Could we benefit from people's love of games to engage them on sustainability, asks Eric Mahleb.
There are approximately 800 million gamers in the world today who spend approximately 3 billion hours per week playing games, and this number is constantly increasing. What is it about gaming that is so powerful? And why do so many people in all countries and across all age groups want to immerse themselves in these alternate types of reality?
Ten million people have collectively spent 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft. In 2010, 90 million people played Farmville on Facebook, with 30 million loging in on any given day. These are staggering statistics. Imagine the possibilities if we can harness the dedication, courage, perseverance, expertise and optimism that gamers show and use this resource towards real-life activities and challenges. And imagine if we combine it with the power of the digital medium to help companies increase their relationship and communication with various stakeholder groups.
Over the past few years, a new field has emerged, one that attempts to use gaming (and gamification) to add value to the way we connect with each other and to how we interact with specific content in the digital space. These types of 'serious games' can provide a tangible real-world benefit that enhances our relationship with the organizations that provide this benefit. They take the best from gaming psychology and mechanics and brings it to, among other things, content marketing, employee training, and stakeholder engagement.
Gaming is one of the most important digital phenomenon in our society today. A new age of ubiquitous and social computing is creating a society where gaming is no longer the pastime of a few geeks sitting in a dark bedroom. The average age of a gamer today is 34, one out of four gamers is over the age 50 and 40% of all gamers are women. Organizations and companies that ignore gaming and gamification will do so at the risk of losing one the most powerful engagement tool ever created. And they will forgo a very innovative way to communicate, engage, inform, motivate and collaborate.
From a psychological point of view, games allow us to fulfil needs and desires that reality rarely provides. When someone plays a well-conceived game, they are able to use their full potential and to tap into powers they either did not know they had or that had been suppressed by certain constraints and pressures that reality imposes on us. Games release us from this pressure and allow certain strengths to blossom.
But gaming does not always necessarily mean escaping. It can also mean finding meaning by doing the things we truly love doing. It means activating happiness neurotransmitters such as dopamine on a regular basis. It means, in the words of the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, entering a state of flow, which is the state in which people feel so perfectly at ease and so concentrated in their task that they can create empires, save worlds or build new cities for several hours at a time while feeling a very high level of satisfaction and contentment.
Such is the satisfaction in fact, that failure is no longer an obstacle. 'Gamers spend 80% of their time failing' but keep going nonetheless. It is quite remarkable that we as humans are so afraid of failure in real life but thrive on it in gaming environments. But people rarely encounter such state of flow in their day-to-day life. Understanding how to trigger it, with its almost limitless optimism and dedication, can create dramatic changes in how we interact with our world and in what we can achieve.
There is clearly an opportunity for companies and organizations to leverage the power of gaming. For the ones that are involved in sustainability, an additional advantage exists. More and more people, including gamers, want to find ways to be involved in the story of sustainability.
They are looking for companies to engage with them in new and innovative ways about CSR, human rights, climate change or renewable energy. Social media shows us, among other things, that traditional one-way marketing is no longer enough.
Games and gamification offer a new strategy to engage with existing and potential customers or with employees by giving them a satisfying interactive experience around relevant sustainability content. This innovative and rewarding experience can create a powerful bond between stakeholder and company. The benefits to companies range from brand awareness and brand loyalty to employee satisfaction and retention.
LGM Interactive specializes in digital strategies to create connection and engagement between companies (and NGOs) involved in sustainability and their stakeholders. A recent game the company developed explores how businesses can reduce CO2 emissions while increasing profit. Click here to find out more.