How Small Businesses Can Get Their (Video) Game On
November 10, 2017
By: Danny Bradbury
Gaming isn't just for a narrow group of players anymore. It’s a significant pastime for a wide variety of people, and it could represent a powerful way to think about marketing your small business. Here’s how video gaming is changing – and why you should be taking notice.
Video gaming has come a long way from the early days when a small gaggle of teenaged enthusiasts hunkered over eight-bit consoles or pumped quarters into arcade machines. Last year, the video game industry generated $30.4 billion in revenue/consumer spending, almost three times domestic box office revenues. Half of all US adults play video games, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 report Gaming and Gamers.
Video gamers were traditionally young men, and while that’s still the perception, the reality has changed in recent years. More women and people of all ages are gaming, representing an expansion of the audience. Sixty-five percent of American households are home to someone who plays video games regularly, and 67 percent of American households own a device used to play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association's 2017 report: Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry.
Bringing your 'A' game
How can businesses learn from gaming to help them grow and prosper? One option is to recognize gaming skills in your own recruitment and employee development.
Historically, media portrayed gamers as having lower I.Q.’s, poor social skills and obsessive behaviors. As early as 1982, Saturday Night Live parodied them in its sketch "Alan: Video Junkie", and the narrative continued in countless movies including War Games, Terminator 2 and more.
That image, however, has evolved over time. More companies now recognize the talents that games help to develop, such as accuracy, problem-solving, concentration and teamwork. Some companies even formalize gaming as a recruitment and promotion tool. Knack provides free downloadable mobile games that help current and potential employees demonstrate these skills. Players can record their results and share them with potential employers, or with current employers who use the system to identify talent within the company that might suit particular roles.
Gaming can also help to increase employee performance using a concept called gamification. This is a rewards-based system that brings video game-style achievements to the workplace, in the form of leaderboards, badges and scoreboards.
DueProps, a gamification system designed for companies to reward employees, relies on the idea that workers perform better when they feel appreciated, and when there is a healthy sense of competition. Companies can use it to set challenges and reward staff with ‘props’ when they succeed.
Companies can also appeal to gaming interests directly when engaging customers. We see gamification in a wide variety of mobile apps these days, often married with social media to help spread interest in a topic. Examples include Foursquare, which encourages businesses to award badges to regular visitors using its Swarm app.
Reaching new audiences
Companies can use gaming to reach new audiences in other ways. In the past, organizations have used games as a recruiting tool. In 2002 the US army famously released a video game, America’s Army, in a bid to interest young gamers in a military career. Since then, it has continually revisited this pattern, culminating in its most recent release, America's Army: Proving Grounds, in 2015.
Writing a video game may not be realistic or productive for your restaurant, clothing store or accounting firm. Yet there are other ways to target an expanding base of game players from your target demographic to draw on gaming culture as a tool to engage a new community.
The expansion of the gaming audience is a positive sign for businesses wanting to engage specific groups. By embracing gamer culture, companies can not only court a hardcore young gamer audience, but can appeal to others, too, and give back to the community in the process.
More people are getting into gaming but most schools still don’t teach coding. Sponsoring a local video game coding club or hackathon is a way to show young gamers how to produce, rather than merely consume, and gives them the basis for developing marketable skills as they get older. Many charities already focus on teaching young girls to code, for example, in an attempt to encourage girls into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies that often escape them.
Gaming and business can happily collide if you understand the community and the technology, and approach both with equal care. The results could see your business level up, and earn extra points with a whole new set of customers.
About the Author
Danny Bradbury has been writing about technology and business since 1989. His clients have included the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Canada's National Post.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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