But there's something about a good commercial that can take us back on a wave of "remember whens?" and community bonding. I hear more discussions about creative ad spots the day after the Superbowl than the game itself. Commercials can even be a time capsule that unlocks memories for us of favorite movies, toys, and experiences.
But what about MMOs? Well, they have commercials too, although not as many have made it to the standard airwaves. They're out there, though. Lurking. Emitting nostalgia rays from the past. And I've been hunting them down, looking for commercials that take us back to a simpler, goofier time. A few thousand dead brain cells later, I've got 10 of the margh make it sop pleaze pleaaa...
1. Ultima Online
Here's a commercial dating back to 1998, and boy howdy does it show. In a good way, of course! I love the cheesy synth and the dramatic voice-over: "It's more than a fantasy because it really exists. It's more than a game because it never ends."
It's more than a time sink; it's a time sink that you pay for!
2. EverQuest Online Adventures
I dare you, I double-dog dare you to watch this entire 30-second spot on the now-deceased EQOA and not crack a grin. I mean, when you kick off with a guy in a business suit barking into a cellphone, "It's time to slay the dragon!" and then transforming into a barbarian, there's no way that this is going to disappoint. And it doesn't.
Other gems from this spot: The girl who is playing with her fists, the graphics that look nothing like the actual gameplay, and the possibility that these four players were the entirety of the EQOA community.
3. Star Wars Galaxies
Speaking of sunsetted MMOs, here's an awesome blast from the past! You've got the thrilling Star Wars music, tons of clips from the core game, and an ad for the (then) upcoming Jump to Lightspeed expansion. When does this come out again? I can't wait!
4. Asheron's Call
OK, this probably has the worst narration I've ever heard. The guy is obviously slipping into a coma and is trying to get this VO out before the darkness surrounds him. The video mixes in some lackluster CGI with actual in-game footage, and it's actually the latter that makes the spot interesting. This game never did have cutting-edge visuals, but it's cool to see the animated world and its 500-mph-running denizens.
5. Final Fantasy XI
Not much to say about this one: It's short, it's neat, and it amuses me with a mention of being packaged with a 40 GB hard drive for the PlayStation 2. Ah, the good old days when you had to assemble your console hardware piecemeal!
6. The Sims Online
Forget that the graphics here are lightyears better than the actual Sims Online visuals -- what's amazing is that Chris Klein appears out of nowhere at the end with long hair and a cheesy smirk. Yes, the American Pie guy. Although I think that he'll now be best remembered as "the Sims Online commercial guy who got paid $40 and a comped lunch for showing up only slightly tipsy" guy.
7. Phantasy Star Online
When you have a mere 15 seconds to show off your console MMO, how are you going to best use that time? Well, PSO's answer to that question is, "Show a cute girl in her room staring at her characters in the game lobby. And then have her group run down a hallway."
Somehow I think that knowing the language here would expand my appreciation for this spot. Anyone out there who can help translate?
8. World of Warcraft (and Mountain Dew)
I guess that when you're going to cross-promote a fantasy MMO and a caffeinated high-fructose corn syrup soft drink, you're bound to get a little weirdness. But this commercial defies my attempts to plumb its depths. Am I captivated because these two girls are so outraged that the other supports a different in-game faction and shows that because of whatever Mountain Dew six-pack they picked up that they'll actually fight to the death in the store over it? Yes I am. Females and their ways are so foreign to me.
9. Guild Wars
Don't even try to make sense of this one because there is none to be had. For starters, it's not even advertising Guild Wars; it's a Gamestop commercial that's -- for whatever reason -- using Guild Wars characters to obnoxiously promote a Christmas sale. But if you like feeling your eyebrows involuntarily lift and your mouth droop open so that a groan of incomprehension drifts out, this is your thing. This is exactly what happens when you put the company CEO's 18-year-old stoner nephew in charge of a "hip" commercial.
It's even stranger than Guild Wars 2's Our Time is Now trailer, and that is saying something, people.
10. Toontown Online
This is one of those commercials that hardly shows the game at all. Instead, it shows a teacher doing an attendance roll call while a kid frantically gets his stuff together at home, jumps through a cartoon hole, and ends up in his classroom seat. And then the announcer goes wild over THREE DAYS of free play for interested parties. Three days! How generous!
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.