Gaming's bright future: an untapped opportunity for brands.
Feb 2, 2021
Kris Jalowiecki with Martin Wolsgaard, Vicky Chen / Artwork: Leva Blaževičiūtė

Gaming shapes popular culture. 91% of 16 - 24 year olds play games, 2.5 billion people Globally. No cultural sphere is untouched by gaming; from food to finance to fashion, it is a formidable cultural force.


Gaming and esports has been a gold rush for brands, but rarely do they go beyond conventional sponsorships. We believe there is untapped potential sitting at the intersection of gaming and education, where gaming can be used to drive positive change.


There is lively debate around gaming’s harassment issues, as well as the inclusivity challenges facing female players, and gaming’s impact on mental health. Rightly so. But there is a much more positive aspect of gaming around its power to educate and accelerate progressive thinking that doesn’t get as much media attention - despite being strongly supported by the scientific community.   


So how can your brand tap into gaming and enrich the experiences of young people? 


LANGUAGE AND COLLABORATION

In addition to improving soft skills like reaction time, dexterity, memory and problem solving, studies show that gaming can help young people learn languages. 


A classroom study in Japan revealed that 39% of respondents found cooperative multiplayer to be the best thing for developing language skills through context, play, and social interactions.


INCLUSIVITY 

Yale has made gaming an integral part of the student experience. The university encourages students to catch up with friends and find common interests through gaming, and it formally entered Yale’s Sports and Recreation department - increasingly legitimising gaming and esports across North American universities. 


Evidence also points towards cognitive benefits when played in later life. If true, this offers an untapped audience of mature and elderly gamers where gaming can help memory retention and communication.


CODING, ENGINEERING AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Nintendo’s Labo, Minecraft, and Kerbal Space Program use entertainment to teach engineering and resource principles. 


Gamers are able to build freely - without guides - and solve problems through iteration. They can consult forums when stuck, creating a powerful relationship between eager learners and older professionals, offering pathways traditional education cannot. 


A CALM LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR THOSE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

For people with autism and ADHD, Minecraft helps nurture creativity, providing a structured, calming environment for neuroatypical people. 


Autcraft, a server created specifically for people with autism, offers a space for people to learn game dynamics in the way they understand best. Games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing act as crucial “third places” to mature, free of the scrutiny and authority of home or school.


FRAMING FAILURE AS ITERATION

All learning experiences should embrace a process of testing and iteration, this happens in gaming but not in higher education. Viewing failure as a chance to learn, rather than a sign of something lacking allows young people to thrive and enjoy learning through simulation. 


SOLVING PROBLEMS IN ITS OWN INDUSTRY

“Do you have a boyfriend?” “Would you ever be with a woman?” These are the obstacles you must evade when playing A Woman Goes to a Private Games Industry Party. A game vignette created by Rosa Carbó-Mascarell designed to articulate what it’s like to be a woman in the industry. 


Notoriously toxic and male-dominated, the gaming industry experience for many women requires game-like navigational skills to avoid a host of sexist and predatory behavior. A gaming solution to a human problem is a powerful way of raising awareness. 


HOW CAN YOUR BRAND TAP INTO THE OPPORTUNITY? 

Here are some ways in:


GAMIFY A COMPLEX PROBLEM TO HELP AID UNDERSTANDING

  • Mining, the use of materials and currency are central to many games. These features can improve literacy of complex production processes, sustainability practises and things like finance
  • Through simulation, help gamers increase their agency and become more knowledgeable about certain topics like political misinformation

 

RECONTEXTUALISE YOUR BRAND FOR A NEW AUDIENCE

  • Brand associations can be presented in an interactive way to build clear memory structures with your audience 
  • Gamify trial, rethink the value exchange in it, use the world of gaming to show benefits of a product


INFLUENCE BEHAVIOURS FOR THE BETTER

  • Use the habits of heroes to confront ethical dilemmas: bad characters wear fast fashion, use plastic bags, fly planes
  • Frame failure as a good thing, failing in game has no anxiety, you get up and try again
  • Use gaming’s utopian world to encourage positive behaviour and communication and reinforce values - offering  in-game rewards


At Virtue we believe in a world where brands and audiences benefit and culture is enriched. We do this by approaching things differently, operating at the intersection of advertising and entertainment.


  • Virtue and DDR Museum Berlin’s TeAR down this WALL is an experience built into Minecraft Earth that uses gaming as a tool for immersive learning and historical empathy. By rebuilding The Berlin Wall in one of most popular games, we bridge teenager’s everyday lives with their historical past and give them a compelling reason to dive further into the collected expertise and knowledge of the DDR museum. 


Recognise the power of the medium. In gaming you have young people’s attention, respect it, make things people seek out, and earn your place. If you can - help people learn something on the way too.