In the never-ending drive to connect marketers to consumers, agencies are seeking to resonate with brands’ audiences by helping their partners create memorable experiences.
“Today, experience is the battleground for brands to win,” Accenture Interactive’s Brian Whipple recently told MediaPost.
For a brand’s consumers, a set of experiences amount to a new world that embodies the brand’s personality and values. And guess who knows a lot about creating those worlds and those immersive experiences that get people to stick around and buy into their surroundings? Game designers.
Like video itself, video game design is a multidisciplinary art that requires holistic creative thinking to bring big ideas to life. Such creativity is second nature to game designers, who work with the multidimensional skillsets and the expertise in the time-based, interactive psychological insights that marketers need in the quantum age.
“As with everything else game designers do, we do it for the experience it creates,” Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games, wrote in his book The Art of Game Design. “There are certain feelings: feelings of choice, feelings of freedom, feelings of responsibility, feelings of accomplishment, feelings of friendship and many others, which only game-based experiences seem to offer.”
Take out the word “game,” and Schell’s passage reads as though it’s come straight from a brand brief.
Look at any brand experience through story, aesthetics, mechanics and technology—the foundational building blocks of game design—and you can find a world the consumer can encounter and interact with. And getting that to happen is certainly every marketer’s goal.
As marketers and advertising agencies move to incorporate experience design in brand building offerings, they must appeal to emotion, as game design does. Without an expansive, generous vision of the world of the brand, it’s easy to let the technology lead the ideas, and when that happens, commonplace experiences can result.
In some ways, game designers have it easier than brand builders. They get to control all the variables in their world building: the culture, the emotion, even the physics. Marketing, by contrast, must be influenced by many outside variables: a compressed sales funnel, fragmented attention, complex consumer consideration calculus, myriad distribution systems, intricate targeting strategies.
And where a game’s world is largely the vision of its designer, the world of a brand results from a collaborative partnership and a range of external factors: a collection of systems the brand must make coherent.
Nevertheless, agencies would do well to look for talent with a gaming mindset for creative and strategy roles because the psychological insights they’ve used to engage gamers of all kinds relate directly to the marketing strategies in digital life, fragmented media attention and the burgeoning integration of ecommerce into so many daily contexts.
Think about voice-driven experiences for marketing and commerce, which require conversational threads, new interactive ecommerce ad formats on Instagram and Google or the interactive advertising available through connected TV. All require immersive and emotional design thinking. And the more immersive formats on the horizon and beyond will demand that creatives go ever deeper.
Though it may be difficult to recruit professional game designers into an advertising agency, there are resources available to agencies today.
And for any game designers looking to make the career transition, agencies are certainly well-suited to receiving them. Many young creative and strategy professionals at agencies grew up playing digital games of all kinds, and many older digital creatives have worked on game-like experiences in Flash and HTML5.
The principles highlighted in Schell’s book should be comprehensive and inspiring enough to inspire strategists and creatives to enhance their thinking and expand their horizons.
The book—or, indeed, the job description—that directly correlates game design principles to campaign and customer experience strategies may still be in draft form. But for agencies, looking for game design experience in their new hires can bring them closer to tapping these principles for competitive advantage. And for agency professionals, studying the craft of game design can enhance and expand their strategic thinking to achieve a more experientially inclusive approach to marketing.