The Gaming Appeal
Recently, we started incorporating trivia questions into our client’s social media strategy, and the posts are performing consistently well, boosting our engagement metrics. As wife to a self-proclaimed ‘gamer’, it got me thinking about why gaming is so appealing?
The popularity of gaming is nothing new, but the IoT (Internet of Things) takes playtime to a whole new level. Gaming is all around us. Online gaming, video games and virtual reality consoles are providing us with more access and a better user experience than ever before.
Below we explore what drives the desire to play and how marketing can leverage the psychology of gaming to drive engagement.
Motivated to Play
Any behavior or activity we perform requires a certain level of motivation. From a psychological perspective, there are 3 components to human motivation, and gaming satisfies them ALL:
- Desire to achieve – the drive inside us to advance and accomplish objectives
- Social connections – the need to connect with others and relate
- Need for autonomy – the ability to create and customize your environment
It’s clear to see why so many of us are motivated to play games. Gaming can/does meet all of the 3 motivational factors within our human psyche.
From a marketing perspective, we must understand these motivational components, in order to see why gaming is so attractive and how to leverage it to better engage our audience.
Our Drive to Achieve
Let’s face it. We all like to win. It starts from an early age in childhood. The desire to be first in line at school, or to win the board game.
People like to feel knowledgeable and skilled. We find comfort knowing we have the necessary abilities to accomplish a given task.
We risk feeling inferior when we can’t overcome a particular challenge. This can lead to anxiety, anger and even fear. However, on the flip side, if a game or toy is too easy, this lack of challenge will inherently reduce human interest.
In gaming, contests or trivia, use finesse to find the right mix of difficulty and approachability, based on your target audience. A game that’s too difficult could create a negative brand experience. Too easy and it won’t spark the ‘achievement’ motivation factor.
We are naturally inclined to feel competitive, and gaming ignites that by always presenting a new challenge, a new opportunity to succeed.
We Are Social Beings
Study after study continues to prove that as humans, we are naturally social beings and happiness is directly connected to our social relationships. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy our alone time to varying degrees, but generally speaking happiness is driven by our feeling of connectedness with those around us.
Connection comes in many different forms. Introverts may feel social for short times, and then retreat back into a solitary state to reenergize. Extroverts often become energized by being around others, or experiencing a connection.
Gaming connects people in a number of ways from face-to-face (F2F, aka: IRL “in real life”) to chatting via headset with someone across the globe, controlling players on the same field. There are even competitions and tournaments with massive followings all over the world.
Then of course there are mobile apps and online games galore! It’s no wonder gaming has become pervasive in our daily life. It directly supports basic human needs we all have.
Concerns arise when we begin to replace tech-free interactions with these virtual ones. To address this, some game developers, such as Pokemon Go, are exploring ways to encourage F2F and physical activity by requiring players to work together and move throughout their community to win.
We Crave Autonomy
Along with… or perhaps in opposition to the connections we need, humans also crave autonomy, or according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, “the quality or state of being self-governing”.
Video gaming fulfills this need, by offering a wide array of customization and control features, powered by machine-learning. Players can control an increasingly vast number of factors in their gaming experience, ranging from design and styling, to strategy, decision-making and other advanced brain functions.
But we must consider: where does personalizing the experience go too far? And what are we sacrificing to have all that in-game control? (‘big data’ anyone?) And more personally… what is it doing to our brains in the process?
Virtual reality game developers are leveraging AI to enable more and more customization features. Players are able to mentally transport themselves into a completely different, sometimes 100% self-manufactured, world.
All of these choices and behaviors are being cataloged and leveraged in various ways, not least of which is being fed back into the system itself, for future software upgrades.
Taken to an extreme, such extreme customization options could borderline on escaping reality, but that’s a blog post for another day. 😉
What it means for Marketing Teams
Gaming has become a popular past-time that spans generations. Even Baby Boomers who didn’t grow up with technology like we have now, are feeling drawn to digital gaming in their retirement years. It’s a great way for brands to build connections with their audience.
Gaming boosts engagement
When people play games together, camaraderie and connections instantly form. This makes gaming a great opportunity for brands to develop lasting relationships and boost competitive advantage.
When done right, incorporating gaming into your marketing strategy can engage your audience in a deeper, more human way.
Quick ways to game-ify your marketing:
If your marketing budget restricts you from developing your own gaming app or feature, then consider these quick, easy ways to incorporate the playful approach:
- Trivia questions
- Pop quizzes
- ‘Share & win’ giveaways (or ‘Post & win’ <– great for getting UGC)
- History (#didyouknow factoids about your team, company, city…)
- Polls or surveys
- Leaderboard scores
- Caption contests
- Name our next hashtag
- “First 10 commenters get…”
- Fill in the blank:
Depending on your audience, hopefully these ideas help get your brainstorming juices flowin’. If others come to mind, comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Food for thought: What games do you personally enjoy the most? And subsequently, how strong is your connection with that brand or platform?