User testing

One of the bigger threads through Console Wars is the competition between advertising agencies to get Sega’s business.

One of the agencies—Goodby, Berlin, & Silverstein—really got inside kids’ heads through on-site user research. They’d visit families and observe kids playing video games in their bedrooms. Their biggest takeaway was the universal knowledge that adults don’t know anything. That’s captured in this passage describing a kid’s reaction to one of the Sonic 2 commercials:

“That footage you showed wasn’t even from Sonic 2!” said one of the teens. “It was from the original Sonic, and it was from level two, which isn’t hard at all.” From another: “Those commercials look like they were written by adults.” And from a third: “The guys who made it weren’t even good enough to get to the difficult parts.”

Kids instantly recognize these things. Back then, I could tell you a screen is from Mortal Kombat I or Mortal Kombat II no problem. Less than a glance at most. Same with Mega Man X and X2.

Kids of the 90s: cut those moron adults some slack. They were competing for your attention against the latest technology of the era.


Fun note: GB&S, now GS&P, still does some work with Sonic and it’s way more tasteful.