Gaming Mechanics: The Illusion of Openness

Gamification

Video games used to be fairly straightforward: a world to save, a princess to rescue or finding a piece of fruit.

However, as consumers’ tastes evolved? The games have kept pace and have exceeded the limits of what was thought to be  previously impossible.

Today’s games are largely “sandbox” based meaning that they have a variety of different possible outcomes depending on what decisions you make in-game. In essence? Video games have started to emulate life; for every choice there is a consequence.

The Importance of Rules

The complexity and depth of these choices has exponentially expanded over the past decade. However, the choices that one can make in a game are finite (unlike life). If they weren’t users would lose interest, become frustrated and abandon the experience.

Why?

Simple: It wouldn’t be fun anymore.

Free will is hard (and it’s too much like life). It relies on your imagination, competitive spirit and experiences to create your own idea of what you should be doing. Gaming allows for us to escape the reality of the unknown for the security of finite outcomes.

The fun comes in that simplicity. The user may not be able to control the outcome of their own life but in a game? The deck is stacked in their favor. Explore the limits, practice accordingly and push what is possible and you can’t lose.

Marketer Takeaway: Providing a clear definition of your intentions allows you a greater deal of latitude when dealing with consumers. No one wants to be cheated. Thus you need to be transparent, open and honest about any engagement you have with the consumer.

Defining Your Objective

Every story ends and every game has a predetermined outcome. Sandbox games add a level of complexity on top of this by allowing for a variety of different outcomes.

This variable level of control and “free will” to choose your own path is essential to engaging and learning from the user. Games that are constantly under development like World of Warcraft often listen to player feedback and change outcomes and difficulties as a result.

In this way, game developers are able to fine tune the experience for the user and make it a more enjoyable experience.

Marketer Takeaway: Define your goals. What do you want to accomplish with this campaign? Who is your target audience? How can you make the best usage of your resources?

Using Breadcrumbs

Now that the rules have been established and objectives have been defined you need to set out a clear path for the user. This means leaving a variety of breadcrumbs at various points to help the user along and accomplish all the objectives that you set out for them.

The world doesn’t come with a save-point. So why do developers create mission objectives and maps? To adjust for the skill level of the player.

Breadcrumbs decrease in value as users become familiar with the game. They remain important however because they provide an easy entry point for a newbie player.

Marketer Takeaway: Don’t just cater to pre-defined influencers. Give people a low barrier for entry and allow them to adjust their advocacy accordingly. It’s a lot easier to upload a picture then create a video. However, if a person has a great experience with your brand? They may engage with your brand at a higher level the next time around. Influencers tend to be fluid; not static.

Rewards and Incentives

What keeps 225 million people a month coming back to Zynga games? Social currency and a desire to achieve new incentives.

People love incentives no matter how small or large. The key is being able to scale these rewards incrementally and at a pace that is amenable to the player.

Marketer Takeaway: Given the choice between no carrot and a carrot? Always choose the carrot. Understand the competitive nature of people and utilize this in your messaging and outreach. You don’t get something for nothing.

Have something else to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts on some other gaming mechanics that can be applied to marketing?

Image Source: \author{AndReA}

5 thoughts on “Gaming Mechanics: The Illusion of Openness

  • Some good points here, Stu. I'd also add a couple others. Something games have moved a lot more towards (if ya ask me) is allowing gamers to choose how they want to play the game. For example, in some games, you can choose to just play the single player campaign, or you can play multiplayer (with friends or with strangers). Either experience (in some games, at least) is enjoyable. There's also other avenues in which they do this, like allowing players to choose a character or class of characters to participate as, each which brings different strengths to the table. If you want to play the game just shooting and blowing up everything that moves, go for it. If you want to be stealthy and take your time, more power to you.

    But then again, you do have to provide a framework for which the players can be flexible within. If you want to play medic and save the lives of civilians? Tough luck, go be a doctor, this game's not for you.

    Marketing takeaway: Sure, you need to have your goals as a company, but why not encourage your users/customers to use your product in whatever manner best suits them. Ahem…take Facebook for example. Just because Mark Z. doesn't believe in privacy and wants to cater to businesses to make money, does that mean they should assume their users believe the same thing?

  • Some good points here, Stu. I'd also add a couple others. Something games have moved a lot more towards (if ya ask me) is allowing gamers to choose how they want to play the game. For example, in some games, you can choose to just play the single player campaign, or you can play multiplayer (with friends or with strangers). Either experience (in some games, at least) is enjoyable. There's also other avenues in which they do this, like allowing players to choose a character or class of characters to participate as, each which brings different strengths to the table. If you want to play the game just shooting and blowing up everything that moves, go for it. If you want to be stealthy and take your time, more power to you.

    But then again, you do have to provide a framework for which the players can be flexible within. If you want to play medic and save the lives of civilians? Tough luck, go be a doctor, this game's not for you.

    Marketing takeaway: Sure, you need to have your goals as a company, but why not encourage your users/customers to use your product in whatever manner best suits them. Ahem…take Facebook for example. Just because Mark Z. doesn't believe in privacy and wants to cater to businesses to make money, does that mean they should assume their users believe the same thing?

  • Pingback: Most Tweeted Articles by Social Media Experts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *