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Sep. 2 2009 - 10:55 am | 11 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

OddFile: Running Over Pedestrians Good…

Blood-spattered screen

Blood-spattered windshield

…for ad recall in video games, that is.

A recent study tested recall of in-game advertisements (billboards inside a car-racing game) in a violent and non-violent version of an experimental system called AdRacer.

In the non-violent version, you drive around a course scoring points by hitting targets. In the violent version, you score points by running down pedestrians — which then spatters your windshield with blood (see picture above, right).

Despite all that gore in your line of sight, it turns out you remember the ads better when you’re acting as a killing machine.

From the paper’s abstract:

A pilot study tested the effects of game violence on memory for brands shown as billboard ads in a racing game. In contrast to findings with TV violence, game violence did not impede brand memory. Memory results were also not mediated by visual attention during encoding. Compared to a matching nonviolent version, playing a violent game resulted in superior brand retrieval, yet participants showed fewer and shorter eye fixations on the billboard ads. Hence, caution seems to be recommended in transferring standard results from the “passive” TV medium to the interactive game medium.

The reasons why this is so aren’t clear. As the abstract above mentions, research has actually shown (counterintuitively) that sex and violence don’t do anything for ad recall on TV. There’s been some indication that side-to-side eye movement could improve ad recall, but this would probably apply to both the violent and non-violent versions of the game.

Whatever the mechanism, though, somebody had better call Tipper Gore. Things are about to get bloody up in this joint.

HT: Technology Review

Have a candidate for the OddFile? Email me at editor-at-ryansager.com.


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    I'm a freelance writer and blogger based in Brooklyn, NY. My background is mostly in politics. I've worked on the editorial boards of the New York Sun and New York Post. In 2006, I wrote a book, "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party" (Wiley). I've also done my share of freelancing, for places like the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Reason, and RealClearPolitics.

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