Engaging with entertainment in the digital world | Follow up

Engaging with entertainment in the digital world | Follow up

From a social perspective, how significant do you think cooperative play and social interaction through gaming has led to increased sales and helped the marketing campaign of franchises like Minecraft or more recently “The Divison”. Does word of mouth advertising work more effectively than adverts on platforms like YouTube?

Word-of-mouth has been essential to Minecraft’s success, by personally recommending the game, whether in person or through their fan-made videos on youtube, fans have helped create the Minecraft phenomenon. Conventional advertising on youtube has the disadvantage of being recognised as adverts, audiences naturally switch off when adverts appear or hastily click the “skip” button. This is in contrary to the beauty of word-of-mouth where audiences don’t necessarily see it as an advert, but as a recommendation.

It could be argued that content created by fans and posted onto platforms such as youtube are a perfect example of how to create successful paratexts in a contemporary media landscape that is increasingly competitive. Fan made content engages audiences by offering a point of relatability, a common interest between the paratext producer and the consumer, the game. However to differentiate from the thousands of other fan made texts on the platform, the producer presents it using their own personal angle, shaped by the way they read the key text and their own experiences. This is important because as mentioned in “Crafting Let’s Play vs Let’s Watch”, Let’s Play paratexts are a way of replacing the ‘original’ social gaming experience, and this personal angle masks the advertising aspect of the video.

The Division offers an example of how producers have tried to recreate this form of exposure and make it more efficient. They release videos that help tell a transmedia story, but direct the consumers back to the key text through challenges. This may mean starting a story about a group attacking a safe zone, which then tells the consumers they need to go back to the game and hunt the group down.

Neither of these examples are of traditional advertising and there is an argument that they are both more effective than conventional advertising, and this is down to their ability to mask themselves not as an advert, but as recommendations; they are texts in themselves but also gateway-paratexts.

Would you pinpoint the success of ‘Minecraft’ just on its fanbase and its cult made paratextis or is it the basic fundamentals of the game itself. The entrainment of the game is self-driven through the gamers own creativity, thus breaking down the common gaming barriers of age and level of ability, allowing for social engagement to flourish.
The game is made for paratexts, it is encouraged by the developers, having game modes such as world sharing and personal stories of the characters. Hence the success of ‘Minecraft’ is more to do with the physical game and its ideology then that of the the fan base. The fan made content is designed to be apart of the game word, aiming it at the new wave social normality of sharing gaming content on social medians, it is this that has allowed ‘Minecraft’ to become a modern phenomenon.

This question is particularly useful a practitioner, in knowing what makes the texts more effective, producers can put greater focus in that area; it could also be rephrased as “Who is more significant in the success of a game, the Producer or the Consumer?”.

Considering how each piece of fan made content acts as a gateway-paratext, and sheer volume present on the increasingly accessible internet, it is evident that the consumers have had a significant affect on the success of Minecraft, and that without them, it’s unlikely to have reached the success it has, and certainly not in the time it has.

However for the first consumer to become a fan and fans to become petty producers, the game had to be effective at engaging with them. Minecraft has characteristics that make it incredibly effective at engaging with audiences, these are explained in more depth in my next post “Constructing Consumer Engagement”. The most important one however is it’s lack of direction which encourages consumers to produce their own canon, which they then want to share using platforms such as YouTube. The importance of this aspect can be seen when looking at other games where there is a strong presence on new media platforms. “There are over 42 million ‘Minecraft’ videos on YouTube today” (NBC 2015), It is the most viewed game in youtube’s history, second is the Grand Theft Auto series (Rockstar North 1997 -). The similarities between the games is clear, an open world where consumers are encouraged to do what they want and share it. Call of Duty ( Activision 2003 -) is fourth on the list, and there is one big difference between itself and Minecraft, Call of Duty has a very detailed and defined story, to the extent where one instillments took 2 years to write (Pereira 2014). Such a detailed story leave a very narrow experience for consumers to play through, which is probably why most of the video shared are of the multiplayer aspect of the game.

It is difficult to qualify the importance of one aspect over the other in contributing to the success of the game. Minecraft’s freedom is clearly essential to it’s character, players recognise it by it’s lack of narrative, open play, multiplayer, even the ability to create and share plugins that change the very functioning of the game. Online platforms, however, were essential in exposing the game to a much wider demographic, to people who wouldn’t have heard of the game otherwise and perhaps wouldn’t have been interested in it had it not been presented to them through different angles by people they have learnt to trust. Perhaps the best way to describe the importance of fans is as a catalyst, increasing the potential extent of success of a game that is already well-built to achieve it. Therefore, as a practitioner, it is important to not just produce a game with success in mind; but to produce a game from the ground up for fans, because if they can be engaged then they will naturally bring success to the game themselves.

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Jamie De Vivo

(15 Posts)

I'm a digital producer and fourth year student at The Media School at Bournemouth University. Summarising myself is a difficult task, so I'll just leave it to the blog. But my posts will focus on everything from web and app development to behavioural science. Specifically you'll also find my views and advice on cameras, editing, business, culture, mentality, my adventures and my DIY projects. Enjoy.
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