With the rise of Internet culture and its incessant lust for the non sequitir, video game advertising has gradually grown more baffling as it naturally evolves over time. When we were kids game advertising mostly took the form of magazine ads screaming about how Sega’s consoles do things that “Nintendon’t,” but as you can see from the live-action Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 trailer embedded below, modern games advertising is equal parts Hollywood spectacle and concepts focus-tested to appeal directly to the Internet-addled masses.
See, the weird thing about this trailer isn’t that it features a short cameo by A-list actor and unending font of male charisma Robert Downey Jr. Nor is it that this spot was directed by Guy Ritchie, an auteur who is equally notable for helming such British crime flicks as Snatch and Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels as he is for marrying pop star Madonna. Both of those inclusions should be seen as a part of the natural growth of the gaming industry; In an era where David Fincher is producing TV spots for Halo 4, it seems inevitable that legitimately big-name Hollywood stars will increasingly pop up in video game ads (well, either that or Downey is now contractually obligated to appear in any TV spot that also features AC/DC’s “Back In Black”).
What is weird however is that these two are joined in the commercial by Kyle Myers, an American who has made a name for himself on YouTube by firing off huge, exotic guns under the psuedonym FPSRussia. Appropriately, Myers also sports a stereotypical Russian accent in his video series, which is on full display in the Black Ops 2 trailer. Now don’t get us wrong, we like Myers’ work and his single line in the video is pretty great, but how bizarre is this mash up?
It makes sense that Activision would want to target the online interests of gamers it hopes will buy its latest shooter specifically for its multiplayer action, but if that was the key motivator here, why not just have popular YouTube stars produce this thing? Creating short videos is why these people are famous in the first place, so why not spend way less money for a commercial that would be slightly more niche but no less popular among those inundated with memes on a daily basis? Having Robert Downey Jr. in a clip directed by Guy Ritchie that also features Kyle Myers makes it appear that Activision is simultaneously trying to appeal to absolutely everyone, and unless you’ve got decades of built-in fanbase behind you (like Nintendo) that sort of thing rarely works.
Culturally divisive gripes aside though, this is a great spot for Black Ops 2. Not only does it feature a huge number of the near-futuristic weaponry found in the game and a sweeping, dynamic pace, it also features hordes of zombies at the end in a heavy-handed reference to the Call Of Duty franchises’ fan-favorite zombie modes. As pure advertising, this gets the job done, and the cameos do serve to make the piece quite memorable. It’s not quite “Where’s The Beef?,” but it’ll work just fine for promoting the latest Activision shooter.