ANIMAL’s feature Game Plan asks game developers to share a bit about their process and some working images from the creation of a recent game. This week, we spoke with Markus Koos, Sedir Ajeenah and Jonas Lindberg Nyvang — of game developer Isbit Games, ad agency Garbergs and clothing label Björn Borg, respectively — about First Person Lover, a game about love and fashion.
Over the years, there have been few “adver-games”—video games created for advertising purposes—that were worth the plastic they were stamped on or the bytes it took to download them. In fact, only one series jumps to mind: Sneak King and a couple of related games put out by Burger King and Microsoft in the mid-oughts. There are probably others, but it’s a small category.
First Person Lover can now be added to that short list. This adver-game has it all: a completely ridiculous premise, surprisingly fun gameplay and an at best tenuous connection to the brand it was designed to be an advertisement for. And the people involved in its creation couldn’t be happier with it.
“Björn Borg as a brand takes an active stand for more love in the world,” Jonas Lindberg Nyvang, Marketing Director at Björn Borg, the European clothing company that commissioned First Person Lover, told ANIMAL. “That is the very essence of our brand. ”
And that “essence” comes across in every facet of the game. As the name suggests, First Person Lover turns first-person shooter style games—the kind where you see from a person’s eyes, generally with a huge gun bobbing off to one side—on their heads.
First Person Lover plays like a shooter, but instead of firing bullets, your armaments shoot heart-shaped bubbles, flower petals and blasts of pure, weaponized love, like a military weapons contract fulfilled by Care Bears (or by a European clothing brand and a Swedish ad agency and game developer).
“Being innovative in marketing our products is an ambition that goes through everything we do,” Nyvang said. “This time we wanted to introduce a fun and loving alternative to the traditional first person shooter games.”
On starting the game, you’re greeted with a character creation screen that lets you choose among various Björn Borg garments—underclothes included—and provides links to buy the clothes in real life from the brand’s website. You’re informed that the city is being overrun by hate, and that you’re the only one who can stop it.
So you take to the streets with your Rainbow Crossbow and Teddy Grenades, firing passionate projectiles at the hate-crazed citizens who charge around every corner. As you deal enough damage — err, I mean “love” — to them, their office-appropriate attire gets zapped away and they squat, nude, for a few moments before you magically “liberate” them with fun and stylish Björn Borg clothes.
It’s beautiful, weird, hilarious, well-made, and, above all, aware of its own absurdity, while at the same time remaining confident that this is a good way to market clothes. And given the attention First Person Lover got when it launched earlier this year, no one can say that’s not the case.
Markus Koos, who helped create the game at Swedish game studio Isbit Games, said the developers had a clear vision of what they wanted to create.
“The challenge came to actually create game mechanics that would feel natural in the first person shooter genre but unique enough to be fun to play with,” he said. “We had to turn everything around; something that normally would mean ‘kill’ we wanted to change to ‘love.'”
“The last weeks in development we all worked 24 hours around the clock,” he continued. “But it all was worth it when we noticed that people loved it. We truly succeeded to spread love on the internet, where it’s usually filled with trolls and hate.”
Garbergs, an ad agency also based in Stockholm, is the company responsible for connecting the developers with the brand. Koos said it was Garbergs who approached Isbit with the idea to satirize first-person shooters, a genre more commonly associated with violence and death than love and, of all things, clothes.
The agency is no stranger to oddball ad tactics. In 2013 it dropped lingerie into North Korea, and placed a full-page, color ad advocating LGBT rights in the Moscow Times (Google these events, as they’re worth reading about). The agency announced First Person Lover with a trailer spoofing the gross mass-murder game Hatred, stripping its angsty protagonist of his hate and his clothes, alike.
“A story is always linear,” said Sedir Ajeenah, a copywriter at Garbergs. “But this was a crazy process where things changed from week to week. One of the most important things was to balance entertainment and commerce. We focused a lot on the entertainment part.”
Isbit agreed. “We made it clear from the beginning that we needed to put the game first and the brand second,” Koos explained. “We tried to find logical and funny ways to implement the brand in the game.”
Over its brief run, First Person Lover spans a beachside plaza, an indoor mall, a high rise, and what appears to be a space ship, atop which you face the final boss: literally, Russian President Vladimir Putin riding a giant bear and employing futuristic force field technology. It’s glorious.
“Why Putin?” I had to ask.
“We honor the right for everyone to love whomever they like,” Nyvang responded. “The final boss is an example of a person that we think opposes this.”
First Person Lover is available for free on PC and Mac at firstpersonlover.com.