Social Media and Gaming

“Gamers are loners.”, “Gaming is not social.”, “Everything was better in the past.”
In the old days, when kids went to the arcade, they went with friends. These days, kids lock themselves in their rooms alone with their gaming device. That isn’t social, or is it?

Sony and Microsoft don’t agree with these statements. Their latest products, respectively the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, have social media integrated. They blend the online and offline world. For example, when a friend finds a legendary item while playing ‘single player’, the position of this item appears on your single player map too.
While playing a videogame you can also stream your gameplay live. This way your friends can watch you play and via their headsets they can interact with you. There’s even the possibility to aid your friend while using your tablet or phone. (Hunt 2013)

You could say console gamers are finally catching up with PC gamers on the social aspect. Failbetter Games, for example, is pulling people in socially long before Sony and Microsoft did. Failbetter creates unique interactive stories, like Fallen London, “which could be best described as a sort of choose your own adventure story in which you play alongside Facebook and Twitter friends, asking them for help”. (Harper 2013)

Moreover, the crowd-funding website Kickstarter lets both big and small game developers fund their game ideas. This really changes the gaming industry, because fans spread the word themselves via Twitter instead of the developer marketing their games via traditional media. (Harper 2013)

There are countless communities where people spread their love for gaming. People interacting, collaborating and sharing. Building new relationships, maintaining them, even ending some.
It’s like people are all around you, but are they really? Is it the same as having a real person standing next to you, breathing? What is the difference? Do you think people are less social because of these changes in gaming that are supposed to make it more social?

References:
– Hunt, T. (2013) ‘5 Ways Video Game Companies are Leveraging Social Media’. Visited on 4 November 2015 via https://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/media-journalism/5-ways-video-game-companies-are-leveraging-social-media/.
– Harper, E. (2013) ‘Insiders Explain How Social Media and Video Games Are Merging’. Visited on 4 November 2015 via http://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-video-games/.

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I guess you’ve all come across these ads on the internet. Some of you may have clicked on them. Lately, these kind of ‘ads’ are disappearing. Those were/are all scams to get your personal and financial data or infiltrate your computer with viruses. Other (real) advertising banners have also become less and less effective, amongst other things thanks to these scams. What can we do to make online advertising effective again?

From a jaw-dropping 50-90% Click Through Rate to a poor 0.1% CTR (MacDonald 2015). You could say banner ads are not an effective way to promote your product, service or company. There’s also a term describing the phenomenon where website visitors consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information. This is called banner blindness (Nielsen 2007). Yet, there are some ways to improve your (banner) advertising.

Media rich engagement ads are ‘voluntary’ ads. In other words, they expand and play, once you hover above these interactive ads more than two seconds. Beware, consumers may also develop banner blindness to these engagement ads.
Banner blindness does not extend to audio, thus Podcasts are another effective alternative to traditional banners. For example, Spotify uses audio advertising like this. However, hearing the same voice and text over and over again, can be very annoying for consumers.

The opposite of Sponsored Posts and a very effective kind of advertising posts is User Generated Content. In short, consumers themselves post about you on their social networks creating a ‘buzz’. Be careful though: this ‘buzz’ can also be a negative one.
The idea behind Content Marketing is not creating ads that look like content, but actually creating content. “Don’t sell anything, just be useful.” Take a look at CMO.com, Adobe’s initiative (MacDonald 2015).

Another great way to increase advertising effectiveness is not to improve these banners, but rather on how to replace these ineffective (banner) ads. The answer to this problem is: using apps.
Starbucks does a tremendous job by using their app to involve consumers. ‘For Mobile Devices, Think Apps, Not Ads’ (Gupta 2013) discusses some tips to increase this consumer involvement:
– Add convenience
– Offer unique value
– Provide social value
– Offer incentives
– Entertain

The Starbucks app does more than just advertise its products. If you’re interested, you can read more about it in the article.

Do you know other new, creative ways to advertise? Let me know in the comment section below!

References:
– Gupta, S. (2013) ‘For mobile devices, think apps, not ads’, Harvard Business Review 91(3) 71-75.
– MacDonald, M. (2015) ‘Better than Banner Ads: Smart ways to spend your ad dollars in 2015’ via http://www.tintup.com/blog/better-than-banner-ads-smart-ways-spend-ad-dollars-2015-muriel-macdonald/ on September 23, 2015.
– Nielsen, J. (2007) ‘Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings’ via http://www.nngroup.com/articles/banner-blindness-old-and-new-findings/ on September 23, 2015.

WE HAVE THE POWAH! [The case of the “Retake Mass Effect” movement]

If there is one group of people that content creators should avoid pissing off – it’s gamers. Gamers spend countless hours and piles of money on their favorite franchises, and nowadays gaming is no longer thought of as child’s play. The average age of the gamer these days is 35 years old, as compared to the 80’s when it was 12 to 14. Moreover, the video game industry is generation billions of dollars every year, rivaling the TV and even movie industry.

So, when you’re a game developer and you have a pack of loyal fans, the last thing you want is to rip their heart out and make them very angry. What happens when you do? Well, allow me to explain.

One of the top game developers out there – BioWare – has always been known for story driven games. Their crown jewel would be the Mass Effect series. What do I mean by story driven? Well, if you imagine a game as a place where you just jump and shoot stuff, you’re doing it wrong. With Mass Effect, BioWare was able to create a Hollywood worthy plot, mix it with amazing visuals, splendid voice acting and most of all – the ability to allow the player to actually have an impact on the game world through his decisions.

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You heard me right. A video game character’s decisions have consequences. And they really do!

The basic synopsis of the story is that we’re way off into the distant future. Alien species are flying all over the galaxy and you happen to be the badass Commander Shepard.

Aside from chasing away baddies who want to harm the Earth, you have to deal with The Reapers. Mechanical species aimed at erasing every organic life form every now and then to “restore the balance”. Suffice to say, you don’t feel like dying so you have to find a way to whoop their butts.

Well, after three games and five years of building relationships with your crew, seeing how your decisions lead to some of your crews’ deaths, the deaths of others, or the saving of entire species, by Mass Effect 3, the game has become you. It is your world which you created. And as it is with every trilogy – it has to end sometime. However, as a fan, you expect it to end gloriously. You expect a hero’s ending.

In Mass Effect 3’s case though, you expect an ending that is built for you. Normally these games allow you a multitude of endings so your game ends depending on how well you played. If you played well, you get the good endings and if you didn’t lots of planets and people and species may die because of you.

But … that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite did. The ending of Mass Effect 3 and the series was abysmal, according to fans. They were rushed into three different endings that were actually the same except for minor details. The ending did not resolve a conflict, it essentially murdered everyone and didn’t make sense.

So what do gamers do in this case? Head off to social media, create polls, write blogs, start Facebook groups, Instagram pages, Kickstarter Campaigns to hire devs to make a new ending, flood BioWare’s forums, Tweet and Re-Tweet.

Well, after an insane barrage of internet hate, whining and demands, for the first time in gaming history the customer has been able to force the developer to bend out of shape and redesign the ending into something better. Following months of extreme social media presence of this “issue”, BioWare released a DLC (Downloadable Content) for free, adjusting the ending to better fit the fans’ needs. Now your choices DO matter and while it wasn’t ideal, fans were satisfied.

This case is interesting for a number of reasons. One, as I said already, the consumer forced the developer to do something. Normally, that doesn’t happen. If a consumer is unsatisfied with the product they can just keep being mopey and shut up. However, this didn’t happen here. Why? Social media, my friends. With so much fuss and noise, the consumer turned this into a PR nightmare for BioWare. Since gamers run wild on the Internet, we all heard about it and we damn sure wouldn’t have bought a BioWare game following this disappointment. It’s amazing! They had to do it!

And secondly, what does this mean for the entertainment industry in general? If the consumers showed that they can shove anyone into PR hell at will, what if the next thing we don’t like is a movie? Or a song? Will directors change the ending of a movie? Will song writers and singers change a song? How would they deal with this?

What do you fine fellows think?

References:

https://www.facebook.com/DemandABetterEndingToMassEffect3

http://retakemasseffect.tumblr.com/

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-03-23-retake-mass-effect-3-protest-claims-victory-after-bioware-vows-to-address-controversial-ending

Breaking News: Some famous person unfollowed another famous person. Call the militia!

You know, when I imagined my future when I was 12, I was picturing flying cars and jet packs, not “Tweet” this and “Like” that. I certainly didn’t think I’d be studying it intensely. I thought my life would be more like that of The Jetsons.

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But … man oh man has the world has changed in just five or six short years.  The first iPhone is an ancient fossil at this point (2007), writers’ strike against Hollywood studios has left all of us Europeans not giving a hot damn about it (2009), but apparently it was a big whoop in the US of A, and Justin Bieber has finally hit puberty at the age of 19. Too many changes, way too fast!

Aside from your general pop culture shifts in trends, the world has experienced some other adjustments. A few years back I distinctly remember how people with a Facebook account were sometimes mocked for having it. Of course, this is due to MySpace’s popularity and the fact that you could add an infinite amount of junk to your profile in order to make yourself stand out from the rest of your pre-pubescent peers. The argument was that Facebook looked boring, you couldn’t customize every single detail of your profile page, you couldn’t add all the horrible songs you like and most of all you pretty much had to use your real name, like a grown up, instead of something as classy as “SexyBuns26”.

Well, fast forward to 2013, MySpace is as dead as a dodo and they’re desperately trying to cling to whatever relevancy they have left in order to avoid pulling the plug on the whole damn thing. Long story short – Facebook to MySpace is like Ali to Foreman, Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader, Kryptonite to Superman, Math to me.

In fact, things have changed so much that now it makes people scratch their heads when someone says they don’t have a Facebook account. The world has done a 180, then went home, updated its status and all the other planets “Liked” it. Insane! Usually individuals without a Facebook page have their own reasons which make perfect sense, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the world from thinking that this person has killed somebody recently and that’s why they went into hiding. Before you do anything, don’t report them to the police! They’re sane and they don’t like ads shoved in their faces and private information shared all over the web.

Either way, Facebook has become a ginormous part of our lives that we can’t shake off. However, as mighty as Mark Zuckerberg’s spawn has become, Twitter seems to have an effect on pop culture that Facebook doesn’t.

Remember the last few paragraphs? You know, how things have changed, how some social media were considered passe and odd but now they’re overpopulated with users? Good job! You didn’t fall asleep!

yet.

Well, friend, the same applies to Twitter. Twitter blew up in the last few years. People love, love, love sharing their boring lifestyles in 140 characters, and it’s the easiest way for a C-list celebrity to promote their Z-list movie without having to pay a dime. Brilliant!

However, in order to truly see Twitter’s power nowadays, you have to look at the backlash Twitter related cases have on the real world. Nobody bats an eye when your roommate tweets that he just tried to light his own farts because he’s bored, but when Miley Cyrus stops following her ex-fiance – everybody goes ape. Bloggers, YouTubers, TMZ (as per usual) act like this came out of nowhere. Nevermind that officially the two have not been seen in the same zip code in half a year, never wearing their engagement rings, it is not official to the world unless they unfollow themselves on Twitter. And when they do? Duck and cover.

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The same applies to Jonas Brothers breaking up (I’ll surely miss that band, said no sane person ever), or any other heart wrenching celebrity break up.

So things have changed. An awful lot. At least for modern pop culture.

Friends, the day a single click on some social media website’s “Unfollow” button makes hundreds of Internet enthusiasts to blog, vlog, schlog and schmog about it, is the day we truly have to admit that social media is a monster that the world has never had to deal with before, and we’re only getting started.

Social media has grown so much that unfollowing, unsubcribing or unfriending is the equivalent of walking up to someone and slapping them in front of their mom, and is – sometimes – national news. I’m not sure if that scares or entertains me. Maybe both.

One thing’s for sure though – I’m still waiting for my flying car and my jet pack!