Almost ten years ago I was hanging out with some non-game industry friends and we were playing Buzz! – a well known quiz game at the time. I wasn’t working in the games industry yet, but I was well into writing my Masters thesis on MMORPGs, if not completely finished. I was blogging about games here and I was a contributing writer on two other games blogs. I was giving lectures on games and I was constantly procrastinating reading about games. So my friends cunningly tried to avoid the “Video Games” category in the game feeling fairly confident that I would beat their asses without breaking a sweat. Eventually one poor sod had to go up against me. And you know what? I couldn’t get a single answer right. Not one! I didn’t recognize any of the games that were mentioned and I remember the room becoming eerily quiet. My friends were awkwardly embarrassed for me and I was stunned. The only games that were mentioned were kids games that were associated with kids movies. I had no clue about any of them. I didn’t have kids, none of the games blogs I was reading at the time had even mentioned any of these.
Discussing the awesomeness of Firewatch to the a room who hadn’t even heard of it
I think this is one of the first times I really understood how segmented this industry is. And now that I’m in the industry I’m constantly disappointed with the lack of knowledge of indie games when I meet gamers. Last year I was in a panel discussing something about games, I forget the theme, but after the panel had been discussing Firewatch passionately for 10 minutes, I asked the audience who had played or even heard of Firewatch. One person raised his hand acknowledging that he had heard of the game (this may be a slight exaggeration but it was dramatic). We were in a room full of people who play games with a passion.
I remember feeling a bit saddened by this. How can we discuss the awesomeness of games when the general public has only played 1% of them (totally a made up statistic by me)? The value of us discussing it to this crowd is that they probably went home and looked it up after. But it seems too small to me!
With so many indie games struggling to reach profitability and yet the number of gamers seems to be increasing, I wonder if there is something more that we can do to remind the average game consumer that there’s a rich variety of amazing games out there.
From the inside of the industry it certainly feels like the platforms and consoles are doing their best to promote games and they always make sure to bring indie game titles to their shows and more. I think that’s brilliant. But a friend of mine, who recently left the games industry to work for a young and hip internet company called me one day and said with amazement “Linn! These guys haven’t even HEARD of Steam!”.
Defining and reaching a broader market
This has to mean that there’s an untapped market out there, right? How do we tap into that? Here are three of my thoughts on the topic:
- A marketing campaign for games in general.
I sometimes feel like the world of video games is an exclusive club and it’s
Taken from a Code Kids event at The Bergen Public Library
dangerous to tell others about its wonders and gorgeousness. I guess we’ve just been through a scandelous time because of it. I believe that reaching new markets will take some capital investment. Whilst the industry recognizes that it’s the games from the independent game studios that are pushing the boundaries and coming up with new creative gameplay expressions, more often than not, these studios will not have the funds to market to new audiences. Even if they’re signed with a publisher, I believe the marketing budget is targeted at the audiences that they know.
So I’m wondering if we should gang together and create a campaign to spread the incredible diverse array of games that are out there? I have no idea what it would look like and where to target such a campaign. But I wonder if it would be worth some time and effort to look into what we can do?
- More visibility in mainstream media.
This is half the reason why I’m so intent on getting more articles about games into women’s mainstream media and magazines. I want games to be more accessible. I certainly don’t want anybody to feel like they don’t have the skills to play games. There will always be room for specialized media for games that has the knowledge and experience to cater to devoted gamers. I would like to expand our reach to more mainstream media as well, but to do this we need to find another form of rhetoric other than consumer journalism. The work that Spillpikene (Norwegian group of women writing about games) has done on this issue is really impressive and should definitely be considered an example.
I keep having the same discussion with with people in the games industry and journalists. All of us agree, but we never seem to be getting anywhere. Particularly on my end of things. I keep wanting to start things but never truly following through.
I’m very impressed with what Brie Code is doing by designing games for non-gamers. I love the attitude and vision of her work. But I also genuinely believe that there are so many undiscovered games out there which the sceptics, the ones who think gaming is a waste of time and boring, would love.
In search of the right rhetoric, I’m currently working on curating a talk for people who’ve always been curious about games – but have yet to understand their appeal. First I’m organizing a dinner with a bunch of local business women I’ve met on my journeys that are keen to get engaged with games, but have yet to understand their appeal. We’ll see where it goes from there.
- Festival/Award/ – Sundance/Cannes for games
I know what you’re thinking! Not another one, right? We’re all already constantly exhausted and jetlagged because of all the trade shows for games! Yeah …. I almost didn’t put this here. It’s just when I think of the films industry I’m not so knowledgable. Sure … I’ve picked up a thing or two from our local film festival and I’ve been a member of a film club or two through my life time, but I’m not one of those that actively seeks out indie films on iTunes or something. I think of myself as a mainstream consumer of film. But when I see the words “Sundance” or “Cannes” on the film – I instantly think that it may be worth my while. I think BAFTA has done some great work there and many many others. But I’m not finding it hitting home among mainstream consumers yet.
Clearly – I don’t have the answers. But I would like to contribute to the conversation and this is my start of that.
This has been a subject that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. Should we focus on advertising more games specifically to women, in which case, what would this look like and is it really necessary?
It seems to me that there’s still a template for advertising games that focuses on a predominately teenage male audience. Which makes me feel uncomfortable at times. I also often find myself wondering how I would learn about all the beautiful and amazing games that I play, if I didn’t work in the industry. I follow game developers, game media, game journalists, game academics, game musicians and game artists – so of course I get access to great new games, because this is my life. But if I were just a woman playing as a hobby, where would I go for my information, who’s opinion would I listen to?
We know that women play games. We play quite a lot actually according to the last ESA report:
Adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (18 percent).
So I guess we’re doing rather well without having female targeted marketing? And that’s awesome! This makes me so happy! But I wonder if we’ve only scratched the surface?
Let’s not paint everything pink just yet!
Last week I attended The Nordic Media Festival and was so lucky to catch Brian Seth Hurst from X Media Lab. Mr. Hurst came to talk to us about cross platform media.
I still get chills and I must admit – a little tear in my eye when I think about The Conspiracy for Good, which X Media Lab is responsible for:
I’m trying to figure out a really catchy great name for the upcoming Machinima Night at Landmark 22. October. This is what I’ve come up with – MachinimUP or MachiniMIX – but to be perfectly honest – I feel that’s just a foolish way of hyping it all up. Why not continue to be perfectly honest, frank and to the point with Machinima Night III?
I’m officially on vacation and I’m unofficially trying to get my head focused on upcoming projects and dreams this fall so I can dive straight into them when I come home. My day job will be requiring quite a lot of attention – so I must have a few things straight soon.
I’ve often thought about machinima as fan art – but I’ve never felt completely comfortable with it. I’ve always felt like machinima in itself – was an artform in it’s own right. But then there are such lucious films like this. Which clearly is fan based, but a voyeuristic delight none the less!
Speaking of fan art – I’ve started a little theory about why we’re not talking enough about this in Norway. We have no word for “fan” – seriously – if you can think of something do tell me – but I don’t think we have a word for ‘fan’. We have supporter – which is generally considered to be football fans. But it’s not even that – a football fan is a supporter, although I’m not sure that a WoW machinimator is a supporter of Blizzard. It’s baffled me for a while now and there’s definitely a cultural significance in being wordless on the subject. It’s interesting – and just a thought to share.
I’m just running through my feeds before I start cracking on some more “serious” blogsposts and I’ve caught myself muttering “How adorable – beautiful – incredible!” on several of the articles I’m reading – so thought I’d just share some of them here. I don’t know – perhaps its the beautiful weather that’s put me in the lovey dovey mood – either way – I’m having an incredibly lucious Sunday!
I woke up this morning with an intense desire to blog – so at this writing moment I’m thinking today is going to be a great day!
I think absolutely everyone in my social network has been hassled with hard questions like “How do you translate game mechanics to Norwegian?”. So many excellent suggestions, but I never seem to be satisfied. I’m not happy with the direct translation which would be spillmekanikk. I’ve been trying to write some articles for the mainstream media and at the moment half of the articles I’ve written have been published. I’m quite chuffed and proud about that. Firstly because the content isn’t always considered newsworthy and second – I’m no freakin journalist!
Like the rest of the world, I became enchanted by ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent when I saw Paul Potts‘ remarkable performance on YouTube – oh the tears! This of course led to hunger for more and I randomly went through some of the related YouTube videos. At one point I thought ‘hang on – I’m sure they’ve got a website with better quality clips and a much better organisational overview’. And they do -yay! But no – I get this picture up. “This content is not for viewing outside of the UK due to rights reasons”. Urgh! My thoughts go to the delightful Ben Hammersley‘s words:
The audience is actually quite happy to pay for these things. Witness the sales of DVD box-sets, or the success of the downloadable episodes of hit shows in the iTunes Music Store. Again, though, the television industry shoots itself in the foot. Would I pay for downloadable episodes of the Daily Show? Yes. Will anyone take my money from me? No. Why? Because I’m in the wrong country. Well, I tried. I’ll be thinking about how little their broken business model is my problem as I boot up my torrent software, download the show, and watch the whole thing, including the adverts and any in-show sponsorship.It’s a curious business indeed that turns away customers. It’s exceptionally puzzling when an industry ignores offers of cash. The reason for this seemingly counter-intuitive approach to business – where those with the supply actively avoid those with the demand – is that selling programming is not the business channels are in.
The Guardian, March 20, 2006
“Get with the programme”
I’ve been toying around with an idea for months now, not actually getting anywhere – but it’s still there on my list of priorities.
I want to rent a cinema theater for a day and show Machinima films. A kind of mini-Machinima festival. My idea is to make it as commercial as possible so that people who aren’t avid gamers will be interested in attending as well.
I’ve decided that this is possible if I can organize machinima films in forms of genre. Drama – action – horror – a.s.o. I know! It’s a headache. But I think if I separate the films from the games, people might be more open. The whole point is to give an introduction to the magnificence that can come out of user-generated content. And of course the relevant fact that games are being used as a medium to express something.