Adventures In Unwinnable Games

Miramax is going back to the future to promote the past. Or something like that. To promote a movie that doesn’t release for several months, the studio has launched a site containing vintage midway games.

The studio hired company Liquid Generation to create and distribute versions of the games Whack-A-Mole, Skee Ball, Horse Derby and Root Beer Pong that are tweaked to feature characters from Adventureland. The games are all housed on the comedy’s Web site,, and are being promoted through online ad networks, social media and gaming sites via Internet agency Media Storm.

The point of the viral campaign is to seed early awareness for the movie among its potential 18– to 34-year-old audience, and familiarize them with its wacky characters. So, instead of whacking moles, one can play whack-a-Bill-Hader-from-Saturday-Night-Live, who plays Bobby in the film. In Beer Pong, I spied my favorite Freaks and Geeks character while some girl repeatedly called me a “Nancy” for rolling the ball off the table.

Adventureland is a coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1987 about James, an uptight college grad who’s forced to accept a job at a local amusement park when he can’t afford to take his dream European vacation. The film won’t launch until spring 2009 (no release date yet), so the pre-Thanksgiving release of the arcade site is intended to build early buzz.

There’s also a prize component. Game scores that are submitted will be posted to a leaderboard on the film’s Web site. For an eight-week period ending Jan. 16, players with the top weekly score for each of the four games will win an Adventureland branded Flip Mino digital video camera. Following this contest, users who submit their scores through Feb. 13, 2009, will be entered into a sweepstakes. The winner gets what James didn’t: That coveted trip to Europe.