You can catch'em blowing kisses to cars cruising by, giving hand-jobs under the table, leaving some of us blinded in scuzzy back-allies with crippling cases of internet syphilis before we even knew we had our pants down. There's a public relations war going on right now, and we're smack in the middle of it.

Corporations, union bosses, and compassionate US citizens gave politicians $3.9 billion to spend on the 2004 election campaigns. Think of all the muckraking, lies, fake ads, shell companies, shit-talking and general pomposity that went into that mockery of the democratic process. Now think of video games and how much money is at stake in this business.

Douglas Lowenstein, our dearly departed friend, stated in his 2006 State of the Industry Address that the total economic impact of the game industry on the US economy alone was $18 billion that year. That's a whole lot of money for a handful of major players to throw around. Nintendo has stated they will spend $200 million by the end of this year just to advertise the Wii. Video game advertising on the whole is expected to climb to $1 billion a year by 2010. A truckload of that money is going to be spent on advertising to you and me, the hardcore audience. We're the evangelizers who do their dirty work for free, spreading the joy of games by word of mouth to our friends, coworkers and internet buddies. They know that if they convince enough of us, that cat's ass is halfway in the bag already.

But you see, we're a cynical, educated bunch. We know how to turn off pop-up adds. We might snicker at adorable Japanese men pleading "Wii would like to play", but we need more than a chuckle to convince us to sing a console's praises. We do research, we read gaming mags, we download demos and we visit websites. They have to be a lot more sophisticated to slide under our radar. Here are some of the techniques we're already starting to see companies use on us.


THE ASTROTURFER:






"Astroturfing is a term for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising that seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior. AstroTurf (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate fake grassroots support. The goal of such a campaign is to disguise the agenda of a client as an independent public reaction to a product, service or event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt ("outreach," "awareness," etc.) and covert (disinformation) means." -Wikipedia

One of the first major astroturf campaigns came from Edward Bernays, the godfather of modern public relations. Bernays consulted with a psychologist to concoct a plan to get more American women smoking cigarettes; in particular, Lucky Strikes. They determined that the best way to do this was to connect the idea of smoking with the idea of freedom. Bernays hired rebellious women to light up at a New York Easter parade in 1929. This wasn't socially acceptable at the time so it caused a huge stir.When interviewed by the press, the women claimed they were smoking "torches of freedom" and demanded equality for the sexes. It kick-started a national campaign that definitely caught on. This is why your grandmother smoked and never shaved her armpits.



Look around message boards on the internet. Do you see anything similar happening? Do you see people "independently" proclaiming the revolution of casual gaming, online play or cell processors? Have you ever signed an internet petition in favor of bringing back a classic franchise? Then shame on you. You probably got caught up in an astroturf wave. Don't worry, I have too. Oh, NiGHTS. How I longed for thee. ;)

This brings us to our next PR technique, the shill.


THE SHILL:


The shill operates in much the same manner as the Astroturfer campaign. You can think of the shill as an isolated pocket, preparing the ground for a false grassroots campaign to come.

"A shill is an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer. The intention of the shill is, using crowd psychology, to encourage others unaware of the set-up to purchase said goods or services or support the political group's ideological claims. Shills are often employed by confidence artists and governments. When a mark arrives at a three-card Monte game, the people engaged in playing the game are invariably shills."-Wikipedia

I found the following on GameFAQ's recently, posted by a brand new user to their forums. God bless your heart if you were just a confused little man. I hope you don't take offense if this was you, but I bet 10 to 1 that a rep for Nintendo posted this:

THINGS PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE WII

1. Stop complaining about lack of Wii games. Many people are fine with the library of games, as they have other hobbies besides video games. When in doubt: buy some GameCube games to play on the Wii, or download Virtual Console games.

2. Stop complaining about lack of decent Virtual Console games every week. If Nintendo released 3-4 quality titles each week: eventually, people would complain that there is nothing left for them to download. So it's either people complaining now or later. Be happy that there is even a Virtual Console. More good quality games will come, just be patient.

3. There is more to gaming than the top titles. In the case of Nintendo: the majority of people just seem to be talking about Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Super Smash Brothers games. Look beyond those, and you will find other decent games.

4. Stop whining about little things: different Wii colors, lack of online games, lack of DVD player and so on. Colors is not a big deal. Online gaming is overrated. As for a DVD feature: you own a DVD player already, so the Wii doesn't need one jammed into it. This is a video game console: not a media player.

Wow. I mean, honestly. That sounds like the kind of vomit Reggie Fils-Aime's subconscious would cough up after an all night bender with Kaplan. Are those really your opinions, dude?

Moving on to our next definition. . .



THE GANNON:



The Gannon is a new term but a very old technique. Some of you may be familiar with the recent scandal concerning the current President. Jeff Gannon was a white house reporter two years ago representing an online news organization. A lot of controversy surrounds Mr. Gannon, but the biggest thing he's known for is asking notoriously easy, soft-peddling questions of the administration during press conferences. This would allow President Bush a simple volley back to the press.
For example:

"Mr. President. Why do you think some people are against the Iraq war? Is it because they're racist idiots who don't want to spread democracy?"

"Well, thanks for asking, Jeff Gannon. Yes. Anyone who's against the war is a fucking loser."

It was later discovered that Jeff Gannon had special access to the White House, was presumably pals with some important higher-ups, and often stayed over night when no press events were scheduled. He was also uber-gay and posted hardcore pornography on the internet featuring U.S. soldiers. But that's neither here nor there. Just thought you should know.

We all know the GANNONs of the video game world. I don't want to name any names. See my other post for that. It's a sad fact that some video game writers think asking "How do you make your video game systems so awesome and fun to buy?" counts as hard hitting journalism.

Nick Brutal Chester put his foot down in his recent interview with the SFIITHD Remix Producer. Big up yourself for looking out for us and asking the hard questions. You and many other Dtoid editors have certainly done right by us in your non GANNONitude.



THE STRAWMAN SOCKPUPPET:



"A strawman sockpuppet is created by a message board or forum user with one point of view, but who acts as though they have an opposing point of view, in order to make that point of view look bad. Such sockpuppets will typically advance foolish straw man arguments which their 'opponents' can then easily refute. They often act in an unintelligent, uninformed, or bigoted manner. The effect is to discredit more rational arguments for the same side." -Wikipedia

The STRAWMAN SOCK PUPPET also goes by the more popular name, Troll.

Hypothetically, let's say someone were to create a user account named PS3SUCKS (to pull an example out of thin air with no correlation to anything that happened here recently). PS3SUCKS proceeds to be a general waste of human space and makes everyone who interacts with him completely miserable. Does this bring any creedance to the idea that the PS3 gaming system itself sucks? Of course not. What it really does is make it appear that the only people who could possibly hold such a low opinion of the machine are obnoxious losers. The end result is that the PS3 actually gains a little bit of luster in our eyes after seeing someone make a complete fool of themselves while hating on it. It softens our own edges a bit. Hmmmmmm, I think to myself. I hated the PS3, XBOX360, or WII before this point, but do I really look like that idiot? Maybe I oughta knock my hatred down a few notches so that I don't come off like a dipshit too.

Some of these techniques are gradual and subtle, but the best advertising always is. If you were to take a bird's eye view of the entire internet gaming culture right now, you'd see a veritable tidal wave of this activity going on. It's awash in it.

I definitely don't want to start any kind of paranoia, where people start accusing each other of being puppets or shills. But I do think we have to be aware that this is happening. It can't not be! This generation of gaming has proven that companies must be more involved and connected to their fan base than ever before if they want to succeed.

Nintendo has adapted their Super Smash Bros. Wii campaign into tiny digestible chunks custom designed to grab the attention of video game blogs that are updated by the second. How else can their game remain news day in and day out, in a world where Chocolate Rain fever will have died out by the end of August at best? Video game companies, despite all their frequent PR foibles, are becoming more sophisticated and savvy with each day. Nintendo even gave Destructoid a monster sized shout-out at E3. They know we're down here in the trenches, and believe it or not, some of them are down here with us.

One thing I love about this website is how few and far between I see these PR techniques. There's definitely no other place like Destructoid on the entire internet. We've definitely got something special here, which is what makes me extra angry when I see someone occasionally desecrate our sacred ground with their phony-ass PR cockamamie posts.


Now before you start worrying that I'm about to get all black helicopter on you, I do know that there are real human beings, not currently in the coffers of any major corporations, who still act this way and profess these opinions. Companies didn't create trolls or fanboys. We did. The black lungs of our culture coughed up these mutants on its own. However, they are extremely exploitable archetypes. Think about how easy it is to be a troll. Think about how easy it is to make a five-pointed list of why your system is the best, the new cookie-cutter game doesn't suck, or only soccer moms play Wario Ware.

As a fun experiment I think we should fill my post's comments section with the most asinine gaming flim flam you've heard in recent months. If you haven't heard anything worth noting, make up something. Make sure that it's dumb and quick though, and without rational examples.

See how easy it is?

I wonder how much a gig like that pays? Maybe you're one of them . . . I hope they let you listen to your ipod while you drown our forums in your fucking bullshit. Keep your ugly goldbrickin' ass out of our beach community.









For the last week, I've been holding a contest to see who could get the highest score on the VC release of Devil's Crush. Devil's Crush is a most excellent TurboGrafx 16 pinball game. My admiration for this game's seamless blend of hardcore twitch action with hardcore Satanism has only increased as I desperately tried to beat my rival's score.

The stakes were high. They began with a free 1000 points Wii Card. After I won the RetroForceGO podcast contest, I was able to add to the pot and up the prize to a 2000 points Wii card. Surprisingly, with such a tantalizing prize that would be frankly easy to win, the contest only garnered one contestant. I know. Blows my mind too.

luzer7072 would turn out to be quite the fearsome and dedicated opponent, however, and the two of us duked it out like nobody's business but Tommy for the rest of the week.

Well, unfortunately, I have some very sad news to break . . .




As expected, I won the showdown with the high score of 65,425,800 points. Remember when I talked all that shit at the beginning of the contest? Did you actually think I wasn't going to bring it?

All was not in vain for my rival, luzer7072, however. He gets the spirit award for today, which is a shockingly magnanimous gift from me of the original 1000 Wii points bounty. You lost, but you lost with dignity. Merry Christmas, you filthy animal.

Go balloons--balloons? What's happening balloons? THERE'S NOT ENOUGH COMING DOWN! All balloons, what the hell! There's nothing falling! What the fuck are you guys doing up there? We want more balloons coming down, more balloons, more balloons, more balloons . . .








So everyone pretty much missed their chance to join in on the 2000 Wii points contest. I'll try and hold another one soon for a different game, so don't despair. Be sure to tune back in at midnight tonight to see the final winner, if you're that super bored guy who reads all the blogs.

This message goes out to the solitary man trying to beat me somewhere on the other side of the country. You know who you are. You have 17 hours, luzer7072. Make good use of it.

This is your final countdown.





Any magician can make a high score disappear, but what about 40 million points?
Where once you had a shot, now there ain't not.

CURRENT WINNER:

1. Tristero with 65,425,800 points
2. luzer7072 with . . . what'd you have again? . . . oh yeah, 43,753,100 points.

Don't laugh at him, folks. He tried.









You have less than seven hours left to submit your first entry for this contest. I will stop taking entries at midnight EST tonight. Everyone is eligible (including Dtoid staff). Scroll to the bottom for our current leader. You think you can beat us? I've upped the ante from 1000 free Wii points to 2000 free Wii points to celebrate the VC release of the best game published for the TurboGrafx-16, Devil's Crush.



CURRENT WINNER:

1. Tristero with 31,426,000 points

2. luzer7072 with 12,251,300 points

3. This could be you! Are you really going to let us win with such low scores?








Enter this contest to win free Wii points. Scroll to bottom for current leader. You think you can beat us? I'm giving away Wii points to celebrate the VC release of the best game published for the TurboGrafx-16, Devil's Crush.



Be forewarned: I will own you in this game. If you've got the fuzzy dice to take me on, and you actually win, I will give you 1000 Wii points. Think about it. With 1000 points you could buy Paper Mario, or god forbid, China Warrior. So, rev your engines. It's like the video game version of Win Ben Stein's Money, except you'll win some VC points from a broke stranger off the internet.

If Nintendo is too out of touch to provide us with even the most meager online options for our VC titles, I suppose we'll just have to do it ourselves.

Here's how it works. Submit your high score on Devil's Crush to me in the comments section on this blog. Submit as many times as you like and I'll accept whatever score is the highest.

If you beat the game by maxing out your score, play another game immediately after and note it as WIN + XXXXXXXXXX (X= whatever your score was when you ran out of balls in the next game).

Every morning at 9:00 a.m., I will repost this to incorporate your score into our leaderboard and see how everyone stacks up. On Monday, July 30th, at 11:59 EST, I will announce the winner. We'll arrange some kind of PM deal so that you can redeem your Wii points.

I know there are tons of passwords out there to boost your score on this game *cough, cough* DEVIL SATAN. So no proof of your score in the form of a picture will be necessary. We'll have to be on the honor system. I have the highest respect for the Destructoid community. Let's keep it clean, folks, and let's keep it honest . . . well, let's at least keep it honest.

I also know there are pricks out there who will just make up a number to win. If you do this, I will know and I will crush your soul while you sleep with my divine hammer of justice. I reserve the right to make judgement calls if this becomes a joke board with spam. I'll find the real ones, don't worry.

*******In order to qualify for the prize you'll have to post at least two scores*******

You must post once before Friday, July 27, at 12:00 A.M. EST and once before Monday, July 30, at 11:59 P.M. EST. This will hopefully prevent last minute cruisers from ruining the contest. I'll give reminders, and I'll also only count the highest score you post.

First shmuck to comment WIN+WIN+WIN+WIN GIVE IT TO ME NOW, gets the boring unoriginal poster award. Which is me flicking off the screen, then crying myself to sleep. Oh, just do it anyway. We'll all have a laugh.

Oh, and for those of you who are playin' for reals, set that fucker to fast. This ain't your daddy's pinball.



CURRENT WINNER:

1. luzer7072 with 12251300 points

2. Tristero with 6798700 points

3. This could be you!










There have been a handful of top 10 lists posted in the community blogs so far, and I have to say I really enjoy reading them. I think the top 10 list is a wonderful format for creating discussion, no matter how many times they've been done, and I always get excited at seeing how my own tastes stack up. Of course, everyone else is always wrong, because they're not me. Isn't that the fun, though?

I've compiled a list of my recent top 10 TOP 10 lists. Can you handle the meta-ness?

#10. GamingPolitics' Top 10 Biggest Scandals of All Time

#9. Seanbaby's Top 10 Naughtiest Games of All Time

#8. Screw Attack's Top 10 Mario Games

#7. Modojo's Top 10 Handheld Imports

#6. Attu Games' Top 10 NES Games Unknown by Developers
(Niero brought this one to us last year here at Destructoid).

#5. Deeko's Top 10 Shmups

#4. GameSpy's Top 10 Dying Game Genres

#3. Racketboy's Holy Grails of Console Gaming
(Yeah, so I cheated on this one. It was too good not to include).

#2. Shiny Shiny's Top 10 Female Video-Game Character You Should Idolise (sic)

And drum roll, for the number one Video Game Top 10 list . . . .



#1. Faith Naked's Top Ten Hotties in the Video Game Industry

I don't know how anyone could take objection to having Faith's list at the top of this list. The article was revolutionary at the time, caused quite the stir, and can only be faulted for not including Niero or Ron Workman in its hall of fame. There's always time for an update, Faith! Or do they need to do a special nerdcore installment themselves before they'll be considered?

If you've got any good top 10 list recommendations, please post them here!