As part of my volunteering activities to serve the community, I teach public speaking to 14 year old school children at a local school on Saturday mornings. Sometime ago, one of the challenges I noticed was that students would not applaud and cheer when one of their peers completed a speech on stage. Worse, many of them would speak to each other and be distracted while one of their classmates was speaking. As you can imagine, this was demotivating for the young speakers, many of whom were giving a speech for the first time in their lives.
Then, I introduced a simple idea which has changed the atmosphere of these sessions considerably. With the help of a few “student officers”, we divided the class into four “houses” (groups) that competed against each other in a friendly manner. Next, we started giving points to the group that was the most enthusiastic audience. Overnight, we had a class full of hyper-interested students that were willing to listen carefully to their classmates’ speeches and cheer their progress.
The human brain is wired to play games. Competition, evaluating and managing risks, teamwork, chasing goals while overcoming obstacles and staying within boundaries (rules) and keeping score are part of what make us human.
What is a Game?
Jesse Schell, author of the excellent book – ‘The Art of Game Design’ offers this definition for a game:
“A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude.”
Now, what if we phrased the problem of marketing and promoting books using the “lens” of games? Then the game can be defined for readers in the broadest possible manner as:
“A game where you solve the problem of discovering new books and evangelizing them while having fun”
Now, maybe you’re thinking that this will never work. People are busy. They are serious. They don’t have time to play games. If this is your thought, then I ask you to reconsider … after thinking about the following examples:
1. The stock market – The stock market is a game. There are rules. There are goals (make as much money as possible while managing your risks.) And it can often be fun (especially if you make money!)
2. Discount sales – Have you ever been to a Labor Day sale at your local fashion store? Have you felt the rush of excitement as you get your hands on your favourite brand at 50% off? Here again, there is a problem (get a good product at a lower than normal price), there is competition and it is mostly fun.
3. The Wii – For most people, exercise can be boring. Then the Wii came along with the WiiFit and became a leader in the category of games called Exergaming. Overnight, many children who were glued to playing computer games started living more healthful lives by playing these games.
As can be seen from the above examples, even boring activities can be made exciting by bringing in some of the concepts of game design. At BookBuzzr, we’ve been hard at work trying to incorporate principles of game design into the book marketing and promotion process. For example, we’ve created a Hangman word game which allows authors to market their books in a unique format. In the example below, the author is attempting to capture the interest of those people who hate their bosses. All you have to do is to guess the ‘colourful’ name. As you can see this game would appeal to those who have had a bad boss. While they guess the words, they are likely to get interested in the author’s book.
There are many who are predicting the “gamification” of the entire world. There are some like Jane McGonigal who are predicting that gaming can even make a better world. If you want to get a sense for the kind of excitement that pervades this area, check out the video below.
Over the next month, the BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies Center will be presenting blog posts and webinars to help you understand the incredible potential of games and contests when it comes to promoting your books. Stay tuned!