Article 5—3DO Japanese TV Commercial Storyboards (1994)

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In the final week of 1993, I received a somewhat desperate phone call from a production company asking me if I would be willing to appear in an overseas TV
commercial for the 3DO system. Panasonic was gearing up to introduce the console to the Japanese market and wanted an onscreen endorsement from an American video-game magazine editor. I was not surprised that they would call VideoGames magazine instead of EGM or GamePro, because we had the exclusive scoop on 3DO before its launch—in fact, copies of our February 1993 issue (with Andy Eddy’s 3DO cover story) were handed out at the press conference when the 3DO was originally announced to the world! What did surprise me was the fact that they wanted me to appear in this commercial; I guess I was the only video-game magazine editor who wasn’t on vacation during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

The following Monday, I was sent this fax with details about the shoot. In the commercial, I was to appear seated at my desk in the VideoGames offices, where I would address Japanese television viewers thusly: “Hi, everyone, I’m Chris Bieniek from VideoGames magazine. We in the media were very excited to see the release of the Panasonic 3DO Real…and as you’ll see, so was everyone else.” This intro would be followed by dramatic scenes of ordinary Americans gasping at the wonder of 3DO games and commenting excitedly about the “great graphics” and “educational software” on display. At the end, I would lean into the camera with an authoritative smirk and say, “Impressed? We are!!”

I had to laugh at the storyboard artist’s depiction of myself as a smug Kevin Spacey-type with rolled-up shirtsleeves, seated in front of a computer monitor in a tidy office. If that was the Japanese stereotype of an American magazine editor in his natural habitat, they were in for a bit of a surprise. But before I even had a chance to ponder the obvious conflict of interest, I was contacted again and told that the agency was going in a different direction with the ad. So I never got the chance to address the people of Japan in their living rooms, and poor, harried Midori Kuniyasu never found out that I was in fact a giant, hirsute dullard…or that I worked in a windowless office, bathed in dim fluorescent light and surrounded by tangled controller cords, VHS tapes and dog-eared Game Genie code books.

Not that I gave it a lot of thought, but as the years passed, I wondered if my starring
role might have been commandeered by a more prominent (or more photogenic) 3DO authority “from USA.” Eventually, I saw a Japanese 3DO commercial on YouTube that was very similar to the one in which I was slated to appear—it even included a family with a pet dog, just like the storyboards seen here. Grinning excitedly (and spouting hyperbolic phrases like “It plugs into the future!”), the spokesman was none other than “Computer Genius” Trip Hawkins, founder of the 3DO company. An excellent choice, I thought!

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