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Why video gamers make the best marketers

video game controller
From the POV of a lifelong gamer who happens to work in marketing.

I’m writing this blog after seeing a zombie – probably a Runner – dart across a hallway and that seemed like a perfect place to pause and hammer this out.

I mean, you tell me: does this seem like a good spot to stop and write a weekly blog? ????

Ever since I first played Defenders on Atari when I was a young child, video games have been a favorite diversion. From the days of Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros., through Medal of Honor, and on to Mass Effect and God of War, escaping into fictional characters and their missions is a personal form of therapy for me. And no, I don’t play for so many hours that I need to wear an adult diaper or a catheter to pause my play time. Just know that on Mother’s Day I’m probably sitting with a fully-charged controller and a packet of fudge gathering necessaries to battle the next boss.

OK, Rachel, so how does this relate to marketing? Like, at all?

Glad you asked. Last week, while listening to my favorite podcast The Daily Zeitgeist, the guest was talking about how he watches video game plays on YouTube and knows all the places to forage for supplies in games like God of War Ragnarok. That got me thinking about my own game play how I gather supplies in every environment because I know I’ll probably need them for an upcoming boss level.

It also got me to pondering about how my video gaming translates a ton – more than I had ever thought – to my profession in marketing. And so, dear reader, here are the ways I realized that video gamers make the best marketers.

Foraging for the right tools

If you’re a marketer, I want you to think right now of the top three marketing softwares you use each week to get your job done well. (In fact, drop your faves in the comments below.) And, if you’re a marketer, I bet you’re having trouble narrowing it down to just three.

Marketing professionals are in a constant state of daisy-chaining tools together to create seamless creation, delivery, and measurement of our efforts. We use tools to collaborate and develop content, then we use the same or other tools to deliver and publish, and finally we use even more tools to measure and analyze performance. We’re also checking grammar, tracking lead generation, exporting data, building reports, and managing projects.

Now enter the video gamer. I’ve already mentioned above that I gather and forage for supplies while I game, and perhaps I’m not being clear. I’m the person who doesn’t leave any room or scene before I’ve explored every nook and cranny possible to see if there’s a hidden cache I’m assuredly going to need to avoid dying at the hands of a future game boss. I won’t even interact with crucial characters to move the story along until I’ve made 100% sure no supply has been left behind.

This ???????? is the way of the marketer. While we are adept at marketing products and services, we are also wizards when it comes to learning and knowing software that can help us. We often run in very lean departments with one person tasked to achieve what would ideally take two to three people to complete. And we’re on constant edge for whatever the next marketing boss will be after an inevitable cut scene which marks the “no going back” point in the story. At that juncture, we live or die based on if we have all the supplies and tools we need.

Whether your marketing boss is a viral trend, a wayward word from a spokesperson, or a global economic downturn, you’re just like a video gamer gathering ye rosebuds while ye may.

The story is the thing

I’ve come a long way from playing Defender, which was basically piloting a spaceship across endless left-to-right landscape and shooting anything in my path. As the entertainment and video game industries have begun to realize, through projects like The Last of Us adaptation on HBO, games of today are built off of amazing stories with compelling characters. Whether you enjoy the act of playing a video game or not, the personas and conflicts we can see on our screens move us to feel, to think, and to discuss. Key phrase being “move us.”

Marketers, we know that a big lift of our profession is to create a story about the thing we’re marketing. We, much like video game developers, know our audience is out there in a universe full of noise. Interests and distractions abound on multiple devices and across all of the platforms one can download or access via the internet. Our challenge is to reach our audience through all of that content and move them in our direction.

Whether you’re a gamer or a marketer – or both – the story is the mission. In order to move our audience into action, we have to first move them emotionally. If you’re looking for help in how to build a story, Duarte is a great resource with templates and coaching to teach us all how to be better storytellers.

Measuring up matters

Anyone remember this from your video arcade days (or possibly just from the Stranger Things series)?

Dig Dug arcade game scores from Stranger Things season 2

Right now, I’m playing through Witcher 3 and am working my way through a ton of side quests to help me level up. Why? Because when I go back to the main story quests, I want to beat those bosses like a boss. I want to see the results of my efforts. Just like foraging and being compelled by a great story seem to matter a ton to us humans, video games also dig into our ever present desire to be the best.

Oh hey, guess who else lives for seeing results? You guessed it. Marketers go into every effort not just on hopes and dreams; we’re always thinking of the end result and how to prove success.

We’re also ready to drop whatever isn’t working and focus on what is proven to work. Just like upgrading my Forgotten Wolf witcher sword is a more effective use of my coin than buying a sword from a blacksmith, putting more budget into a marketing channel that works is going to get me better results than investing time and money into one that doesn’t.

Game on

I’ve worked in marketing for 15 years, and have been a video gamer for at least double that, and yet this last week was the first time I realized there are many ways the two collide in my life. I often figured I was just getting into a video game to work out my angst against life’s obstacles, or at least just to escape. But video games do more for this marketer: they get my brain focused on the bare necessities of being a human.

For this marketer, the play is the thing. And for right now, it’s time for me to go back in and battle that Runner in the hallway.

Are you a combo marketer + video gamer? Let me hear from you: which game(s) are you playing and what kind of marketing do you do?