How Interactive Media is learning from Social Games

In my recent article  ‘Gamification at work – interactive media grows up‘ for MediaTel, I argue that social games are the most advanced form of interactive media (and I detailed some of the gamification techniques to demonstrate) and that all interactive media will need to learn the techniques from games, in order to retain their users, as the audience as a whole moves from passive to active media consumption.

It’s probably worth unpacking that statement so here goes.

Firstly, are social games the most advanced form of interactive media?

Well, this is a story told by the numbers – Zynga, the king of social games, has a $20 billion valuation which shows that the markets at least think they are on to something.  They are not alone, PlayFish got eaten by that old giant of the video games industry Electronic Arts for $300 million back in 2009 while even smaller players like Germany’s Wooga recently raised $24 million as venture capitalists jump to get exposure to the social games phenomenon.

A social game has much inside it that is new, at least from a video gaming perspective:

  1. First and foremost is the inclusion of your real friends woven into the fabric of the game. While always possible, this has only been made easy through the wider adoption of social networks.
  2. Secondly, and probably as a result of the first, social games go beyond the leaderboards of traditional video games to offer status and personalisation as well as providing new mediums for communication (such as Farmville gifts) and collaboration (working together in Mafia Wars)
  3. Finally social games, because they are built on top of web platforms like Facebook, are by their very nature online games (or ‘cloud games’ if you like) which primarily makes regular fresh content a major new force within the game fabric. While your experience of Grand Theft Auto might not change as the years go by, the game stays relatively static, a Moshi Monsters player will discover new content such as new monster Lady Goo Goo. New content allows game creators to keep track of trends, seasons and fashion (whether music or otherwise) and keep their games fresh on a daily basis.
All this is happening at the same time as active media (web sites, social games, social networks, mobile apps) continues its gradual increase in use and perhaps eclipses passive media (tv, radio, newspapers).  Nielsen’s recent study on Teen Media Use (How Teens Watch) concluded that 12-24 year old are less likely to watch traditional television.  This is particularly because the rise of smartphones  means media is consumed on the move much more than in previous generations.
So the evidence is now in front of us – in the clamour for attention media must get more interactive to keep up with changing audience tastes and gamification is the name we give to it.

Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of Gamfed.com - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

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