My first foray into gaming came in the form of a mutant-enhanced, bright orange bandicoot wearing big red trainers whose challenge it was to navigate a set of islands and defeat the evil doctor after him. All I can remember from playing it was how big the controller felt in my hand and how much joy came from getting a higher score than my sister who right next to me, watching intently. They say your childhood is full of these pivotal moments, right?
The games of today look significantly more different to the ones I played as a ten-year-old. They're still a place for exploration, development, education but perhaps most importantly today they’re also where you can both build and become a part of a community. For years, parents have despaired at the amount of screen time their kids rack up each day. But as Ronan Patrick, a data strategist at BBH London revealed, when it comes to games like the fiendishly popular Fortnite, "[it] isn't just a game kids play; it's a place they go."
And this is a place that, up until recently, brands haven't really appeared in. An exception comes in the form of the odd branded Fortnite skin - think virtual costume - like the one Samsung created to launch their new Galaxy phone. The skin could only be accessed if you were playing the game on that particular device, heightening the skin’s exclusivity and desirability among gamers.
Gaming is a hobby, a passion and a sector that brands cannot afford to ignore. As revealed in a 2018 Ofcom report, in the UK gaming is more popular than all of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Whilst according to research by BBH Labs, as an industry it’s bigger than the movie and music trades combined.
People have more often than not played games alone but now, they are more likely to be wired up to a headset, chatting in an online forum or surrounded by their friends. Games like the dialogue-free Journey encourage this set up as it can only be completed by playing with another person. A gamer’s virtual community has become no less powerful than the physical one they inhabit every day.
Games have the capacity to connect people. They’re a democratic space truly open to everyone. Find out what and where your audience are playing and you can bring your brand, sensitively, appropriately, into that space. Adam Arnold, Global CMO at BBH put it plainly when he said, "Gaming is not a subculture. It is a cultural powerhouse." And it's a powerhouse that some brands are knocking on the door of.