Over Labor Day Weekend, The Ad Council returned to PAX West with our Love Has No Labels campaign, celebrating diversity and inclusion for a second year. We launched Game for Good at PAX West in 2016 as an effort to bring our campaign messages to gamers (over 150 million Americans play video games!). After 2016 we realized that talking to attendees about such an important issue in the seconds you have them captive at a booth was challenging. While we raised awareness about the campaign, we wanted to engage them in a deeper way. We thought, “What better way to engage gamers than with a game?” We launched our first geo-location game, The League of Extraordinary Humans, at PAX West 2017. Hundreds of attendees played it – here’s what we learned.
Gamers Want to Game
One decision point we encountered when developing the game was whether to add more gaming elements or keep the focus on the content and message. Later I spoke to another game developer who shared that this is a challenge many non-profits have when they try to create a game. We worry that if it feels too hard or takes too long to get to our message, we will lose our audience. For The League of Extraordinary Humans, we chose to keep the focus on the content, although our developer was pushing for more gamification. The reality is that gamers love to play games – the harder they are, the more sense of mastery a gamer feels. While we had positive feedback from players, I wonder if it would have had an even warmer reception from gamers if we had leaned in to more gamification.
Beacons are Cool, but…
This was our first time using beacons, which are small devices the size of a hockey puck that transmit content to Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. They have been used by some retailers to push relevant alerts or coupons to shoppers. For our game, we placed them at six locations in the Washington State Convention Center. Each location was a gaming partner that has been a part of our Game for Good effort. The beacons presented a few challenges:
- Making sure they worked for people when there were lots of Wi-Fi hotspots and other potentially conflicting signals happening. If you’ve ever been to a gaming conference, you know how elaborate the booths can be. We needed to be testing constantly throughout the event to make sure our game was working.
- Tying the content being transmitted contextually to the location. Some of our partners had “heroes” in our game that tied in nicely, but for others, the connection wasn’t quite as strong. When designing a location-based game, the location becomes just as important as other elements.
- If you want to re-purpose your game for a different event, you must redraw the map and think about the new beacon locations. You will also need someone “on the ground” at each new event to test and make sure the game is working, which adds ongoing costs to your budget.
You Can’t Beat Gaming Experiences for Deep Engagement
Despite the challenges, our team felt that attendees who played through the game and collected all 12 cards (41 percent of all players) really engaged with the issue of diversity and inclusion on a much deeper level. You can hear some of their voices in the video accompanying this post. They learned something new. They had a purpose in exploring the expo. It made them think. This game was an experiment for us – an opportunity to bring our campaign message to a new audience and dip our toe into location-based gaming experiences. Hopefully our learning can be helpful to any social marketer thinking about using gaming to drive awareness or behavior change.