The Future of Advertising is Game Design

Sean Stogner
Oct 10, 2016 · 3 min read

Let’s assume for a moment that the VR revolution is real. That in the not so distant future we’ll come home, strap on our VR headsets, and spend an evening in a virtual space, filled with virtual representations of our friends, engaging with fully immersive and interactive experiences.

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In this reality the viewing experience is inherently active. Just as we choose today what posts to read on our social feeds, we can choose what parts of a given story we want to witness.

In this world, the “director’s perspective” is a seemingly pointless construct. That perspective assumes a passive and fixed consumption experience. But if you’ve ever watched a VR film, played a VR game, or even watched a 360 video on Facebook or YouTube, you’ll remember just how hard it was to follow any sort of fixed point. Curiosity compels you to look around.

So how in the hell are we supposed to create ads that tell cohesive stories if we can’t even assume what the consumer is looking at at any given moment?

The answer is game design.

“Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game to facilitate interaction between players for entertainment or for medical, educational, or experimental purposes.”

We’re creating a sandbox, not a painting

The key element of that definition for the future of marketing is around facilitating interaction. Rather than creating storyboards and writing scripts, we need to develop scenarios with which to facilitate an interaction with our brand or subject matter.

Increasingly, when it comes to social campaigns, clients are already asking for this type of thinking. When they ask for UGC, that’s about facilitating an interaction. Event marketing is facilitating interactions.

And in a world dominated by VR (see above for assumptions) our job is to facilitate the interaction between the viewer(s) and the world we’ve created. In gaming, these types of games are generally referred to as “open world”. This basically means a game where players can choose their own path, and achieve any given objectives in whatever timeframe and/or order they choose. Minecraft is a great example of this type of game.

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But that doesn’t mean that meaning can’t be derived from the experience. Quite the contrary. Meaning is derived from the types of interactions, the encounters, and even the environment. In reality, it’s a golden opportunity to connect with consumers in more powerful ways than ever before.

In the end, a big distinction is choice. Today, the user has no choice when it comes to how the message is being delivered. In VR, however, the user has a choice in what they want to look at at a minimum, and more complexly, what they want to interact with, or paths they want to go down.

The goal then is to ensure that, instead of focusing all the information or message on a central point, we will need to design experiences that sprinkle packets of information throughout the experience in ways that can be digested and understood in a somewhat non-linear fashion.

There’s so much more to learn about crafting experiences, and ads, in VR. And no one has even touched upon the notion of multi-user VR experiences thus far, but that is certainly on the horizon.

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