BY BILL FERRIS
It’s amazing how pervasive advertising is in our culture. There are the obvious means — billboards, commercials, newspaper inserts — as well as the not-so-obvious channels, like logos on clothing, branded shopping bags, giveaway products, and lots more. Though advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important for students to recognize it for what it is — a message designed to persuade them to give someone else their money. Admongo, an online game from the Federal Trade Commission, takes students on a journey into a virtual tower that’s crawling with advertisements. Along the way, the game teaches kids exactly how they’re being marketed to, and how to recognize it when it’s happening.
What I like
To play Admongo, students use their keyboards to make their Avatars run and jump through the Admongo tower, collecting ads as they go. The ads aren’t just billboards and pop-ups, either — Admongo raises kids’ awareness of how they themselves fuel the marketing machine. For example, Admongo shows how social networking sites deliver ultra-targeted advertisements based on the information kids enter into their profiles.
This game also looks fantastic, with smooth animation during gameplay, as well as in nonplayable cut scenes. Though I realize that video game graphics have come a long way from the Nintendo Entertainment System I grew up with, I’m always amazed at the graphics of online flash-based games. Your digital-native students may not be as easily impressed as I, however.
What I didn’t like
When kids collect an advertisement, gameplay stops while Admongo shows a short vignette explaining how a certain kind of advertisement works. Sure, it’s informative, and I don’t know how else to convey the information, but it also kills the game’s momentum. Getting rewarded with a lecture, however brief and flashy, takes some of the fun away from the gaming experience.
Also, though I’m a big fan of puns, even I can only stomach “aducation” so many times.
Despite a few minor annoyances, Admongo is pretty fun and informative, and a good way to teach kids how to be savvy citizens in a marketing-driven society. The game is free, and a good choice for teaching kids aged 8 to 12 about advertising. And in case you were wondering, no, there are no actual ads in the game itself.