Magic Codes


Many advertisements use codes to convey a fairy tale to consumers, usually
resulting in a happy ending. This occurs at the expense of the price and means being set
aside. Most advertisements rely heavily on visual props and sometimes on text to convey
their meaning. These codes are open to many interpretations. This ad is no exception. It
uses the visual code on many different levels, and the text is there mainly for explanatory
purposes. These codes all have references to the story-line of Magic: two sorcerers using
spells to fight each other over imaginary regions of land. The advertisement tries
unsuccessfully to convey a happy ending, like in a fairy tale, to the consumer, while
sacrificing price and means.
The code of spatial order is used to show the reader advancements in periods of
time. These advancements can be seen as one looks at the ad from the lower-left corner in
a clockwise circle. The first object one would see is a skull from a Woolly Mammoth,
which is symbolic of prehistoric times. The next object, a computer, stands out because it
does not fit the pattern of chronological order. Wizards of the Coast and Microprose, the
advertisers, use this purposely by drawing attention to the computer and consequently the
computer game. The computer falls into another pattern. This pattern goes in the same
order, clock-wise, but alternates between Magic (the game) and something pertaining to
the background of the game. The next objects are tarot cards and a spell book, both of
which follow the patterns. These objects, along with the mood of the entire ad being dark,
may be interpreted by the consumer to mean death or the devil. This is based on cultural
beliefs and rituals. Most people believe angels and good guys wear white, and therefore
devils and bad guys dress in black. Also, people usually wear black clothing to funerals,
which is essentially a ritual for death. The next item in the pattern is actual cards from the
game of Magic. These cards follow chronological order because they are the result of the
movable-type printing press being invented in the 18th or 19th century. The final
components are a CD-ROM disk and a mouse. These show how science and technology
have advance in the 20th century, and it also reminds the consumer of the computer, and
consequently the computer game.
This printed sales pitch also uses dark and bright colors that contrast each other to
give the consumer more information about the game. The ad itself is dark and mystic,
somewhat evil; it also has blue, mystical back-lighting. The makeshift table at the bottom
of the ad is made up of broken stones that look cold and gray; the light green, almost
magical text appears in the center of the table. All of these things embody the game of
Magic. The darkness illustrates the dark side of the sorcerers; the green lettering
represents the magic that is being used; the broken stones are the battle lands.
These representations of the game itself make the reader want to buy the computer
game. The advertisers make the ad appeal mainly to people who already play the card
version of the game, because they rely heavily on the background story. The two
companies take the logical next step by advancing the card game to computers, the
medium of choice for most consumers today. Sociology shows advancements in culture
from hunting-gathering societies to the post-industrial society the United States is entering
into today. The companies show how they are making the card game “New and
Improved,” something every consumer likes to hear. Consumers believe they can get
better quality when they hear this phrase, but this ad doesn’t really give better quality to
the game. Although the computer game can be used to play with cards on may never own,
such as a $350 Black Lotus, the game and its concepts are still the same and will remain
so. The price, which is kept a secret unless you call the 800 number in small print at the
bottom of the ad, just isn’t worth it. More cards would be on the market by the time the
CD was released, giving it a disadvantage. The price and means of