Facebook, Showtime and Marc Ecko’s Joint Video Game Project

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 28, 2011

    The Atlantic Monthly Online has an article today that serves as prime example of the ‘normalization’ of cannabis in mainstream media….with a ‘joint’ video game project between three mega brands: Showtime, designer Marc Ecko and Facebook:

    After hours and hours spent mastering FarmVille, you’re ready to upgrade from corn and soybeans to a real cash crop: marijuana. Weeds Social Club, a new game for Facebook, lets you grow and sell pot (and potted) plants online.

    The game could eventually serve as a testing ground for new characters or stories to be incorporated into the actual show.

    Launched on Monday, June 27, to complement the season premiere of Showtime’s Weeds, the game is just the latest brand extension for Hollywood producers who have already mastered action figures, TV shows, DVDs, apparel and more.

    “Social games played on Facebook are the new frontier for film and television tie-ins,” according to Businessweek’s Douglas MacMillan. “This summer, two movies — Disney’s Cars 2 and Fox’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins — and a popular Showtime series will attempt build buzz and some extra revenue by featuring their characters in Facebook games.”

    Without Jim Carrey’s comic stylings or Pixar’s anthropomorphic four-wheeled friends, though, Weeds is by far the most controversial project we’ve seen enter this space. Showtime — and, like it, HBO — can often get away with racier material because the content they produce is locked behind subscription models and shielded from the eyes of (most) children. While Facebook doesn’t officially allow kids under the age of 13 access to its network, we know there are millions with profiles anyway.

    What are they — and the adults who have also been drawn to this extension — learning from their membership in the Weeds Social Club? The game allows users to buy and grow different strains of marijuana — “from downmarket ‘Schwag Weed’ to the pricier and more (virtually) potent ‘Jamaican Ganja,'” according to MacMillan — before harvesting and selling it.

    All of the money that players earn selling their weed to a hooded-sweatshirt-wearing figure in the game can be spent on virtual flat-screen televisions, bongs and more. Andy Botwin, a character from the show, which is entering its seventh season, makes an appearance in the game, performing “tasks that correlate with the storyline from the latest TV episode.”

    But the game will serve as more than just another way for the Weeds producers to get attention for their show. It could eventually serve as a testing ground for new characters or stories to be incorporated into the actual show, according to Curt Marvis, the president of digital media at Lionsgate,Weeds‘ distributor and producer. “In the social realm it’s a living, breathing experience,” Marvis toldBusinessweek, “one where you get a fan base of engaged users.”

    The game was approved by Facebook and doesn’t break any laws, according to Ecko Code, the creators. Ecko Code, a social-game unit of Marc Ecko’s urban fashion empire, is working on creating games for other Showtime shows, including The Borgias and Dexter.

    18 responses to “Facebook, Showtime and Marc Ecko’s Joint Video Game Project”

    1. jimi-james says:

      hells, ive been playing POT FARM for 2 years now…this aint news…lay off the pipe and look around, guys..lol

    2. Jeff Tracy says:

      How do I start playing the game.

    3. TheOracle says:

      Kudos! Weeds is a great success. I hope it expands its worldwide syndication into more foreign languages. It’s doing an excellent job of moving support for the issue closer to the legalization end of the continuum, worldwide.

    4. C Lloyd says:

      The wrong message for the legalization of Cannabis. The stigma that Cannabis now has of stoners and drug dealers is exactly what is holding back the normalization of Cannabis. I would not consider Showtime, or Facebook the mainstream media that Cannabis users need support from to gain their rights and freedom.

    5. kenabss says:

      looks like a few hours wasted here then!!!!!

    6. Little Gypsy says:

      Instead of playing a game do the real thing. Virtual rewards will never match the smell and taste of your very own cannabis. If you can’t or won’t do it at home find a private outdoor area. Tell no one about it! Remember it is illegal big time and you do not want to go to jail or get ripped off. My wife plays Farmville. I tell her get off your ass and grow some real food. The real thing is 1000 times better than la la land.

    7. Alison Weaver says:

      I agree with #4, that it’s playing right into the stereotypical “stoner” perceptions — “…selling their weed to a hooded-sweatshirt-wearing figure…”

      That’s similar to the BS I was fed as a little girl (I’m 61 yrs-young now), about the black-leather-jacketed “hoodlum” hanging out near the high school, dealing hard drugs, like heroin.

      I also resent the inference that we pot users typically spend our “homegrown” profits on “…flat-screen TVs, bongs, and more.” How about growing-and-dealing pot just to keep the roof over your head, and put food on the table??? Or maybe, like some of us seniors (who’ve been smoking pot since the 1960s), those “profits” enable us to buy our prescription medications?

      I also find this hypocritical of FB, because a little over a year ago, when we Californians were lobbying for pot legalization (Prop 19), with an ad from the Just Say Now organization, FB initially ran it, but then quickly removed it, claiming they thought the image of the pot leaf was in the category of “smoking products,” something they don’t endorse. Here’s a link to what happened at FB last Aug (2010): “Facebook bans marijuana legalization ad” http://stash.norml.org/facebook-bans-marijuana-legalization-ad

      So apparently, FB doesn’t like pot as it relates to “reality,” but DOES like it as long as it supports the derogatory, clichéd “fantasy”!

      And, I’m probably 1 of the last people on the planet who’s NEVER played a video game, online, or on a console. Since the buyer of the homegrown weed is a shadowy figure, it perpetuates the myths about marijuana users. I’ve smoked pot daily for 44 years, and almost always via joints — my old man and I don’t even own a bong! I think this triad that’s doing this “game,” targets our kids, and our grandkids, but I simply can’t relate to it.

      I have a medical pot scrip, and am allowed to grow my own “medicine,” which is WAY better quality, and a lot cheaper for us, since we NEVER have to buy pot.

      Where are the rest of you Baby Boomers on pot legalization? Why don’t you speak up? If we’re ever going to legalize pot, we need exemplary “views” of it (not this tired overview), online and in the media. Stop with the “lazy, shiftless, bong-toting, red-eyed couch potato” marijuana user, and instead, be an ambassador/ambassadress for pot use, like I am, where I don’t forget things (whether it’s 20 minutes ago, or 20 years ago!), I speak in coherent sentences, using polysyllabic words, I engage in the political process, etc. Just the same as anybody else, except I use pot everyday.

      Whatever the outcome of this new game is, and despite those of us who WON’T be playing it, they’re happy they’ve already garnered so much “buzz” about it!

      Stay High and Peace!

      [Paul Armentano responds: I’d concur that there are plenty of examples of major corporations like Facebook wanting this both ways. In fact, just last month FB banned ads promoting my book Marijuana Is Safer, claiming that any ad promoting such a book violates their standards and practices. (FB eventually accepted the ads after we complained.) NORML’s Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville has commented on this dichotomy previously here:


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