The UK Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints against sexually suggestive mobile ads shown in PEGI 3 rated games. The ads, which include animated characters spanking each other (amongst other things), now ‘must no longer appear’ as they currently do , according to the ASA.
what Brain Story: Tricky Brain Teaser and why did he fall under the ASA?
It’s not uncommon for games to fall foul of ASA; even big projects like star citizen sometimes find themselves in conflict with the Authority. In this case, however, the problem is much more glaring. According to the official decision of the ASA, the announcement, which is aimed at the occasional “puzzler” Brain Story: Tricky Brain Teaserappears in Gallery: Coloring Book & Deco and Alice’s Resort: pun (welcome to the mobile gaming space), both of which have an age range of 3+. This means that children as young as 3 years old could have seen the ad, which, given its content, does not look very good.
To quote the ASA’s rather delightfully funny decision, the content includes women “wearing Christmas-themed outfits playing rock, paper, scissors,” with the loser being spanked by the winner. Other parts of the ad include a woman having her feet tickled (in a sexually suggestive way, of course), as well as a man having clothespins attached to his nipples. Suffice it to say, this isn’t an ad you want your kids to see, but the ASA went further than that, ruling that the ad violated three rules of the Authority’s Code: social responsibility, hurt feelings and endorsement of violence. It is worth noting that Brain Story: Tricky Brain Teaser is just one of many copycat style games on mobile stores. Some of these games were developed by ABI, while others were created by other studios, but the content is generally the same; extremely basic puzzles with a little lively titillation to draw you in.
How did the ASA solve this problem?
The ASA said the Brain Story: Tricky Brain Teaser the ad was “not suited to be featured in a game”. On top of that, the ASA says developer ABI Global shied away from responsibility by allowing the ad to appear in games rated PEGI 3, potentially exposing children as young as 3 years old to this. sexually suggestive imagery. The ASA attempted to contact ABI Global as part of its investigation, but the studio did not respond, thereby violating another element of the authority code (unreasonable delay). As such, the ASA has now told ABI Global that it should no longer run the ad in its current form, nor cause “serious or widespread offence” by including gender stereotyping or objectification of women. .
The mobile gaming space has had run-ins with the ASA before. Homescapes, a game somewhat notorious for its misleading advertisements, was the subject of a complaint to the ASA in 2020, which was also upheld (although not for the same reasons). Despite these breaches of advertising standards, the mobile space remains clearly attractive; Earlier this year, gaming giant Take-Two acquired mobile titan Zynga to bolster its mobile gaming division, showing that it’s still an area of interest to big game companies. We have reached out to ABI Global for comment on this story and will bring you more as soon as we have it.