Mascot Mania: Let’s get virtual

Written By Sarah Gibson, Mascot Correspondent

I think sports and video games have a lot in common, despite some of the obvious things that separate the two. They are both games of skill (for the most part) which have come to be a very popular spectator activity for large parts of the country. And for some reason, people like to gatekeep women from both of these activities but that’s a topic for a different day.

After celebrating the one year anniversary of the release of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, I was doing more reading than I normally do into the world of video game news. Admittedly, I was reading a lot about Nintendo properties, but I feel like Nintendo has more to do with my topic this week than any other video game company. 

So, as I was reading into these properties, I asked myself “What makes these mascots different than the ones I see in sports?” I’ve done enough talking about what makes a good mascot in sports, and why we choose the symbols we choose, so I’ll be talking more about video game mascots, why those are different and what purposes those differences serve. 

Most mascots that are mascots in the classical sense in video games are, for the most part, very kid friendly. There are other mascot or “Face of the brand” characters that exist for different video game companies, but I think the differences occur in marketing, mostly. I think Nintendo is very good at the mascot, just because most of their properties are geared for all ages, so Nintendo characters are very friendly-looking and simple, for the most part. However, you take a property like Mortal Kombat, and you have these bright costumes and intricate character designs. Mortal Kombat characters are also obviously more violent than any sports mascot I can think of. (Though now that I think about it, having the Philly Phanatic as a DLC Character in the next MK installment would be like, the best thing ever.) All in all, video game mascots are very unlike sports mascots in their own ways. 

I think the reason why video game mascots are often at one extreme or the other is because they have something that sports don’t: demographic flexibility. Let’s set some examples. In popular sports, you can’t really get much edgier with your mascot than something like Gritty or a vague ‘soldier-esque’ character. Sports are for everyone, all the time (that is, of course, until Vince McMahon answers my emails for a proposition to turn the XFL into Sarah Gibson Patent Pending Murderball™). Video games, however, have demographic flexibility. You can make mascots as bloody and weird as you want in Mortal Kombat, or as kind looking and useless as Kirby. 

This is super useful for the video game companies, because it means that they don’t have to stretch their characters too thin. What you see is what you get, and you don’t need to worry about intimidating another team. Nevertheless, I still have a really sincere appreciation for these characters, because just like the mascots in brick-and-mortar sports, they provide beloved symbols and images for us to bond over.