Highscore achieved at Games For Brands conference

Before the clocks went back (and with thanks to our friend @LouiseDowne, previously of Tate) I attended a conference in London called Games For Brands; I won a free hour for effort! All in all, an interesting event if you’re interested in games. And pigeons.


The event was attended by the great and good in playful production (Preloaded, Mother, Hide & Seek, 4T2 and AKQA to name a few) and some incredibly experienced commissioners from the BBC, Channel 4, Tate, Wellcome Trust, Stardoll and EMI.

More interestingly, though, were the representatives from all kinds of brands, institutions and enterprises looking to level up and get their game on. Was it surprising BAE Systems were along for the ride? Or a chap from HSBC? Don’t McLaren Automotive have their hands full making cars go fast round corners? And what does gaming have to do with selling seats on Virgin Atlantic? A surprising amount, as it turns out, because like it or not, we’re entering the era of gamification (surely there is a prettier, less cynical word?)


LinkedIn introduced a feature a few years back that had a profound effect on site engagement. Did anyone else feel press-ganged into completing their LinkedIn profile because of that bastard progress bar? Or even worse : “The fastest person to register today did it in 14 seconds. Can you beat it?” I’ll beat it alright!! **smashes keyboard into monitor**

Nicholas Lovell from Gamesbrief remarked that any parent is painfully familiar with gamification techniques – How quickly can you get into your pyjamas? If you eat one mouthful of broccoli you can watch Nickelodeon for four and a half hours. Etc. Play is an obvious motivator and brands are seriously looking at ways of harnessing this. Product placement in consoles for example. Or custom-built viral games like Fire Kills and Swamp Drifter from the Den. But it’s much more than that…

A fine example

The finest example I took from the event was Star Player, by AKQA for Heineken. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of using their Champions League “watch with mother” app, the top level aim was to capture the tension, immediacy and community-spirit of watching live at the stands and put this in the hands of the casual home-viewer. And boy did they nail it. Andy Hood’s illuminative breakdown made it look easy.
His top tips: Understand your subject and your audience down the most granular level, build core functionality, then iterate. Obvious really…
Favourite feature : hit the ‘Goal Now’ button and if a team scores within 30 seconds you get a squillion points.
Interesting point : the system is 100% manual, requiring a team of expert football and gaming fans to mange match events as they unfold, thus creating live gamable data for home-viewers.

A final rundown

Brief round up of other awesome stuff from the event :
Ville Heijari from Rovio (Angry Birds) said it all started with the characters – initial game mechanics were far too complex. So rather than get people addicted, they wanted players to love their characters and rewarded them with a rich, distinctive look and feel.
Jo Twist from Channel 4 Education hasn’t yet worked out what to call immersive content environments that aren’t games. Playful systems of content is pretty catchy, right? Plus she was ‘gamed’ into replying to people on OKCupid after realising she had the ‘Badge of Death’ for never replying…
Robin from PLAStudios recognised that games can’t be ripped like music can and they offer a connection with the artist that fans are looking for.The new LP sleeve for today’s gamers? Play his great annoyingly addictive game for Blink 182 here get182.com
Tom Chatfield was full of insights and it’s worth following his twitterings. He talked about the challenge of hard play (the mastery needed to complete Portal 2) and the delight of easy play (chucking a shiny bird at evil pigs)
Good and bad of gamification : Giff Gaff incentivised their customers with cash-money to provide support to other customers! Klout is rubbish, and easy to cheat, and has loads of annoying alerts and badge-awards you can’t skip.

Conference summary as a poster!

Download it in A3Beautifully designed by our pigeon-loving intern Abi and curated by other folks at Thought Den from the #games4brands Twitter feed, it features the top 10 tweets of the day laid out for your inspiration – download it here

It was great to see the Tate team and hear more about the game they’re launching with Preloaded, all about neuroscience and Alice in Wonderland…read more on that over at Preloaded’s house. Download our lovely poster!

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