One of the main tasks in Burnout Paradise is seeking out, and driving through, the 120 “Burnout Billboards” scattered around the city. It’s standard collect-a-thon game design, much like the orbs in Crackdown. However, where as the orbs in Crackdown were these floating nonsensical game-ish items, the billboards in Paradise make contextual sense and are nicely integrated into the city.
As I was driving around the city looking for my last three or four billboards, carefully going through every street and corner, I was hit with a revelation. This is an EA game and like most EA games, it has a lot of advertising. There are vehicles branded with sponsor logos, like a Wal-Mart clad F1-styled racer. There’s the “EA Trax” music, which is such a weird mish-mash of songs that the only possible reason for their inclusion is music industry dollars (Avril Lavigne in a high-speed arcade racings game?) And there are sponsored billboards around the city promoting fast food chains, shaving products, clothing and now defunct retailers. Billboards.
We ignore banner ads at an almost instinctive level. There’s even a term for it: banner blindness. It’s the reason why many advertisers are using distracting flashing graphics and floating overlays and interstitials. They get the attention that static banner ads do not. The billboards in Burnout Paradise are static, yet here I was looking for them.
I’m uncertain as to how conscious of a design decision this was and, more so, undecided as to whether this is devious or genius.