Seattle had its Pride Parade last weekend. Several businesses marched in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people, including Nintendo of America. The presence of corporations at Pride celebrations is controversial, as some LGBTQ+ people feel Pride parades have become too commercial. Others believe it's a good opportunity for LGBTQ+ employees of those companies to express their orientation without fear. Whichever side of the argument you're on, you have to admit Nintendo's choice for a Pride slogan—"Play it Proud"—is ingenious.
"Play it Proud" stems from "Play it Loud," Nintendo's slogan from its ads in 1994 through 1996. While people invariably look back warmly on the classic '80s adage "Now You're Playing with Power," memories of the Play it Loud campaign inspire everything from eye-rolls to embarrassed chuckles to exclamations of "DUDE, that was AWESOME!"
Nintendo was having a bit of a rough go in the early '90s, at least in North America. Its image was trounced repeatedly by Sega and its "Welcome to the Next Level" ad campaign that made Nintendo properties look slow and stodgy. Sega's famous commercial about the Genesis' "Blast Processing" even dunked hard on Super Mario Kart. That's right: Sega mocked the premiere game in what's become one of the world's most beloved and lucrative franchises. It did a good job of it, too.
The "Play it Loud" campaign was meant to counter Sega by making Nintendo look hip and cool. (Which is why it's named after Slade's album from the '70s, I guess.) An article explaining the campaign, titled "Nintendo Turns Up the Volume in a Provocative Appeal to its Core Market: Teen-Age Males," was published in The New York Times on July 1, 1994. Dan Coyner, Nintendo of America's marketing manager at the time, told the paper that since 'previous campaigns felt like an adult talking to a child,' the Play it Loud push tried to get on teenage boys' level. And apparently teen boys in the '90s loved grunge music, screaming, skateboarding, telling authority to piss off, and listening to Butthole Surfers. How do you do, fellow kids?
I don't know if Play it Loud convinced any diehard Sega fans to jump ship to Nintendo. 1994 was the same year the SNES got the hugely successful Donkey Kong Country while Sega busily sabotaged its own brand with disastrous add-on modules like the 32X; I assume any help loaned by Play it Loud is coincidental. Still, it's great to see Nintendo re-purpose the unforgettable slogan for Pride. Go forth and thrash!
Header image source: 90sdesign subreddit.