Meta has debuted its Quest 2 Super Bowl ad for the big game, and it’s hard to understand how exactly it should promote the metaverse (via Wall Street Journal† It evokes a strange mix of nostalgia – and the slight anxiety – associated with a childhood spent around disturbing animatronics, while at the same time radiating Five nights at Freddy’s and black mirror feeling.
The commercial opens in a Chuck E. Cheese-esque setting—so cleverly called Questy’s—with a fluffy animatronic dog, a pink six-armed creature, and two penguins performing Simple Mind’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” onstage at the arcade. Shortly after, a moving crew drags the animatronic band’s lifeless bodies out of the building while the location is sealed off for good.
The dog (which falls right on the line between cute and creepy) stares out the window at a pawn shop, without the rest of its animatronic crew, taking on various roles as it passes among owners. After a brief appearance as a miniature golf course decoration, he is flung from the back of a pickup truck and then helplessly placed in a trash compactor – until miraculously pulled out just as the machine begins to turn upside down .
The same woman who took the dog out of the trash compactor exhibits the animatronic in a space center and fixes it in a stationary position, pointing to the cafeteria. A young man trying out the center’s VR exhibit takes off his Quest 2 headset and somehow comes up with the idea of attaching it to the animatronic dog.
Well, here’s where it comes black mirror-y – the dog is transported into Meta’s virtual reality, where he meets his old bandmates and can perform again, a theme you may remember from the episode “San Junipero”, featuring a virtual world where the elderly and the consciousness of dead people thrives.
In the penultimate scene, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” resumes play, and the ad shows all four friends — each in new locations — merrily dancing with Quest 2 headsets on, like the words “Old Friends. New.” fun” appears on the screen. It ends with the animatronic dog, still equipped with Quest 2, howling in the now closed space center.
Should I feel happy at the end of that commercial? The reality that the animatronic dog will likely light up his headset once the space center opens has left me feeling empty inside — or maybe I’m just reading too much into it. This may be the reality Meta wants to rebuild, but it’s mostly that depressing realization that this ad draws attention to even more.