Getting there was like being in a video game. As I drove through rush hour traffic in Manhattan last night, I maneuvered my mini-van to avoid an opening car door here and a cyclist there. Pedestrians dashed out from behind delivery trucks, which were double-parked along the way. Taxis cut me off, and some guy from Michigan really ought to consider public transportation if he’s going to come to New York City and drive that way. Move it, pal! By the time I parked in the garage next door to the famous 21 Club where I was going to have dinner, I was pretty sure I’d scored enough points in my real world video game to move up a level.
So I suggested to Reggie Fils Aimé, the down-to-earth and funny president of Nintendo of America and host of last night’s dinner, that Nintendo should create a game involving a mini-van in rush hour traffic. He chuckled, saying he’d consider it.
You are my witnesses.
At dinner last night, I looked around the table, and a Sesame Street song started to play in my head. I had the wonderful experience to dine not only with Reggie and several of his colleagues, but also a handful of reporters from mainstream media like Time and Business Week. And that’s why the song started playing in my head: “Which one of these is not like the others…”.
Nintendo wanted a mom blogger among the bunch, and so I was invited. But it was clear that my interests were different from the other writers’ concerns. Two tech reporters spoke about “platforms” and “servers” and such, while the business writers peppered in questions about Nintendo’s market share and the parent company in Japan. Mostly, I wanted to know if they had something that will entertain my family.
That something is the new Super Mario Brothers for the Wii, the updated version of the original game which launched back in 1985 — the game I’d played at my best friend Diane’s house back in high school. I’d played the new Wii version of the game with my fifth grader the night before my 21 Club dinner when a copy of the game arrived at my door, courtesy of Nintendo. As soon as I heard the old music from the Mushroom Kingdom (that title sounds like something from a Jefferson Airplane song, yes?), I was transported to back in the day when Diane and I took turns at the joystick in front of her parents’ TV.
But my Luigi couldn’t keep up with my 11-year-old’s Mario, and frankly, my dear son didn’t care.
“I’ll save you, Mom,” he’d offer. When Luigi suddenly reappeared inside a bubble, he’d burst it and I’d be back in the game again — until I ran out of lives. Chris shrugged and kept on playing.
“You’re running out of time,” I warned him.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“The music.” It was the same music from the old school game. At least I had him on that.
While I waited for my chance to return to the game, I tweeted: “Jen Singer is playing Super Mario Brothers for the Wii and eating Skittles like she’s 10.”
And therein lies the problem, at least as far as the Federal Trade Commission is concerned. The FTC recently voted to implement new guidelines concerning how bloggers mention items that they were compensated for, either in cash or through the swag that comes to our front doors. In other words, if we write about something we got for free, we have to disclose it.
Normally, I’d be fine with that. I mean, who wants to read a glowing review from someone who was paid to write the review without knowing about that relationship? After that, though, it gets a little nebulous. Take my tweet for instance. I didn’t review anything, but I did write about something I got for free. Actually, two things. Full disclosure: The Skittles were from my kid’s Halloween candy stash, and were, therefore free. The difference is that my neighbors don’t care if I write about the Skittles they gave us, but Nintendo hopes that I write about their games.
Sometimes I do, when it fits into my life. Though I’m not a reviewer, I have written about how Wii Music brought me closer to my son, the musician. I also wrote about the farting elephant toy I got for free and the hilarity that soon ensued. But I didn’t write about the marshmallow shooter someone sent me, because it didn’t work very well and so, we didn’t play with it for very long. I did, however, write about the Springsteen concert I went to on Sunday with my brother and didn’t disclose that the tickets were free, courtesy of my mother. There. Now I did. Thanks, Mom.
Yet, none of the magazines that have reviewed, plugged or excerpted my books (thank you!) have ever disclosed the free copies that my publishers gave them. Isn’t that assumed? I didn’t go out and buy all those prizes I give out on the Housewife Awards. It’s part of publicity, folks.
I will be certain to follow the FTC’s new guidelines on blogging, but I’m also certain that it’ll kill some of my tweets. If I’ve got only 140 characters and half of them are about disclosure, why bother? Unless, of course, we come up with some sort of symbol that indicates that swag was involved. How about this? *SW
What I do know is that I had a lovely time at dinner last night, courtesy of the nice folks at Nintendo. Thanks to their new game Super Mario Brothers for the Wii *SW, I plan to have more fun this weekend, just as soon as my Luigi gets a few lives back. Meanwhile, I had this to say on Twitter today:
Jen Singer thinks there should be a video game driving a minivan through Manhattan at rush hour. Last night, I scored 1,000 pts for not hitting anyone.
If that game shows up at my door next year, I want a cut of the profits. Right, Reggie?