Saturday, June 09, 2007

Playstation ad "This is Living" generates controversy

EDIT: I may have misrepresented Bill Harris's views in this post - please read subsequent post for clarification.

Bill Harris regularly posts about the console wars in his excellent Dubious Quality blog. In his latest post Billl takes Sony to task for their PS3 advertising video "This is Living - Uncut": Not Safe For Work.

I have to agree that it is a pretty strange ad for something that a lot of folk will buy for their kids. It reminds me of a David Lynch film with bizzare characters and surreal images. In contains adult themes, images of nudity and sexual acts. Bill Harris and others have cited this ad as proof that Sony have completely lost the plot.

And yet...

I will always owe Sony a debt of gratitude for the work of genius that was their "Double Life" advert for the original Playstation in Europe . Quite apart from the fact that it is a superbly realised piece of visual poetry this ad was in fact a liberating moment for me.

I am an older player who only discovered computer games in my 30's. I have never had the support structure of a network of Quake playing geek friends. Back then I walked a very lonely path in a world of friends and acquaintances who considered computer games a frivolous distraction for children. This advert was a revelation because it spoke not just to kids but to everyone - young, old, able bodied and disabled. It highlighted the key vision of gaming as alternate reality. I too had left behind the humdrum life. I too had conquered worlds. After this ad aired widely I felt more confident in my hobby. I held my head up a little higher and was less afraid to tell others what I do in my spare time.

Thank you Sony.

Indeed Sony have a history of using avant-garde creative advertising for the playstation. The latest ad has a less obvious connection with the world of computer games than "Double Life" but it certainly bursts with creativity and that sense of absurd alterate reality which inspires so much that is good in gaming. Indeed the most controversial scene in which a bloke masturbates while watching a football match is a pretty head wrecking concept. And of course Sony's marketing people have not completely lost the plot - only a "sanitised" excerpt of this ad will ever find its way onto prime time television but in the meantime the full uncut version is generating plenty of internet buzz.

In my opinion "This is Living" stands a long way below "Double Life" in terms of creative merit but nevertheless I am glad that Sony make ads like this and I hope they continue to do so for a long time.

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