Monday, February 27, 2006

To Verb or Not to Verb?

I have to say something about the latest social marketing campaign from the Centers for Disease Control, VERB, which is designed to encourage outdoor play and discourage virtual activities among the young. You can see the image above of fat, lazy, CGI baseball players to get a sense of how the campaign even subverts the visual conventions of digital play to make its pitch.

Developed by Saatchi & Saatchi New York, the VERB campaign takes special aim at video games as a social ill. Yet, as Ian Bogost of Water Cooler Games observes, the obesity epidemic may have more complex social and political causes, which can't be reduced to a billboard message or soundbite.

Strangely, the VERB campaign has created an elaborate online environment at VerbNow. The program even urges its own young cadre of bloggers to stop moving and record their experiences online. Program participants are encouraged to play the CDC's selection of video games as well.

Of course, this is the same federal government that conducts military recruitment with X-boxes and is supposedly seeking the most physically fit specimens possible by developing the game America's Army.

When will they finally create a domain for

(By way of a digression, much to my chagrin, I have to confess to succumbing to my university's own attempt at social marketing, Step Up UCI. Mostly I joined for the free pedometer and the chance to settle a grudge match between my own School of Humanities and our rivals in Network & Academic Computing Services. Of course, I now realize that a tug-of-war would have been much less time-consuming and much easier on my feet. Besides, I've always hated website counters, so it's strange to realize that I'm now wearing a counter-device on my actual person!)



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