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Game Invaders – Gen Y's collective memory Game Invaders – Gen Y’s collective memory

Today, I got inspired by the MTV Sticky website/newsletter. It’s funny. Not so long ago, computer games were bad. Capital-letter bad. Games were the forces of evil. Gaming made children epileptic, fat, stupid and violent. Games immersed little kids so hard in an experience beyond adult’s control, that it became damn scary…

Fast forward a couple of years. Now some of the kids, Gen Y-ers that enjoyed the boom of gaming, are in business. Most of them turned out pretty fine, some of them are hard at work in today’s companies. And what they remember from their gaming period (if it ended at all) is the last point of the previous paragraph. Immersion in an experience. I for one, remember the days with my best friend, where we played Tony Hawks Pro Skater at night after a full day of hanging out at the Skatepark. We’d stay up until early morning just to be able to beat each other’s scores, or grind that one staircase with that one special grind. No sleep before an epic win.

Oh boy, I had (and sometimes still have) great gaming experiences. And I must confess that when graduating, I started off looking for marketing jobs with Activision, EA and the likes… What it is that makes game companies so cool, you ask? They appeal to me, because of what they do: creating fun experiences. Game companies are original; they live on originality, because a game that is just like the others won’t sell. And last but not least, they are popular within my in-group. We grew up with their products; it defined a large part of my and my friends’ youth. That sounds like the magical cool formula, Appeal x popularity x originality, doesn’t it?

Over the past years, we’ve seen games entering mainstream culture. Brands from various sectors have incorporated gaming elements in their branding or product offering, surfing on the wave of coolness they have. Take this hoodie as an example, spotted on The Cool Hunter already quite some time ago. This is cool, right? And it capitalizes on the idea of authenticity, using one of the most iconic (and earliest) video games ever. (No link needed here, because you know Space Invaders, right?) At this point in time, a World Of Warcraft shirt collection isn’t really all that yet; it hasn’t been around for long enough. However, if the game continues to be the one game that rules them all for the vast community they have (nowadays the number of active accounts is about the size of Belgium), we’ll see effects of that in mainstream culture as well after a while.

But it’s not only coolness and realness that makes gen Y tick. Games are about happiness, just like parties are. The mix of cool and happy drives people to games, again and again and again. And that’s exactly what marketers love, right? Words like “repeat purchase” and “loyalty” have dominated boardrooms forever. Not surprisingly, people went back to games to see which mechanisms can be borrowed from there in order to boost loyalty. A whole new buzzword is born, a whole new field of theory evolving (well, borrowing insights from psychology, behavioural economics and the like): Gamification.

Gamification is your neighborhood Starbucks rewarding you because you are its’ major on Foursquare. But gamification is also definitely Nike+, the running shoes that help you track how and where you ran, and adds a ‘beat your friends’ idea to it. And H&M did it too!. And additionally it has been used for making speed cameras a little more enjoyable as wel… There is a lot to say about gamification nowadays, and I promise I’ll write a more extensive post about it soon. I can go on about it for ages…

In the mean time, what I’d like you to remember is this:

  1. Games are an engaging experience, and are part of the collective memory we Gen Y’ers have.
  2. The gaming culture has been incorporated in mainstream culture, and brands that know how to reference it in the right way can use it to their benefit, if they are authentic about it.
  3. The engaging power of games and the happiness they create are based upon a number of game mechanics that can be translated into other areas, like driving loyalty but also new product development.
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