Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Downing, John

Abstract

Video game advertising is a major venue for game industry to promote its products. As a form of advertising, game advertising reflects national cultural values. It also manifests game cultural values which gamers are able to identify with. Millions of people, youth and children in particular, are being exposed to game advertising. Video game advertising may not only influence viewers' purchasing decisions, but has the potential to influence their attitudes and perceptions of important societal issues such as gender roles, violence and sex. However, few studies have examined the information content and messages of game advertising. The purpose of this study is to begin to fill the gap. This study examined the content of 1,021 print game advertisements in four popular game magazines published between December 2006 and May 2008 in China and the United States. The study was built on a variety of theoretical backgrounds and game studies. First, built on Resnik and Stern's (1977) classification of information cues and conceptual differences between advertising service and tangible products, the study found that Chinese game advertisements used more information cues than U.S game advertisements. Second, built on a variety of cross-cultural frameworks including Hofstede's ─ individualism vs. collectivism, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's human and nature relationship and time orientation, the study found that that U.S. game advertisements used more individualistic appeals, manipulation-of-nature appeals and future-time-orientation appeals than Chinese game advertisements. It was found that Chinese game advertisements used more collectivistic appeals, oneness-with-nature appeals and past-time-orientation appeals than U.S. game advertisements. Third, the study, on the basis of synthesizing game literature, examined gender representation, sex and violence, and major game cultural values in Chinese and U.S. game ads. The study found that in both Chinese and U.S game advertisements, males were more likely to be featured (83.5% in U.S. ads and 55.9% in Chinese ads) as primary characters than females (12.4% in U.S. ads and 42% in Chinese ads). Female characters were sexualized when presented. The study also found 29.8% of Chinese advertisements contained sexual content and only 4% of U.S. game advertisements contained sexual content. It was found violent content was common in U.S. game advertisements and 61% of U.S. game advertisements contained violent content. U.S. game advertisements contained more violent words than Chinese game advertisements. The study examined three online game cultural characteristics reflected in game ads. Compared with U.S. ads, Chinese game advertisements used more character progression, virtual item accumulation and socialization appeals. Limitations of the study and directions for future study are discussed.

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