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Archive for February 6th, 2011

Almost nobody likes commercials. Since technologies such as VCRs, DVRs and TiVo are now available, many people prerecord TV shows and skip through the commercials. So marketers and advertisers are trying to come up with commercials that we are willing to watch, or that we cannot get around watching (for example, because they are part of the TV show itself). I am not usually a fan of commercials; I usually only watch prerecorded TV precisely because I can skip the ads.

The Box Art for LittleBigPlanet2

But last night, I was playing LittleBigPlanet2 and I ended up playing a commercial for the Prius (Part 2 of the level is here). The level is published by “LittleBigPartner” and is described as:

Join Sackboy* as he solves puzzles in his treehouse and takes his Prius for a drive in the city. With the objects you collect here, create your own Prius-inspired level for a chance to win a Sony Bravia 3D HDTV and other prizes. Visit http://www.us.playstation.com/psn/events/littlebigprius.html for more details. NOTE: Name your contest levels “Prius_[Your Level Name]” in order to enter.

The contest has been pretty popular, and there are now a number of Priusthemed user-made levels. From a marketing perspective, this is probably a great campaign. It encourages people to spend a lot of time thinking about the Prius and how to use it in a level they are creating. The Prius car, and various other objects (like wind turbines, and so forth) are given away in the level, and users are encouraged to use “as many of the collected objects as possible” (at 0:59) in their own levels. This allows Toyota a degree of control over the kinds of messages that users create in their levels. The objects that are given away are all associated with environmental themes and alternative energy sources.  If a user incorporates these objects, there is a good chance that the level will end up with a theme that associates the Prius and environmentalism.

Since LBP2 includes the user “LittleBigPartner” I am quite sure that there will be many more of these commercial levels in the future. Perhaps this is a good marketing strategy, for the reasons I described above, but I found it really off-putting. First, I was annoyed because I found the level through the “Media Molecule Picks” and in the past Media Molecule had always featured levels made by regular players, rather than advertisement levels. I felt tricked when I played this level, because I expected a user level, but instead got an advertisement. Second, the contest feels more insidious that previous contests. Both LittleBigPlanetCentral and LittleBigLand have held contests in the past, but these contests did not promote a particular product. This contest seems to be piggy-backing on the work done by previous competitions in the LittleBigPlanet game-universe.

*Note the use of the “universal” or “gender-neutral” “he” and “Sackboy,” which I complained about before.

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A picture of the Cast of Law and Order: SVU

[Trigger Warning for discussions of violence against women and rape.]

One of my guilty pleasures is watching crime shows on TV. I explain why I like crime shows in this post, but I am also aware that crime shows have a number of problematic elements. Crime shows are often problematic because of the way they portray, and sometimes sensationalize, violence.

As it is with many topics, feminists have offered a number of views about the use of violence against women as a form of entertainment. Some feminists object to Law and Order: SVU because it sensationalizes violence against women, depoliticizes rape, and paints female victims as liars. Other feminists claim that SVU might have some problematic aspects, but also some redeeming qualities, such as detectives expressing the belief that no woman deserves to be raped. Still other feminists have describe their reaction to SVU as one of ambivalence caused by its mix of progressive and regressive elements.

I recently noticed one episode of Law and Order: SVU that passes the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is named for Alison Bechdel who writes the comic Dykes to Watch Out For. The test is supposed to provide a metric for the development of female characters in a film, TV show or other story. To pass, a film must meet the following criteria:

1) there are at least two named female characters, who

2) talk to each other about

3) something other than a man.

[SPOILER ALERT: Below the fold I discuss the Law and Order: SVU episode “Dirty” (Season 12, Episode 14) and give away the ending]

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