Video game advertisements perceived negatively if violent

Jennifer Berke

Advertisements branded with violent video games are perceived negatively by the general population and especially by women, according to a recent UT study.

According to the study, featured violence in video games leads to a diminishing memory of brands and promotes a more negative opinion of the products. Participants in the study, which included men and women, had a negative perception of advertisements after playing violent video games with featured brands. The female participants showed significantly higher negative responses to the advertisements than the male participants, according to the study.

“[The advertisements are] well-known and [lesser-known] brands such as Electronic Arts Games, Nintendo, Konami and Sega,” said Seung Chul Yoo, a graduate advertising student and co-author of the study. “We used real brands to increase realism, and statistically controlled gaming experience so that frequent gamers’ recall wouldn’t confound the results.”

The finding suggests males and females simply differ in the way they consume violent media, Yoo said.

“Female participants might be less frequently exposed to violent media relative to male participants,” Yoo said. “In one study, while boys played video games for approximately 1.5 hours per day, girls only averaged about 40 minutes.”

Department of Advertising associate professor Matthew Eastin said rather than looking at differences between male and female perceptions, the study should have included the opinions of novice gamers versus experienced gamers.

“A novice gamer is more likely to be focused on the mechanics of the game, while an experience gamer is better able to absorb the environment,” Eastin said. “They aren’t spending as much time on cognitive skills as the novice players.”

A study done by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project showed that 99 percent of teen boys and 94 percent of teen girls play video games. Yoo said advertisers chose to feature their ads in violent video games because they want to reach mass audience.

“However, they do not know much about the effects beyond just forced exposure of their ads,” Yoo said.

Although violent video games are highly popular, their effectiveness as an advertising medium is questionable, said Department of Communication Studies assistant professor Jorge Pena, who was also the co-author of the study.

“Advertisers should refrain from investing in ads in violent video games when targeting female gamers,” Pena said. “We believe advertising in violent media is not only morally questionable but also perhaps an ineffective advertising strategy.”

Communication sophomore Marc Morales said he normally doesn’t pay attention to advertisements, but if an image keeps emerging, it eventually stays with him.

Printed on September 1, 2011 as: Violent video games prove harmful to ads