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How not to get me to wear your videogame promo shirts

1:40 PM on 07.23.2010 // Nick Chester

Long has this industry been known for the copious amounts of swag made available for press and enthusiasts alike. Much of it is neat fan service -- an action figure, a limited-edition poster, a letter opener made to look like weapon -- but more often than not, it’s completely useless. The package I received today, courtesy of GameStop to promote its upcoming StarCraft II midnight launch events, falls into that latter category.

Shipped to me today via FedEx was a medium-sized cardboard box, designed to mimic the look of the final StarCraft II retail packaging. The notion that Blizzard had, for some reason, worked in tandem with GameStop to ship me a copy of the game early was quickly deflated when I opened it up to find... it was packed with t-shirts.

Now please, don’t get me wrong: I suppose I can appreciate that GameStop had sent me something -- anything! -- in the mail. Sure, it’s just a promotional package meant to (as the enclosed letter reads) “prepare [me] for battle in the 26th century” (translated: “please write a story about our midnight launch events”). But there are some folks out there, and I know this to be fact, that would feel honored to receive such a parcel. Admittedly, maybe I’m jaded, but I am not that guy.

Here’s why...

GameStop sent along three shirts, sized as such: Large, XL, and 2XL. They’re dark blue shirts; the front is covered with the StarCraft II logo and the game’s release date, while the back is filled entirely with some cyber-imagery and the words “Nuclear Launch Detected.” The sleeve of the t-shirt features the GameStop logo, beneath it the words “Power to the Players.” Obviously, the shirt is designed to be promotional, and it covers all of its bases. But here’s the issue: I cannot and will not ever wear these shirts in public.

Something that those responsible for these promo shirts need to understand is that not every gamer is of a, shall we say, portly stature. That seems to be lost on those in marketing, who appear to order apparel based on dated stereotypes of videogame nerds whose weight and size are directly linked to the level of his or her World of Warcraft character. In fact, based on my experience, you’re just as likely to find the typical gamer to be of the skinny hipster variety, their jeans tighter than the graphics on level three. But more to the point, the “average” gamer is just that -- average. And when you look at the range of different folks who are playing games these days, it’s becoming less and less likely than a 2XL is going to fit their needs.

My point here: I’m 5'11" and I went to the gym last week; none of these damned shirts fit me.

Unacceptable: Approximately six or seven babies could fit into this T-shirt.

Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not condemning those who will indeed fit in a 2XL; do your thing. But beyond that, GameStop seems to have gone out of its way to keep people from wearing these shirts by making them as unpleasant-looking and lifeless as possible. This isn’t uncommon. You need to promote the game, and the art team worked hard on the logo or game box art, so it’s gotta look great on a shirt, right? No. Just... no.

This isn’t a matter of not wanting to be a walking advertisement; it’s simply a matter of good taste. Plastering a gaudy logo on the front of a T-shirt is a good way to make sure the attire is as undesirable to humans as possible. No one wants to wear this, because -- and let’s be frank -- it looks stupid. You wouldn’t walk into a Hot Topic and see this shirt on the wall and think, “Man, the camel-cased ‘C’ in StarCraft looks fucking awesome sitting on top of the Roman numeral for 'two'; time to redeem that mall gift certificate my mommy bought me.” This doesn’t happen.

Subtlety is key here; a logo and (even worse, a release date) is not the way to go. No one wants to wear this shit, and more importantly no one should (unless you’re being paid to promote the game at a trade show). There’s nothing wrong with videogame-related shirts, as plenty of folks have done it right -- take a look at Meat Bun’s magnificent and original T-shirt line-up, for example. Even Bethesda Softworks’ marketing department seems to have gotten the memo, its T-shirt swag the past few years featuring compelling, original designs that speak volumes for the property they’re promoting, without obnoxiously shouting it from the rooftops. (Better yet, they seem to order more mediums than 2XLs; they even usually provide smalls!)

Acceptable: Fallout New Vegas t-shirt features two-headed bear; two-headed bears are awesome.

If you’ve read this far and are still thinking, “What is this unappreciative dickhole going on about? I want some StarCraft II T-shirts,” please stand down. Sure, I could give these away in a contest on the site, and one of you fine folks might even wear one of them outside of your house. But what kind of person would I be if I were to allow that to happen? That would be irresponsible of me.

Thanks for the package, GameStop -- I might even attend a midnight launch because, well, StarCraft II looks awesome. The shirts, however do not. I’m giving them to charity; someone, somewhere might be cold. But this rock candy you sent me, the one meant to look like the precious mineral resources in StarCraft II? I’m totally eating it. I mean, gamers like junk food, right?

Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
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