The Twisting Gyre of Mobile Game Ads

If the algorithms that drive the ad servers of social media sites have you pegged as a casual gamer, you will be given a little window into a world of madness. Searching for “mobile game ads youtube” will turn up a fair number of YouPotatoes pointing at that madness and saying, “Look! Isn’t it crazy! How can that be allowed!”

Those kinds of videos themselves are their own exploitative little world, but they have a point. One such video recently made the Blue (that’s what Metafilter users call their main site), and it’s a prime example of both worlds, accurately calling out a lot of mobile gaming ads for being batshit insane, while also having the dismissive, hyper-edited, sound-effect-laden style all too illustrative of the problems with YouTube’s own engagement algorithms. It’s a crappy thing, making fun of a very crappy thing.

Edit: Here’s the video itself, which might be useful, it’s about 13 minutes long:

The thread is interesting, arguably more interesting than the video. Two MeFi users currently in the industry had a conversation there, and after a somewhat rancorous beginning, it was fairly civil by internet standards. Jilder is a writer in the mobile games space, and Ryvar works as a dev in more traditional computer gaming.

Here are some selected quotes:

[…]the ads aren’t aimed at children. Children don’t have money. The game developers want whale tier players – so people who can drop thousands of dollars a year on a game without blinking. There is a whole industry dedicated to building games to find and catch these sorts of players and the game developers are very much not interested in children – the ethics of that not withstanding, the legal implications are expensive.

Jilder

[…]boy, hes got no idea how wild ads can get if he’s only seeing the Dude Ads. Lily’s Garden ads are a whole ass thing all on their own and one of the grande dames of the genre, along with Merge Mansion, which is I suspect the game Alison mentions above. Merge Mansion’s most recent crop of ads full on have Oscar Award winner Kathy Bates starring as sketchy grandma Ursula (which, I must stress, are basically a tv mystery series only very loosely connected to the game).

Jilder (same comment)

The basic model for mobile game profitability is to release several dozen lightly reskinned clones of the exact same game and invest continued development into the handful that attract a sustainable population of whales. It’s grift, all the way down.

Ryvar

When mobile exploded the market and dropped financial barrier to entry by an order of magnitude, both game dev and game consumer culture were considerably thinner on the ground and even the best things to come out of the resulting environment (Genshin Impact, Lineage 2 Revolution) are still exploitative as shit. […] Part of the reason devs and gamers alike fucking hate Diablo Immortal is that it’s an extremely public beachhead for the tentacles of pure capitalist greed into a culture that has until now been moderately successful at keeping this avalanche of bullshit at bay.

Ryvar

All competitive online gaming has a pay-to-win element, it’s just not easily seen a lot of the time – it’s just that you pay for a decent gaming rig, and in my case you pay for having a decent internet connection. Like I’m in Australia, so lol how’s my ping bruh?

Jilder

But the gatekeeping around AAA rated gaming is huge – gamergate bros are just the most visible manifestation […]. As I mentioned in my first comment here, I’m a middle aged woman, so you know, I’ve been dealing with gatekeeping shit around gaming my entire gaming career.

Jilder

There’s lots more interesting discussion to be seen, start from this point and read on from there.

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