Games

Swag Tells a Story

A giant box from Rockstar leads to a brief reflection on the context that swag can provide.

One of the nice byproducts of having a gaming-centric blog here at PopMatters is that we are now able to preview games, rather than just review them. As such, there's actually some incentive for PR to send us stuff before it actually comes out.

Today, I got some stuff.

Granted, when you get a giant box at your doorstep from Rockstar three weeks before Grand Theft Auto IV comes out, you hope there's going to be a little, DVD-size box inside, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Instead, we get:

This is the stuff. Please ignore the berber.

- A giant, black and white foam hand, emblazoned with the GTAIV logo, doing the "shocker"

- A crayola yellow Burgershot T-shirt

- A GTAIV sticker

You can tell a lot about a game by the swag that gets sent with it. Hudson sent a bright green and yellow headband to promote the upcoming Deca Sports, Sony sent a funky little black necklace with an Omega charm with God of War: Chains of Olympus (which also came with some copies of the Chains of Olympus demo disc back when that was a big deal). Both of those were subtle little touches, trinkets whose primary purpose is to evoke a mindset rather than to serve any actual tangible purpose.

There's nothing subtle about the GTAIV promotional items, yet another sign that Rockstar is looking to hit like an 18-wheeler come April 29th.

The funny thing is, I'm a father of three. I own a minivan. What am I going to do with a giant foam shocker? Give it to my kid to bring to school?

What Rockstar seems to be saying here is that GTAIV is not for people like me. It's not for grandmas. It's not for girls. It's for a certain audience that will appreciate the GTA brand of humor: macho, college-age boys, preferably ones that pound beers and incessantly quote raunchy comedies.

The problem, then, is that the appeal of Grand Theft Auto goes beyond that crowd, important as it may be to Rockstar's numbers. Grand Theft Auto III first appeared nearly seven years ago, meaning that even if everyone who played that game is in Rockstar's apparent target demographic, those are the folks who have now moved on to SUVs and jobs and changing diapers. Granted, that's an awfully broad generality, but there are plenty of people with fond memories of GTAIII who could well be turned off by a giant foam shocker. This isn't by any means a complaint, but I hope for their sake that Rockstar's marketing scheme stretches beyond the demographic indicated by this particular round of stuff.


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