Advertising and Gaming Part 1: Why Gamification Still Matters

 Michael Bali

Michael Bali / Copywriter

Six years ago, gamification playfully returned as a buzzword. Since then, articles have sporadically probed what gamification could do for advertising, although they usually settle on the superficial-level interpretation of converting print ads into interactive videogames.  In doing so, they miss the core relationship between game design and digital advertising – their shared focus on interactivity.

A 2013 special “How Videogames Changed the World” ended by suggesting that Twitter is the most influential videogame. While the choice is tongue-in-cheek, the reason for giving Twitter top billing is its embodiment of the mindset found in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (or MMORPGs). The adoption of an online avatar, and the quest to then accumulate the maximum number of followers possible through relevant, and at times humorous, interaction, is familiar to all gamers. More appropriate is that it should also be the mindset used to keep digital marketing meaningful.

According to the book Rules of Play1, all game design aspires towards what has been termed “meaningful play.” Meaningful play is either descriptive: the cause-and-effect of a player’s choice and the resulting system outcome; or evaluative: the reason why the player makes the choices they do within that particular system. We’ve previously recognized that the distinguishing factor of digital life is interactivity, and that digital marketing should always facilitate interaction, whether between consumers and brands, or each other. If we define interactivity as “play” then the descriptive and evaluative elements within a game system – for example, a social media outlet like Twitter – become more than a designed experience. They become fun.

The fact that Meaningful Brands® outperformed the stock market by 206% over a ten-year period between 2006 and 2016, while consumers wouldn’t care if 74% of the brands they use every day disappeared, is telling. The market is so overwhelming that even though people gravitate towards established leaders, they still expect all brands to provide industry-driven, quality content that improves their lives. Since most brands don’t deliver that kind of content, the potential for leadership lies in creating deeper, relevant work that people remember and return to, even if it isn’t explicitly in game form. Or to put it another way: the game world exists, and the players are ready. They just need a reason to play.



1Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2010). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Share this article
Get in touch