Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

“Attention marketing” is making us all look stupid.

I was watching a UK chat show last night on TV, with Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch on, and it struck me how ‘freaked out’ JD seemed at the way the crowd would whoop and holler at him, for seemingly doing very little. it was like he had suddenly realized how crazy fame was, and wondered what the hell was wrong with everyone. Fame sure is a weird thing. it always has been, and always will be. Am I wrong to think its getting *worse*?

Let me explain…

There is this buzzword out there called ‘attention marketing‘. Its basically a way to describe the way people and brands use social media to try and grab peoples attention, but I think its linkable to the phenomena of everyone seeing themselves as ‘a brand’ and the idea that attention is the new currency. Online, the chances of you earning any actual money are minimal, but if you can generate enough attention, then apparently that leads to fame and thus money in some nebulous way. It sure worked out for pewdiepie, and people who own amusing cats, or that woman who makes youtube tutorials about how to put on makeup.

And in a nutshell, the whole ‘makeup tutorial fame’ thing is about the pinnacle of what I’m writing about. After all, what does everyone want? ATTENTION. How do they get attention? well for women, there is some belief that makeup will get them attention, so what could be more ‘meta’ than getting attention for a ‘how to get attention’ video. And here I am, giving that whole concept much desired attention…


The trouble is, we as humans can’t cope with this in 2015. In 1800, getting attention was easy, and yet mild. You stood in the town square with a red hat on and said ‘listen to me!’ and everyone in the village listened. You were recognizable, its you! the red hat dude! hey, what is that you are saying?”

But in 2015 the village is the internet and its population is mind boggling. Not only that, but everyone in the crowd has realized that the dude with the red hat did very well out of his attention, so now everyone has red hats, and some people invented pointy hats. Then some dude realized he got more attention because he had impressive teeth, then everyone got impressive teeth. Then you needed an unusual name, because everyone was called ‘John’. And then before you know it, you have to be called Benedict Cumberbatch or PewDiePie or Yngwie ‘J’ Malmsteen. Be honest, list all the famous John Smiths you can think of. List all the famous Mark Johnsons. Show me the actual famous people who look and behave normally. I spend a non trivial part of my lfie worrying my teeth are not white enough, because they are the color of teeth, not bleached white foglamps which have become the norm. How did we get here?

These days you have to dress ridiculously, act outrageously and basically push the limits of decency/sanity/coherence before people will even glance in your direction and go ‘meh’. There are exceptions out there. I’ve never seen pop star ‘Adele’ do or wear anything especially nuts, but she is the exception in a land of Grace Jones and Lady GaGa and whoever else I am too old to know the names of. Not that this is a new phenomena in pop music. behold the Crazy World of Arthur Brown:

…anyway…My fear is that this is ‘leaking out’ from the world of popular entertainers into…everyone. It seems like you cannot play a game any more, you have to record yourself doing it, and upload it to youtube with your ‘hilarious’ commentary track over the top. You then need to beg your friends for hits on the video, and likes, even though you won’t get any because they are too busy doing exactly the same thing.


We have a generation of kids who think ATTENTION is what they need, even though its harder to get it now than it ever has been. Fame is considered desirable with no caveats, even though there should be many, not least the fact that failure and poverty are almost certainly the truthful outcome of desiring nothing but fame. This is a betrayal. It’s a betrayal of the young to teach them that they must aspire to something that few will achieve and is almost certainly fleeting and unsatisfactory in any case. I don’t have kids, but if I did, the LAST thing I’d want for them would be fame or attention. Success, sure, but success based on achievements and skills, and doing good work, and learning things, not just fame because you star in a tv show where other people watch you watch tv. (yes really, and it won a BAFTA.).

This desire to be noticed affects everything. David Starkey is famous, not as a historian, but as someone who gets angry in TV politics debates. Scientists on TV have to have quirky appearance or be good looking, and spend a lot of time being photographed on mountains wearing sunglasses. Whatever you do, try not to look ORDINARY. Look like an exaggerated scientist!, like these:


I’m pretty sure all three of those dudes are actually respected scientists in their own right, so why the desire to dress up like children’s TV characters? isn’t getting a phd and becoming a professor good enough any more?

I find myself now finding ‘outrageous’ people to be paradoxically boring. Every youtuber sounds the same because they are all trying to be zany. Every music video is the the same because they are all ‘shocking’. In the desperate bid to get noticed, everyone has become predicable, fake and ridiculous.

And yes..I get the irony here. I have a nickname that is this blogs domain name ( and there is a posed photo of me at the top. Somehow, long ago, I started a blog before it was too fashionable, and I am now better known for this blog than my actual games. This is kinda weird, and yes, I feel very strange when strangers know who I am. In my defense, in my photos I am not dressed up as a chicken and I don’t deliberately exaggerate my ‘personality’ to make myself more ‘interesting’. I never care what I wear when I go to industry ‘events’. In fact, I find it encouraging that an average looking forty-something dude from England with no real distinguishing features can still even be noticed. At least for now. If not, I’m hiring a twenty year old model to run Positech and naming him Zackslicer Thunderpants. He will wear a Fez and have a strong mexican accent. Wish me luck.

6 thoughts on “Attention marketing” is making us all look stupid.

  1. The problem I see with your theory here, and analysing the issue you’re talking about is that of a biased sample. You only see, and hear, and thus notice the people who engage in these behaviours because they engage in them. You do not see the people who don’t do this for self-evident reasons. So while it’s an easy jump to call the people you see doing this stuff “everyone” or “a generation”, it’s a fundamentally flawed position. In essence, I hold out hope for a silent majority concerned with bigger problems than who is looking at them.

    1. Thats a good point, although presumably I do also notice a few people who have attention, but seem to have it without resorting to silliness. Such as adele.

  2. What you describe is a symptom of the global market and a greater number of people having access to a greater amount of content, the result is that content that would of stood on it’s own merit now gets drowned out by those who are using psychological tricks to be noticed first. This leads to a situation where most of those that are getting the attention are the ones who shout the loudest/most effective (memes), leading to more people shouting the loudest and you have a self fulfilling prophecy.

    I think the way out of this is we need better matching of content to peoples needs/wants. Right now it’s just all a whole big swamp of content, because there’s so much of it and it’s not exactly organised properly. In a games sense this is something I’m looking to solve by building a discovery platform, which I’m in the planning stages now and hoping to launch next year.

  3. “We have a generation of kids who think ATTENTION is what they need” — so the “I wanna be a rock star” thing didn’t happen to kids when we were young and walked 5 miles uphill in the snow each way?

    1. Oh sure, but how many of us really wanted to be a rockstar? certainly not the majority. Now it seems to be everyone, in some way or another.

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