Rules of Role-Playing Games in Content Marketing

Gamification: Where to start with role-playingI may not be a huge gamer (generally I prefer to watch someone else play in a practice I call “backseat gaming”), but I do enjoy the medium. The growing concept of gamifying the larger space around me is interesting.  Even more interesting is the push of this gamification into the space of content marketing.

The concept of taking once-passive users and turning them into active, interested players is ripe with potential in any market. But especially in content marketing, getting your site visitors to interact is a great tool for moving them towards a conversion of another type – like signing up for your mailing list, or purchasing a service.

Identify Your Gaming Type

As Social Media Examiner noted, there are different types of gamers out there. Knowing which kind of player will work for your content is key to knowing how to program your game.

The different types of gamers fall under “Bartle’s Types,” a catalogue of four classes of players noted by Richard Bartle.

Type #1: The Achiever

Achievers want to (surprise, surprise) achieve. Reaching goals, solving situations, earning points – these are the realm of the achiever. Success is the end goal, and programming solvable, success-oriented content is key to appealing to this type of gamer.

Gaming mainstays like exploration, solving puzzles, and defeating foes are just means to the end for an achiever. They want to advance, to accumulate points or pass levels. They need proof of their achievement.

A badge-based rewards system might appeal well to these types of players.

Type #2: The Explorer

Explorers like to operate constructively, to move within a space and expose how it works. Generally, they are the creative-problem-solving type you always hear about in terribly written job postings on Craigslist.

The trick to genuinely appealing to an explorer is to create dynamic, unique content that will appeal to new players with new ideas. Gaming experiences like these are hard to create, but they can be massively rewarding in terms of brand loyalty and player interest.

Type #3: The Socialite

The socialite, or socializer, as Bartle calls them, is someone who wants to interact. They want to talk and communicate and be a part of a larger whole. Generally, the game, no matter how simple or complex, is just a backdrop for these types of interactions.

Comment sections, and maintenance of those sections, might be key. Taking suggestions, allowing for conversation, and exploring possibilities with your socialite players will be the real trick to keeping them interested. This is really the group to whom you must seem real, dynamic, and – most importantly – human. 

Type #4: The Killer

In comparison to the other types, the killers are extremely basic: they want to eliminate a target. They want to be in charge, the hero, someone to be idolized by other people (in-game or in real life). The game is an escape, an experience in which they are the champion to something smaller.

Appealing to killers in the space of content marketing is difficult. How do you appeal to a person who just wants to eliminate something? How do you make a potential consumer/customer feel like they are the hero?

These challenges can be met in the terms in which you communicate to players, but the driving need for a target can be difficult to appeal to. Another problem is that a killer generally needs a villain.

‘Villains’ and the Villains Who Hate ‘Villains’

Web creator and feminist commentator Anita Sarkeesian came head-to-head with the minefield of supposed villainy when she pitched a spin-off of her web series Feminist Frequency designed to detail the less-than-ideal depictions of women in video games.

She became the target of a horrifying social media campaign against her ideas and her work. As she described in a recent talk to TEDxWomen, Sarkeesian essentially became a villain in the eyes of a gamified internet, with the “players” living in the battlefield of social space, using written attacks and death threats as their ammunition against her.

Thankfully, Sarkeesian held fast, kept to her ideals, and continues her work with the Kickstarter campaign. Her women-in-video-games series is succeeding to an even larger degree than she could have hoped, allowing her to expand the simple series into a teachable curriculum.

But the lesson of her circumstances is more than just a woman-versus-the-world narrative. The internet, a sentient organism of people, turned against her, attacking her like misogynist antibodies battling a socially conscious outsider.

While Sarkeesian did absolutely nothing wrong, she became an enemy. Understanding the balance of your potential players is key to knowing how to program to them – or if you should be programming to that audience at all.

How have players reacted to your gamified marketing?

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Michael is a graduate of New York University’s Film and Television program. He specialized in writing, channeling a passion for storytelling, no matter the medium. In addition to his work at CEM, Michael primarily works in web content production, including projects like Geek Crash Course, a geek-educational series, the Ansible, a comics-based interview show, live performance series The Next Lab Sessions, and many more. In addition, he’s written and edited for the digitally distributed Champion! Magazine.

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