Sex is the McGuffin of advertising. It’s delivered without justification, hell in some cases it’s expected to be its own justification. It’s there to catch the eye, engage the reptile brain, fill any plot holes, and logic be damned. It’s commonly accepted as just another trick of the trade.
The computer and video game industry, primarily targeting young men, is no stranger to sexualization. In it’s early days, however, they apparently had no idea how to advertise their products and instead just smeared a greasy, sticky, sexy film on top of everything.
I’ve barely started this article and I need a shower.
We’ve reviewed dozens of these images from the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s (for, um, research of course). It occurs to us that many of these can be broken down into highly specific (and completely batshit) categories.
1) Computer As Marital Aid
Sharing a keyboard wasn’t a thing in 1983, and it isn’t now.
Here in the 21st century the idea of bringing a computer into bed isn’t quite as absurd as it was in the days of 8-bit computing. And yet several of these images involve folks with clunky console computers and CRT monitors in all sorts of ridiculously intimate situations. This was decades before RedTube; the folks in these pics are playing (dubiously) sexy text adventure games. Because nothing gets you in the mood like squinting at mononochrome not-graphics and typing in commands to keep the action going.
Am I the only one that noticed the monitor text is faked?
Well that just looks… unsafe.
And this, this just looks… sad.
2) Sexy Ladies Are Waiting… At The Arcade!
WHAT. DOES. THAT. EVEN. MEAN.
There’s a lot of these images from the 80s. Women in implausible Leg Avenue outfits in the general ambivalent proximity of an arcade machine. Not actually playing the games, mind you, but just sort of draped over them awkwardly to the accompaniment of increasingly incomprehensible “sexy” captions.
“Oh hey, not like I’m playing a reflex-dependant arcade machine”
“Yeah boys, just picture this joystick, that I have a suffocating death grip on,
as your… ugh never mind can I sit down? This is obviously an
incredibly uncomfortable way to stand.”
“Yes, this is a plausible scenario.”
“Why yes this anti-aircraft gun would likely give multiple 2nd degree
burns to my unprotected legs. Are… you into that?
WHAT. DOES. THAT. EVEN. MEAN.
3) Sexy Ladies Are Waiting… On Everquest?
Honestly, I haven’t found many examples of this one. However, the idea of marketing old online service subscriptions like Prodigy, and especially early MMORPGs like Everquest, like one would a phone sex line is too bizarre not to mention.
4) Computer Users Sexily Doing Things You Should Never Do With Computers:
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Poses of women and computers, but also doing the opposite of demonstrating the computer and almost definitely endangering it. Because nothing speaks to the effectiveness of highly expensive, delicate electronic equipment like…
…posing nervously with it next to a massive body of water…
…standing on it, with a gogo boot, in the woods for some reason…
…and whatever the hell is going on here.
5) Computer Literacy Makes You A Sex God.
This is, like the ultimate nerd revenge fantasy. All the years spent pecking away at machine language and studying error codes and… I dunno whatever. This knowledge makes them damn near godlike or something. All of that pays off when they discover the legions of sexy ladies craving that tech prowess.
This is extra depressing when you consider that computer programming was largely a realm of women throughout the early 20th century, and was turned into an interest for antisocial male nerds through calculated effort in the late-1960s. The fantasy of these ads is rooted in women craving the knowledge that had been theirs for decades before it was denied them and they were forced out of their own dominant field.
Honestly, I look at these ads and root for one or all of those ladies to stab one of those smug bastards in the face Game Of Thrones-style.
6) Computers Themselves Are Sexy, Maybe Even Sexier Than Sex Itself.
And this… just turns the whole thing on it’s head. The ladies are still there, are still sexualized, but they’re a distraction. Because the machines and games themselves are the real object of desire.
Like, seriously, he’s fucking that Game Gear isn’t he?
This seems like the opposite of multitasking; doing both things badly.
“So distracting you’ll forget you’re a serial killer.”
Seriously someone just needs to call 911 here.
These are ads that someone had to pitch and that magazines eventually ran. Dozens of people looked at these images along the way of their design and were like “Yes, this seems like a sensible way to represent our product”. Like even the one where it’s like “screw it, just fuck your Game Gear what do I care you hopeless chronic masturbator… that I hope will buy our product”.
I don’t even try to understand anymore.