Marketing Posing as Video Games: A Look Back

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Ways PR Agents Piss Off Journalists, and a Few Companies That Do It Right

The news that the mega-cheap Burger King-sponsored 360 games just matched the sales mega-seller Gears of War brought up memories of marketing-disguised-as-games of years past.

In this special X-Mas story, we’ll take a look at a pair of my favorite ghosts of agenda-filled games for ye olde NES, so you can get searching on eBay now.

Click the jump to see them…

M.C. Kids

This McDonald’s-sponsered Super Mario Bros was about as shameless as it gets. You take charge of a pair of racially-mixed (M.C.) kids that must dig deep into the magical world of McDonald’s in order to retriever Ronald’s “magical bag,” which was stolen by that blasted Hamburglar. That damn Humburglar! Always Hamburgling around. The scary thing about this game, which I remember on NES but was also available on a few other platforms, is that it was actually pretty fun. You collected little golden arches while the game fed you subliminal messages about the wonders of Trans Fat-infused potato slabs. My favorite part, of course, was a trait that was incredibly typical of the time: Player 1 was a little white kid, and Player 2 was black. I guess it is too much to ask Mickey-D’s to rock the boat and make Player 1 black. It would be years before the video game civil rights movement would catch up.

Bible Adventures

You know that totally blazing sun-shaped “NES Seal of Approval” that likely every one of your cartridges had? Yeah, this game didn’t need it. A couple other small-time video game shops tried to push unlicensed cartridges on shelves, but were usually soon shut down by Big Nintendo. Not Bible Aventures manufacturer Wisdom Tree (such a fitting name.) Nintendo was so scared of pissing off Big Religion (even back in 1991 when this came out) that they turned the other cheek. In exchange, the couple parents who bought this for their kids because it seemed like a more wholesome choice than oh-so-violent Metroid were probably never forgiven by their kids. Essentially a series of mini-games, this game was worse than sitting through church. Again, I revert to Wikipedia for a full description of the games:

* In Noah’s Ark, the player must round up animals and food — sometimes by knocking animals out or catching fruit thrown by a monkey — and carry them onto the Ark. Noah’s health is recharged when the player reads Bible verses that are scattered around the four levels.
* In Baby Moses, the player controls Jochebed, Moses’ mother as she tries to save her son from the Pharaoh’s decree that all male Hebrew children be killed. In order to do this, the player carries Moses from one end of the level to the other, in a manner quite similar to the way in which characters in Super Mario Bros. 2 carry vegetables. Moses can be thrown around without harming him, but enemies cannot be harmed in any way. If the player completes the level without Moses, the game says “Good Work, But you forgot Baby Moses.” and the level must be restarted.
*In David and Goliath, the player starts out controlling David as he herds sheep and avoids predators such as lions and bears. The player then obtains a sling and goes on to dodge guards, scorpions, and stones before he fights Goliath’s shieldbearer and ultimately Goliath himself, whom the player must strike once in the head to defeat.

That’s entertainment.

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