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Copywriting: What Video Games Can Teach Us
by Joe Valente


I walked into the family room this afternoon and came upon a sight not that much different from the scene most summer days at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at my house...

... Amber (in full roadkill position) on her chair: Check.

... Bad rap-over-muzak-versions-of-bad-'80s-pop-tunes on the stereo: Check.

... Son huddled over computer, playing video games: Check.

... Sunlight struggling to evade the blinds so cruelly closed in the hopes of improving the view on the PC's screen: Check. 

Of course, I'm a student of human behavior: I graduated with a degree in Psychology, after all. So, performing one of my favorite little experiments -- not to be cruel, you understand, but just to test reaction times -- I open the blinds, immediately obscuring the goings-on on the computer screen.

Most days, I get: "Dad! Hey! Close that! I can't see!" 

Which typically elicits some sort of a witty response from me about allergies to sunlight and fresh air, vampirism, or, my personal favorite, the blue tan he's getting from sitting in front of that terminal.

Today, however... 

The blinds open, the sun streams in, and... 

... Nothing.

Instead of responding, the boy hunches over the screen to protect it from the offending rays, and from that particularly awkward position, is continuing to play. He resembles some unseemly cross between Quasimodo and the way Amber would look if you inverted her position at exactly this moment, and I am immediately uneasy at the sight.

"Umm, son? Whatcha doing?"


Now, those of you who have teenagers know that I wrote that EXACTLY as it came out of his mouth. For those of you who don't, drop me a line and I'll translate.

Anyway, astonished (and beginning to feel just a little afraid) I approach the monitor, wondering what could have diverted his normal protest.

He's playing pool, something he does often enough that even I notice it (I did mention I'm a student of human behavior, didn't I?). But it isn't the pool game he's playing that catches my eye -- and has somehow sucked out his brain -- it's the quality of the rendering. It's so beautiful.

The texture of the tapestries hung around the table.

The rich colors of the dark wood paneling.

The warm glow of the pink neon above the table.

The cocktail waitress in a too-short French maid outfit that somehow defies gravity but still manages to protect her virtue.

The three-dimensional... 

... Quality of the balls. 

The deep...




Yes, for a moment, I too was sucked in. Enthralled, even my thoughts were expressed as though I were William Shatner (much like English, except you speak as if Every. Word. Is. Its. Own. Darn. Sentence.).

But wow! I was amazed! And on dial-up, yet! 

When did the games makers develop this power? How have they managed to suck the brains out of our teens? And how could this possibly have evolved from the likes of Asteroids and Space Invaders played on a trusty Atari 2600?

Please tell me some of you have an idea what an Atari 2600 is. Or have at least heard of Atari.

Space Invaders?


Okay, moving on.

Well, the answer to the question is blindingly simple: What sucked us both in, what kept me watching him for a good five minutes where normally I'd have harrumphed something brilliant and pithy and gotten on with my life, and what made me stand there gawking, was the fact that it looked too real.

I could almost feel the percussive "Clack!" of the balls, smell the smoke, and taste the stale beer in the air. And for one fleeting moment, I was there, part of the scene, watching the tournament unfold. Never mind that I'd never been to a Vegas pool tournament, and had certainly never worn a Zoot suit.

For that moment, it didn't matter. They made it real. And not just cheesy 3-D glasses, I-can-see-the-wires, Creature from the Black Lagoon real.

I mean real.

Anyway, as I round the top of page 3, I realize that some of you will be wondering if I wouldn't mind getting to the point. And since I'm not paid by the word, I believe I will oblige that small group of you and, well, get to the point...

... Which is this: At that moment -- at least until I gave my head a good shake -- I was part of the game. And if that cocktail waitress in the too-short French maid outfit had offered me a martini and asked for my Visa card, I might well have reached for my wallet.

Now, as copywriters, isn't that what we all hope to accomplish? Effortless extraction of currency from potential clients in exchange for our master's goods?

This month's theme is about making the scene for your readers, for creating a world, and making them part of it, and about finding a way to make them feel your copy, not just read it. Writing really compelling copy is about appealing to that part in all of us that wants to read about ourselves, even in sales copy.

There's nothing more compelling than copy that makes your readers the central figure in the panoply, that reaches them as an individual rather than part of the crowd, and says, "I didn't write this for people, I wrote this for you."

A great article by Michel Fortin addresses some of the keys to writing copy that addresses the "I" in your clientele, and discusses how and why it works, even when the reader doesn't want it to.

Meanwhile, I believe I'm next up at Table 12. Waitress, another martini, please. Two olives.

Happy venturing.


Joe Valente is a copywriter, consultant and the editor of The Success Doctor's Profit Pill. This free monthly email newsletter provides monthly tips on how to boost the profit-pulling power of your sales message. To subscribe FREE and get a FREE $19.95 gift, visit http://www.SuccessDoctor.com/joe.htm today.



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