Gam·er/ˈgāmər/ Noun: 1. Loner, an individual (usually male) who enjoys dark spaces and takeaway food.
Ok, I’ll come clean – the definition above is not actually from a dictionary. However, despite the slightly unnerving efforts of family-friendly publicity for the likes of the Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii, it seems that popular opinion still assumes that gamers are, by definition, anti social, single and potentially harbouring dangerously violent tendencies.
The reality could not be more different and gamification now represents an oft-repeated mainstream media buzzword. The idea that user experiences in everything – from website interaction to monotonous daily tasks – could be improved by applying the mechanics of a game is certainly an interesting concept.
Public receptiveness to this idea was always likely to be challenged by the sector’s traditionally poor image. Online gaming used to be a complicated process, involving IP addresses, lots of cable and a healthy dose of geeky enthusiasm. But now, with the proliferation of flash, apps and social media-based content, the experience has changed significantly.
As traditional media becomes ever more squeezed, it is only natural that organisations look for alternative methods of generating media coverage and the games industry is posting impressive figures. Growth was recently estimated at around 10-20% which remains in sharp contrast to other, more traditional mediums.
This growth, combined with affordable technology, has meant that simple online games provide an effective means of conveying an activist message. And that means that anyone tasked with reputation management should sit up and take notice. Perhaps the best example of a damaging activist game is the deceptively subversive ‘McVideogame’ that neatly exposes many of the ethical concerns traditionally associated with a certain fast food giant.
As well as activist organisations, traditional businesses are getting better at realising the potential of games as a publicity tool. Marriot Hotels has created a unique recruitment game on its Facebook page that generated substantial levels of coverage in both the national and trade media. As a social media story it was also a success, generating fresh visual content that encouraged sought-after click-throughs and over 11,000 Facebook ‘likes’.
The level of interest generated by both of these examples demonstrates that there is appetite for these stories, both in social and mainstream media. Say it quietly, but in many ways, a simple game can develop an organisation’s messaging more fully than a lot of other visual stories, and this is something that should be of interest to anyone who has a story to tell.