Virtual reality News: Most brands and marketers look at games as a place for short-term PR or as a new point of contact with “gamers” as an audience. The truth is that games are a virtual reality (headgear is optional) that is a whole new reality – and brands that underestimate its power are missing out on one of their biggest opportunities.
At the heart of this new reality are the foundations of gaming as a society, not just an audience.
Gaming is changing everything around it as it is increasingly embedded in popular culture. With more than 2.8 billion gamers worldwide and 44% of them spending more than 7 hours a week playing games, there is no denying that gaming has transcended group status. It’s a huge, borderless society that’s growing rapidly-a society that needs to be understood so it can be served and brands can see long-term value from joining it.
Every society has its own fundamental structure, and gaming is no different. Agencies and marketers need to understand four critical elements and how they work together to shape this new reality:
1) Community is both what you believe in and what you don’t believe in.
In gaming, there are consoles vs. consoles, hardware vs. hardware, games vs. games and PCs vs. everyone — plus a host of other oppositions. But at the core of the game is a sense of community for everyone involved. It’s a new frontier of experience.
Most games are built on the principle of community, whether it’s during the game, through leaderboards, ways to get help, or on gaming platforms like Twitch and Discord. And it’s a strong community that will accept everyone – that is, everyone except narcissistic marketers. Knowing the community and working in and with it is critical. A great example of working within a community is TBWA\Sydney’s Play NZ project – New Zealand uses streaming influencers to broadcast “walkthroughs” of NZ as a game, thus touching the core community and its behavior.
2) Shared beliefs and actions shape community culture
Much of this comes from where communities live, but much is based on how they interact.
An important aspect is the pseudonymous nature of games. Not to be confused with anonymous, the pseudonymous gamer community builds their reputation tied to their username. This username is tied to their public stats, which commands respect across platforms and communities, and entitles them to be active members of the community.
These members define the culture of the community: memes, fan-led community moderation, competition, and sharing. These pseudonyms give community members the opportunity to redefine themselves and then help shape the experience for others, with many making friendships with people whose names and faces they will never know.
Looking inward is not enough-you have to fully immerse yourself in the culture in order to create for it.
3) This new reality, like our basic reality, is built on a complex economy
Sure, there’s the economy, which is driven by the purchase of games, equipment and accessories, but the everyday economy is so much more than that.
Eight percent of gamers paid for in-game assets. These could be lives, skins or tools. Anything that improves their experience usually equates to microtransactions. But it’s not just “making a profit,” it’s self-expression through the way they virtually appear and create the journey they want to experience. Roblox is a great example of the latter, showing how gamers pay others for access to the worlds they create on the platform, making Roblox the provider of the environment and its users the “mayors,” so to speak.
A thriving economy is essential to any society – and we should use it to create value for gamers, as well as looking to make the actions of our brands semi-funded by users.
4) The community, culture, and economy have been dealt with, what’s left is the new reality aspect: purpose.
This is the most important and easiest to explain. The goal of this society is a better life, if only for a moment. This can be applied to escapism, integration, use by functionality, or even “play,” as well as to other categories such as health or education.
If what you’re doing doesn’t make a gamer’s life better, you shouldn’t bother.
While the reality created by games may be virtual, it is nevertheless reality. If you want to go into it with a long-term plan to make an impact for your brand, you need to spend time understanding the fundamental structures of this new reality.
Otherwise, gamers are vocal people, and they’ll let you know if what you’re proposing doesn’t meet the game’s goal of “making life better.”