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In-Game Ads May Backfire In Violent Games, Says Study

In-Game Ads May Backfire In Violent Games, Says Study

September 1, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

Advertisements in violent video games may cause players to view those brands negatively, according to a new study.

New research out of UT Austin's College of Communications shows that a majority of participants in a recent study were both better able to recall ads and, in general, had a better attitude toward the companies being advertised when playing a nonviolent game versus a violent one.

Participants were asked to play through one of two games with embedded ads. One had NPCs shooting guns at the player in rooms covered in blood. The other had the NPCs holding nothing and the rooms drenched in water. They were otherwise identical in every detail.

Participants were then asked to recall which brands they had seen advertised in the games, and to also share their feelings on the brands.

While both recognition and attitude were "significantly lower" among those playing the violent version of the game, female participants skewed even lower than males, with an 11.29 percent decrease in brand liking following the session. According to the researchers, this could be attributed to women typically having less experience playing violent games, or to men being desensitized to violence and not noticing it.

According to researchers Seung-Chul Yoo and Jorge Pena, violent content in games draws focus away from the advertisements, limiting a player's mental capacity to process advertisements. Additionally, they say, the blood and gore subconsciously links negative feelings to the brands being represented.

"Advertising campaign planners would do better to spend their budget on ads embedded in nonviolent video games than in ads placed within violent video games; particularly if they are trying to reach women," said Yoo.

The full results of the study appear in the July/August issue of peer-reviewed publication Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

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