Something About Youtube Ads

This is only incidentally about video games, but games are frequently advertised on Youtube.

You might have noticed a particular Youtube ad that, for whatever reason, you might want to make a record of. Or you want to watch it again to get details; maybe you want to save a local copy with youtube-dl or yt-dlp for some purposes, maybe to remix. Or maybe for some reason even vote on it, or leave a comment on it.

A secret fact about Youtube ads is that they’re all secretly just normal Youtube videos that have been registered with the ad system to put them into rotation. Every video you see on Youtube has its own 11-character ID, and ads are among them. If you know an ad’s ID, you can load it like any other video by putting it after the string: 

in the URL.

How can you get an ad’s ID? When it’s playing, pause it (one of the few things you can do in the player when an ad is being shown), then right-click the video and select Stats For Nerds.

That will get you various bits of troubleshooting information about the video currently being played:

Where it says Video ID/ sCPN, that code after it, that’s the ad’s ID! That’s the code you paste at the end of the URL line to get to the video’s landing page. You can select it right out of the info box with the mouse and copy it to the clipboard with CTRL-C:

Notice, the ad video itself is unlisted. It isn’t always, but it’s rare for an ad to appear in Youtube’s discover interface anyway. Also, this video doesn’t have voting disabled. It’s off the bottom of the screen here, but its comments are even open. An amusing aspect of this is, before I got to watch this ad as a normal video, Youtube served me a different ad immediately before it.

Because of this, if you find a silly, ridiculous or awful ad, you can find its page on Youtube and watch it again, tell others about it, sometimes even leave comments that probably no one will ever read.

For example. Here’s an infamous video that made the rounds some months ago. “Give this man seven seven draws!” (The caption says 777 draws.)

“Is that not enough? Give him some legendary Heroes at well!” I’m confused as to what a “draw” is, or why I’d want 777 of them, but a random lady in a business suit told it to me so it must be important!

It’s been labeled as unlisted and comments are turned off, but they didn’t bother to mark the video as non-embeddable. The ad campaign is over I think, but the video is still on Youtube, where it could possibly stay until the sun grows dim. The page says it’s currently been seen 3.6M times but it has no vote score, so it seems that getting served as an ad increases its view count.

This video, with the descriptive name “MLV109 EN 1920×1080 PC,” promoting the game “Grand Mafia” showcases the adventures of a poor Level 1 Crook, who’s constantly being turned down in his sudden marriage proposals to Hot Babes and Ex-Girlfriends because his level is low compared to the high level types that he’s surrounded by.

Hero Wars has been a heavily advertised game for months, sometimes with pretty gross ads. Badly animated blue hero guy is constantly injured by all the monsters and gods in his dumb generic fantasy world because he never went to school and learned about the important math concept of greater than. Because of that, his girlfriend got turned into a toilet and smashed to pieces. Stay in school, kids!

From the site: “Definition: A gaming dark pattern is something that is deliberately added to a game to cause an unwanted negative experience for the player with a positive outcome for the game developer.”

I remember when I was first writing about roguelikes at late, lamented GameSetWatch, it was right around the time of the rise of mobile gaming. It would bring video games to a whole under-served audience, and it did! It would become industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and it did that too! And it would all do it fairly, taking nothing from poor players while granting extra perks to wealthy ones who would just pay them a little money, a microtransaction*, to justify their outlay, and, well….

Mobile games are fun, and many of them are inexpensive, at least at first. But frequently, and especially with the whole “free to play” genre, they are full of tricks to try to get you to shell out cash for advantages. A certain nominal fee might be appropriate, but most aren’t in it for a simply nominal fee. Interesting and/or important features will turn out to be locked behind the “premium currency,” which at first seems plentiful but before long turns very scarce unless you pony up with the cash money dollas.

These games want to find themselves a few big whales to be their sugar parents, and at times it seems that they are the true audiences that they chase, with us ordinary plebs left to soak our heads. It’s a lucre-seeking design style that has become synonymous with an entire genre, and it could be argued has done real harm to the whole field of mobile gaming.

Everyone needs to earn a living, but it rankles to be used as the bricks on their road to their pot of gold, especially when the necessity of that premium currency is obscured at the start of the game. lays out how these games try to get their fingers into your wallet, and points an accusing finger at those titles that rely on these tricks.

Part-Time UFO is an awesome non-exploitive mobile game! It’s on Switch too! It needs love!

It also points the way to games that don’t. They may cost a bit more up-front, but at least you won’t be nagged repeatedly during your time with them to give them just a little more cash, just a little more, that’s all they need, just a little more cash man, they can stop any time, any time they want…. (via cosmic owl on Metafilter)

* “Microtransaction” is one of those terms that causes my blood pressure to rise. Who now remembers that the term was originally coined to mean payments of a dime or less, maybe even less than a penny, such as to pay for access to a news article? Now we’re beset with paywalls, the things microtransactions were supposed to save us from, while the term has been appropriated by all these sharks? I mean to tell you, it makes all my neurons sparkle with a communist glimmer.