Monday, November 3, 2008

Gaming and Social Media – Further Reflections from SIEGE


Believe it or not, social media is changing the face of gaming.

In keeping with the Halloween theme from this past Friday…Heeee’s back, or rather I’m back.

After a two-week break, I have cleared my head and hopefully have sharpened my blogging strategy. But before I turn to other planned postings, I wanted to wrap up my thoughts from my previous posting about last month’s Southern Interactive Entertainment & Gaming Expo (SIEGE) conference held here in Atlanta.

Key Takeaways from the Post
  • Aided by social media, marketers are using non-traditional games to engage new audiences.
  • A game to be a game requires modeling, simulation and role-playing in a prescribed context.
  • Games must be compelling first, brand extensions and promotions second.

Based on feedback from gamers at SIEGE, it is clear that gaming is evolving and increasingly integrated into marketing strategies. But what is the social media angle?

From a user standpoint, they are highly interactive. Results are immediate, and they lend themselves to extended periods of engagement. They also build community. From a marketer’s perspective, they can build brand. While ROI remains elusive, games are sticky. Marketers can track traffic and measure their usage. If compelling, they can be viral. Users will devote time competing with themselves as well as with others, collecting points, downloading badges, rating and inviting friends to participate.

In short, gaming is an ideal platform in a new media strategy. Once more, gaming is dynamic; its user base is expanding, and its functionality is evolving especially with greater emphasis on downloadable, browser based games.

At SIEGE, I spoke with Danny Miller (blog) a GA Tech student and president k2xl.com. He believes there is a paradigm shift taking place. The gaming market is attracting more non-traditional gamers who are increasingly engaged in games tied to political campaigns, marketing efforts, and education initiatives.

Georgia Tech Assistant Professor Celia Pearce spoke with me about gaming’s widening social demographics. The core group of 18-24 year olds is saturated. In the U.S market, there has been less focus on older and younger users, but that might be changing. Habbo Hotel, aimed at teenagers, is now the biggest virtual world attracting 90 million users. On the other end of spectrum gaming continues to attract Baby Boomers. I was surprised to learn that the percentage of Baby Boomers in the gaming population is greater than the percentage of Boomers that make up the overall US population.

Gaming…Toward a Definition

So what actually is a game?

Ian Bogost (blog) is an assistant professor at Georgia Tech and a founding partner at Persuasive Games. He believes that games require modeling, simulation and role-playing in a prescribed context. As opposed to toys, Kevin O’Gorman on the Game Art and Design faculty at the Art Institute of Atlanta believes that games must have prescribed rules, in a prescribed space with prescribed goals.

These definitions are useful as games evolve and take on new roles. These new types of gaming include:

Casual GamesVideo game targeted at a mass audience and are typically distinguished by their simple rules. They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer. Casual games typically are played on a personal computer online in web browsers, although they now are starting to become popular on game consoles, too.

Serious Games
– A serious game is a term used to refer to a software or hardware application developed with game technology and game design principles for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. Serious games include games used for educational, persuasive, political, or health purposes.

Alternate Reality Games
(ARG) — An alternate reality game is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions. The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time. An ARG evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG or simply MMO) – is a video game, which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. By necessity, they are played on the Internet, and feature at least one persistent world. MMOGs can enable players to cooperate and compete with each other on a large scale.

Gaming and Marketing

Whether a game is a game or merely game-like, it can be your “most successful or your most risky marketing strategy,” says Lukas Bradley, president of Th.ru.st Interactive who sat on a SEIGE adverigaming panel. Th.ru.st specializes in multiplayer games, virtual worlds, and Rich Internet Applications.

Companies are using games as promotions to attract customers, as content to engage visitors, as viral campaigns to generate buzz and as tools to train employees.

But over and over again the gamers I talked to stressed that games must be compelling first, brand extensions and promotions second. And just because the game is compelling, doesn’t mean it serves to extend the brand. In considering a gaming strategy, you need to ask yourself whether the tone and content of the game fulfill the brand promise or is it a game for a game’s sake.

In the end, the link between gaming and brand building has grown stronger for two reasons. One is technological. Web 2.0 is making it easier and less costly to create and distribute games. The other is cultural. In our entertainment focused society, it is only natural that marketers look to “playing” games to engage customers and extend the brand.

Let me get back to you.

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Posted by Dan Greenfield in 15:34:25
Comments

2 Responses to “Gaming and Social Media – Further Reflections from SIEGE”

  1. hdiandrew says:

    Good analysis of what I see as some of the most fascinating aspects of modern web and interactive culture. The ability of games to serve society in a variety of ways has barely been tapped. I expect to see their growth and integration to continue in a dramatic way.

  2. thanks for the feedback. I want to revisit this topic and would be interested in tracking trends in non-traditional gaming.

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