"Classical Geek Theatre": Product placement deters from entertainment

ZDNet.com reported last week that McDonald's had struck a multi-million dollar agreement with Electronic Arts to have their products placed in "The Sims On-Line," which is due out sometime in November.

Everything in cyber-punk science fiction is coming true.

Doesn't that creep you out? Doesn't it bother you that, while we play videogames to escape the outside world, McDonald's is still trying to sell you a burger? Interactive, virtual environments are a sort of dream world, and I do not dream of a world where Ronald McDonald is selling me his wares. Besides, do video-gamers really need any more Big Macs?

I think not.

Sure, product placement in our media is nothing new. Ever since E.T. followed a trail of Reese's Pieces, advertisers have realized the potential of advertising in entertainment. Product placement has been common in videogames for years, even. Every billboard in a racing game was placed there for a price.

Still, the commonality of these practices does not necessarily justify them. I think we seriously need to consider the consequences of our capitalist-minded culture and the greater consequences starting to evolve from it.

Let me start by saying that our capitalist culture is the very reason games such as "The Sims On-line" are possible. Without it, I wouldn't have my Athlon processor, my Akira Collector's Tin DVD or my nine volumes of Garth Enis' "Preacher" in trade paper back. We are all aware of the benefits of the American socio-economic mindset.

However, somewhere with that economic freedom needs to come some sort of social, cultural responsibility. Didn't these companies see the Spider-Man movie? With great power comes great responsibility!

More and more, these mega-corporations are infiltrating our media, our leisure time and our environment. Find three blocks in Muncie that don't have a prevalent advertisement. Try and you will fail. There is not a place in this town that doesn't have a sign or billboard, or at least a cute girl on roller blades wearing a goofy sandwichboard.

It gets worse. There have been rumblings on the web of camera companies planting fake "tourists" in major cities. They ask people to take their picture for them, getting unsuspecting victims to experience the camera hands-on.

Television networks are considering "pop-up ads" on your television screen. A graphic for Gillette razors would appear while Chandler shaves, Gap clothing when Buffy goes to a party, and Froog's Bruisin' Broad Swords when He-Man goes to battle.

Everything in cyber-punk science fiction is coming true.

Not scared yet? Read "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson. Read "Neuromancer" by William Gibson. Go read George Orwell and go watch "2001: A Space Odyssey." Bright minds have been warning us for years of the frightening, logical conclusion of our brash, irresponsible way of life.

I'm not asking companies to stop advertising, I'm just asking for a little bit of courtesy. Please, stay away from my fantasy worlds.

Stay out of my movies and my videogames and my comic books. You can advertise in restroom stalls and bus stops all you want, but leave my escapist media alone.

And please, give us more cute girls with sandwichboards on roller blades.

Write to Mouse at bbmcshane@bsu.edu

Visit www.classicalgeektheatre.com


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