Study: Violent In-game Ads More Memorable to Players

New research indicates that in-game advertisement which feature violent elements may be more memorable to players than nonviolent ads.

MIT’s Technology Review reports on the study conducted in part at the University of Luxemburg

[Researchers] developed a simple racing game called AdRacer… A player drives around a virtual course and scores points by hitting targets along the way–as she drives, unobtrusive graphical ads are displayed as billboard graphics… while a camera records her eye movements. After playing, each player’s ability to recall of brands shown on the side of the road was tested.


Those who played a violent version of the game, where the goal was to run down pedestrians, resulting in a blood-splattered screen, demonstrated significantly better recall of advertised brands than those who played the regular version…

Of course, while violent ads may increase the player’s memory of the product, they could also be a public relations disaster in the making. Technology Review notes that University of Luxemburg researchers have also found that ad violence can lessen a gamer’s opinion of a brand.

GP: The screenshot at left is from the University of Luxemburg’s AdRacer.

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  1. 0
    Stinking Kevin says:

    So is to "hit along the way" the same as to "run down"? It’s unclear. There is room for doubt. From the linked reports I couldn’t tell if the targets are moving, or if the player just drives through them "along the way."

    If the targets are moving in exactly the same patterns as the pedestrians, it would be hard to claim bias, but this is not necessarily what the article describes. If the targets are stationary, or in any way more predictable or easier to run down than the pedestrians, I think Kabyk and MechaTama31 might have a point about possible bias.


    (If the targets move in exactly the same ways as the pedestrians, why wouldn’t they say so in the article?)


  2. 0
    Matthew says:

    They did.

    "A player drives around a virtual course and scores points by hitting targets along the way…"

    It doesn’t make clear whether there are differences between the targets and the pedestrians, but it sounds like they built them to be very similar with just graphical effects differentiating the two.

  3. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    My understanding of the article is that is what they.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  4. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    It doesn’t appear that the study accounted for the possibility that having a goal like aiming for targets, not necessarily the violence, may make people pay more attention to their surroundings. The violence is not, as some above have said, the only difference introduced. I’d be interested to see the results if they had players aim for objects in a non-violent way, like going through rings or sets of flags.

  5. 0
    Matthew says:

    True, true. Blood splatter is not a normal sight for most people, so seeing it is immediately disconcerting and puts you on edge. Witness any of the numerous scenes in the Silent Hill series for a gaming example of that. Early on in the games you’ll find a blood trail, and *foom* you’re focused and on edge even though you’re still just slogging through fog for the next few minutes. On the other hand, give someone a scene that looks like any boring old street and it will be just that: boring.

  6. 0
    Neeneko says:

    As I ranted above, my guess is that the effect ties into survivability.  When threats are high we are more aware of our surroundings (at least at a subconcious level) since if bad stuff is already happening, more bad stuff increases the chances of a nasty case of death.

    While if non threatening situations are happening, we tend to relax and start to zone out a bit.  Combat patrols run into this problem a lot.  We just are not as aware of our surroundings.

  7. 0
    gamegod25 says:

    Seems pretty obvious to me. Violence (or at least some action) is interesting and can make things more memorable.

    For example say you went to a resturant. You had a good meal, paid the bill and left, no big deal. Just another average meal. Now what if in the middle of your meal some stranger walked up, threw your food on the floor, punched you in the face, and ran out. I can guarentee you’ll remember that forever!

  8. 0
    Matthew says:

    Agreed with the above; the only bias here is your own against any study which even mentions media violence. (They aren’t even saying that violent media is bad!)

    This is basically how you do science. Take two copies of a scenario, change one element between them, and see if you get a difference in the results. They did. People remembered more about the ads when the game involved running people over. The two games were the same design ("follow the course and hit targets") but for some reason, violence made a difference.

    What does this mean? God knows. Maybe violence => more interesting => more memorable, and the ads benefited from the proximity to violent scenes. Maybe it was the grounding in reality, where hitting something with your car probably will make a mess, which made the players more susceptible to the ads.

    Or maybe the sample size was 5 people and 2 control and the whole thing is meaningless. That seems to come up often in violent media studies.


  9. 0
    Neeneko says:

    How was this ‘bais’?

    They took a controlled test where the only differing factor was violence.  They then used an easily measured (and narrowly focused) metric.

    Though it should be pointed out that they also found that when playing the violent version, the players spend LESS time looking at the ads but recall/imprint was greater.

  10. 0
    Kabyk says:

    Yet another bias study…How about the fact that players are more FOCUSED during a TIME TRIAL than when the goal is just to run over people?

    I know personally I do, and CAN, pay more attention to the environment (includes billboards) when I’m just strolling around, rather than fervently trying to get to the end of the course before time runs out.

  11. 0
    Neeneko says:

    This actually makes some sense.

    I can imagine humans being tuned to be more aware of their enviroment when violent (and thus potentially dangerous) things are going on.

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