What PR Pros Can Learn From Gamers

Can we get communications pointers from computer games?

Crysis features life-like graphics, but gamers want more than just realism The New York Times recently featured an article looking at how there’s a growing trend in computer gaming away from intensive graphics, complex storylines and immersive dialogue and towards simple games that allow people to interact with each other.

“Paradoxically, at a moment when technology allows designers to create ever more complex and realistic single-player fantasies, the growth in the now $18 billion gaming market is in simple, user-friendly experiences that families and friends can enjoy together.”

So what parallels can we draw between this and our communications?

Keep it simple

Gamers are shifting away from complex games like Crysis (pictured above, which I love by the way) and Bioshock and towards those with simple concepts like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Halo 3.

From complex to simple. We need to remember that when we write for people. The general public isn’t interested in the minutiae of your product, service or policy. They’re interested in the simple story. What’s happening? How does it affect them?

Make it about the people

Only one of the top ten selling games last year was single player only. All the rest included extensive multiplayer features. World of Warcraft, the king of multiplayer games, has over 10 million paying subscribers.

We need to move from targeting individuals and towards letting our communities interact. By letting people share content, helping them to bookmark it, making it more accessible by removing layers of spin and even allowing comments on our announcements we can enable more social interaction around our stories. By moving away from venues that we control (our own websites) and towards those where users feel comfortable (social networks, for example), we can lower the barriers further.

Guitar Hero 3 We also need to move from one-way to two-way interaction with our communities. We can help members interact with each other, but it’s only when we also start to interact with them that we can realize the benefits of all this new technology.

Keep it interesting

This relates closely to my first point. Many of today’s new games place immense demands on your computer hardware. Games like Crysis require people to upgrade to the latest hardware just to play them. Meanwhile, the trend is moving towards games that focus on fun rather than perfection.

That’s key for communicators. Sure, a government can throw $100 million at something or an organization can release a technologically game-changing product. Unless you can make it interesting, though, no-one will care. $100 million is an abstract figure. I can picture $1,000 or maybe $10,000. Once you’re into the millions, you’re beyond what I’m likely to ever encounter in my life. I have no way to relate to it, so why should I care? A thousand more heart transplants, though (pulling the example randomly out of the air), is on the way there. Or producing enough power to light a city. I can relate to those things. It has to be relevant and interesting or people will switch off and move on.

Get the basics right

(Updated) You can have all the high-tech wizardry in the world, but if the fundamentals of a game aren’t right it will all be for nothing.

The same applies to communications initiatives. Before you worry about web 2.0 gizmos and whatever the new wonder app of the day is, make sure you get the fundamentals of your announcement right. You know, the old fashioned stuff. Things like well planned, written and executed tactics. If you don’t get that right, all the shiny stuff you layer on top won’t help.

Conclusion

There you have it. Three Four lessons communicators can learn from gamers:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it about the people
  • Keep it interesting
  • Get the basis right

What other lessons do you think we can learn?

(Photo credit: ntwrock and me)

  • You hit the nail on the head. I love Halo3 because I can play for 20 minutes online, have fun and get off and enjoy real life! And I’m amazed at Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s success.

  • I like this (partly because I blog about games)
    To further the game analogy, we need to keep it balanced and inclusive. this ties in with making it about the people.
    A lot of effort goes into balancing multi-player games so that they don’t exclude players and stay fun. I think communications is the same. e.g. As you mentioned, spin throws off the balance and alienates people.

  • Great post Dave – really like the analogy and it works equally well for internal communications.

    Despite all the tools, channels and varied approaches the old KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) rule is still very good advice!

  • Excellent. I always encourage looking at what other industries are doing to be successful. The formula, at its basic level, often rings true across the board.