Sarif industries websiteThat’s a very different field than the previous post, that of the video game industry, however the kind of campaign is similar. And not for just any game, one of the best ever in my opinion, Deus Ex Human Revolution.
For that game the marketing team made a “mini” website, the Sarif industries website. Of course that company doesn’t actually exist, it is part of the game’s plot, a company specialized in cybernetic implants for which the hero is chief of security, and is going to start asking himself questions, first about his employer, then about the whole system, the whole world, figuring out the democracy he believes he is living in is not as democratic as one might think, especially because the medias are under a very strong control… Not only that website is the homepage of a fictional company, but which seems to be a real one, showing the different devices they sell and their advantages, news extracts, etc. just like a real corporate website would, but it is also placed into the game’s context, where an anti implants activists group, which apparently seem to be against cybernetic implants for ethical reasons, is at war against them. That website therefore looks as if it had been hacked by that activists group, and navigation is malfunctioning, but that’s done on purpose, with plenty of anti-implants messages preventing you from going to the different sections of the website if you’re not quick enough, making you discover what the game is about, its context. But even before seeing these messages and starting navigating through the website, a lengthy video with real people has already started showing you the game’s plot, disguised as a news against implant technology, also supposed to have been placed there by the hackers. Extremely well done, that fake news video goes as far as showing us people using implants in real life, with such images as athletes running with artificial legs, modelled in 3D especially for the sake of it. That fake news explains that implants are making the gap between rich and poor people even wider, for only rich people can buy them, and they enable them to be more efficient than normal people, in a very unnatural way. Amongst many other things. That’s fiction, but it’s very frightening, for we can easily imagine our society choosing this kind of scary path, and I like that, a game that makes you think, as an anticipation book such as 1984 would. Anyway that’s not what my post is about. Considering technical and writing / directing quality, as well as the video’s length, even though it’s even not used in the actual game (certainly because of the huge contrast there would be between the real people featuring in there and 3D characters of the game), my guess is that it wasn’t just made for the website itself but also for a news conference, a teaser for the video game to come, leaving space to the unknown / mystery. But maybe I’m wrong, it’s just a guess. For on the other hand, that video being on Youtube, and being very well done and intriguing, it is perfect for making a lot of people speak about it, create a buzz, and lead to the website, through which you then discover the video game hiding behind it.
Once again that kind of concept has a dual result: advertisement for the game, through the amount of people speaking about the video and / or the website and recommending it, but for the people already playing the game, it can also be received as a present, giving them a positive image of the game’s team, encouraging them to advertise for it, besides the inner qualities it already has. The video enables you to discover the game’s plot, but for people who already know about it, it is also a way to go deeper into it. For this kind of marketing campaign, the targeting of the two kinds of audience is obvious: on one hand a share link on the video, with Youtube, Facebook and Twitter buttons are clearly there for the first kind of audience (even though the lines between the two kinds of audience can quickly become blurry, for fans can quickly become the most prone people to advertise for the marketing content). But players themselves are invited to visit the website through the presence of QR codes linking to it within the game (QR codes are bar-codes for mobile phones, scanning them with a smartphone opens up a website they link to). These QR codes are placed on Sarif industries branded cardboard boxes, and look as a simple decoration element. It therefore is not obvious at all they are actually linked to something, unless you try them out, I personally only found out about them after finishing the game, searching for some deeper information as I really liked the story. But that makes it even more interesting, making it quite exciting if you discover that by yourself, and it looks like an Easter egg left by developers (which it clearly isn’t, it’s much more advanced, considering the amount of money the website must have cost).
That’s not what this post was about, but as I have covered everything I had planned to, I want to give you some deeper information about the game itself for people who would like to know more about it: definitely one of my favorite games of all times – for it is a mix of liberty of action of an RPG (role playing game), you need to find out how to go through the game, to uncover the plot, by speaking with the different characters, and choices you are going to make are going to change the way the story unfolds. During the different missions, one is going to switch between FPS (First Person Shooter) and covert action in a pure Metal Gear Solid way. But none of these game styles is imposed to you, it’s up to you, the player, to decide, and you can mix them if you want. Something I especially like about that game, in a time and lapse when ultra-violent games are everywhere (such as GTA, which I hate, not for the game-play, but for the message it conveys, even though GTA V tries to make it seem as if it’s actually not in the way it ends, but that’s just an excuse, and the truth in my opinion, is that Rockstar encouragesnviolence, very basic – and bad – human instincts, and are trying to make the most money possible out of that, knowing that basic is successful) is that, if you can choose to go through the bloodbath path, as in any FPS, it is very clear that’s not encouraged by the developers, it’s very clear during the closing credits, but way before, you see it many times during the game. For instance, at the very beginning, after a mission in “cooperation” with the police, you will be “rewarded” by reactions of disgust from the policemen if you chose the bloodbath path. And you can finish the game without actually “killing” any character, besides from the bosses (which the critics didn’t like as all of the game besides from boss fights is about liberty of action), and that’s very rewarding: you can hide yourself from your enemies (which is even rewarded by some experience points, if you have been like a ghost – never spotted) or you can just knock them out, use tranquilizer darts. Even though it’s nearly impossible to play through the whole game choosing the pacifist path, not because the game doesn’t enable you to do it, but because at some point you find yourself confronted to a huge dilemma: your enemies, mercenaries who make the law in Shanghai, are responsible for something absolutely inhuman while they’re searching for a hacker and it’s really hard to want to spare their (virtual) life. I won’t say more, no spoilers, but yes, it’s just a game, but the story is so deep, it really makes you think… All of that with the possibility of augmenting yourself cybernetically during the game, the “augs” choices you make radically changing you game-style (you can choose to become a “human bomb”, which of course puts you on the bloodbath path, or become invisible for a while, or jump twice higher than normal and then access otherwise inaccessible parts of the game, to break through walls to find alternate paths…) If that weren’t enough (but that’s a major thing for me to like a game) the story is brilliant. Not if you take it first degree, you wouldn’t appreciate, or really understand how deep it is, I find extremely ridiculous all of the conspiracy theories, which are a sign of extreme paranoia from anybody who believes them, and which are tightly linked to American culture (in US one can be sued for conspiracy. That’s not possible in most or all of the European countries. You would rather sue someone for power abuse, it’s subtle, but it makes a huge difference, and partly explains why we are much less paranoid in this part of the globe). And this game’s plot is that most of the conspiracy theories are actually true, that we are not governed by the people we think, the people we vote for (amongst many other many people). However let’s put things in context: it’s a Canadian game, not an American one, and it’s a fiction, absolutely not trying to make us believe anything in the storyline is based on reality (And that’s obvious during the closing credits, because of the very peculiar but interesting way they chose to make them). The writers don’t believe in the conspiracy theory. But they use that as an excuse to criticize some dark aspects of modern society, as an anticipation book would (like 1984). As much as I don’t believe in conspiracy theory, some of the game’s subjects are not only plausible and worrying in a future society, some things could become as bad as in the game if we are not careful. Some are even true nowadays, no such things as the illuminati in the real world, and freemasons are neither a hidden society nor people to be afraid of (even if a lot of the things they do are for the good of people I would more afraid by the groups as the Anonymous, for the simple reason that they decide to be the law, thinking the law is not good enough in our democracies, and that can be as dangerous as corrupt governments, anyway, I’m digressing), it is a fact that the world sometimes seems to be more controlled by markets than by official governments, and that’s frightening. Anyway, I won’t say more, but I highly recommend that game which has some very deep and interesting subjects, which make you think, as long as you don’t take them first degree, as long as you take them for what they are, a fiction, and a very good one for that matter.