Storytelling Inspiration

4 Content Marketing Lessons from Video Games

Meg Cannistra By Meg Cannistra March 15, 2016

Video games played a large role in my adolescence. My mom was a huge Tetris fan and carried a Game Boy in her purse. My sisters and I would take turns playing Super Mario World on our SNES. I was so desperate to get a GameCube that I traded in a karaoke machine for extra funds to buy one. It was the immersive stories, the fun challenges, and the thrill of being transported to different worlds that kept me enthralled. I’m pretty sure most people my age enjoyed video games for the same reasons I did.

Video games aren’t just for kids, though. I still enjoy shooting zombies in Left 4 Dead 2 and collecting fossils in Animal Crossing. But they also go beyond entertainment. Now that video games have evolved, there’s so much to learn from them. We can use a lot of the gameplay and storytelling techniques that make video games so popular in our content marketing as well.

Below are 4 video games with great content marketing lessons. Play them sometime! If anyone asks, just tell them you’re doing research.

Portal

Content Marketing Lesson from Portal Update Source: Portal / Half-Life Wiki

It took me an embarrassingly long time to finish Portal. I’m not the best at puzzle or platform games, so the pairing was rough going for me. Still, the game is unexpectedly addicting (both because of the gameplay and snarky OS). In the game, you play as Chell, a test subject that’s being instructed through a series of challenges by GLaDOS, a sadistic computer AI tasked with conducting tests.

Named one of the 100 greatest video games of all time by Time, Portal is universally acclaimed by critics and fans alike. One of the reasons so many love the game is because it presents genuinely difficult puzzles that keep players engaged for hours on end. Like I said, I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle games, but even I couldn’t resist the challenge Portal presented. I loved how it pushed me to think differently and to explore ideas I hadn’t previously considered

Content Marketing Takeaway

How often do you rehash the same tips and advice in your blog posts and eBooks? There’s nothing wrong with reiterating important information or reusing content, but if your audience keeps reading the same hackneyed ideas, chances are they’ll start tuning out. One lesson you can take from Portal is to challenge your audience with new and possibly contentious ideas. Rather than continuing to proclaim the same concepts as your competitors, challenge the status quo with fresh, unique content that’s more informative and takes a fresh slant.

The Last of Us

Content Marketing Lessons from The Last of Us Source: The Last of Us / Ain’t It Cool

Over the years, video games have evolved quite a bit from the 8-bit games where the main character had to save a princess over and over. With an advance in graphics came more three-dimensional characters. Today, video games tell real, human stories that resonate with players.

One of the best examples of a game that hits you right in the feels is Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. A third-person horror game, The Last of Us follows Joel, a man who must protect a young girl, Ellie, as they make their way through the post-apocalypse, zombie-infested United States.

Critics praised The Last of Us for its emotionally-driven story and thoroughly fleshed out characters. Naughty Dog managed to take a common horror trope (zombies) and turn it into a gripping, emotional story about the powerful bond between two people trying to survive against all odds. The Last of Us illustrates that focusing on the human aspect of a story makes it memorable and successful.

Content Marketing Takeaway

We often forget about building a human connection in our content. But taking the time to create an emotional story with well-developed plot points and characters can really help you form a relationship with your audience. The creators of The Last of Us could have easily relied on their zombies to carry the weight of the game and still made a decent profit. But the reason people are still talking about the game three years after its release is because they created a story that made a lasting impact. When thinking about how to bring a more emotional angle into your content, go beyond your topic to find a way to make a human connection.

The Sims

The Sims Content Marketing Lesson Source: The Sims / Sims Wikia

I became a fan of The Sims way back in 2000 when the game was little more than a computer version of playing with Barbie dolls. Now, 16 years later, I’m still obsessed with the franchise and will spend hours guiding my Sims through their daily lives (or, more realistically, spending all my time setting up pool-related traps for them). The Sims is a sandbox life simulation computer game, meaning there are no defined goals.

Why is an open-ended game where you’re making characters go to work, brush their teeth, and cook dinner one of the best-selling video game series of all time? Because the games know how to make the ordinary fun. As a kid, I loved being able to live out my dreams of being an adult through my Sims. It was fun sending my Sims to work, navigating them through awkward social situations, and watching a burglar steal their stove. As an adult player, The Sims is a stress-reliever. It’s nice taking control of someone else’s life and seeing how mundane tasks affect a Sims’ life.

Content Marketing Takeaway

Sometimes our content is valuable, but delivered in a boring package. As we’ve learned from The Sims, the ordinary can be fun and interesting if given the proper treatment. Even unsexy industries like healthcare and insurance have found ways to make their content fun. Static, old-fashioned content is no way to get your message heard in a world where 63% of Facebook and Twitter users are getting their news on social media. Try shaking things up with a video or interactive infographic to help your information stand out among the content noise and compel your audience to pay attention.

Pokemon: Create a Robust Team of Varied Content Types

Lessons in Content Marketing from Pokemon Heartgold Source: Pokemon HeartGold / YouTube

Similar to my obsession with The Sims, I’ve been a Pokemon fanatic since the very beginning (and I’ve got a horrible picture of seven-year-old me decked out in Pokemon gear to prove it). Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary and announced a new game, the Pokemon franchise is still a force to be reckoned with. Primarily played on Nintendo Game Boy and its successors, the Pokemon series of games follow a young protagonist as he or she ventures from his or her home on a quest to become a Pokemon Master.

On this journey, you must capture and train Pokemon and use them to battle against enemies, gym leaders, and other trainers. Strategy, imagination, and skill all come into play as you continue on your path to reach the top. The best way to become the next Ash Ketchum is to learn the different Pokemon types, their strengths, weaknesses, and moves. Once you understand how Pokemon deal damage and which type is best against another, you can build out a robust team that can take down any opponent.

Content Marketing Takeaway

Creating a robust team of varied content types for your content marketing program is just as important as building a diverse team of Pokemon. It’s easy sticking with what you know and producing blog post after blog post or an infinite number of white papers. After a while, though, your audience will get tired of the same content types and could potentially lose interest. Staying with one content type rather than adding many different kinds to your content arsenal can potentially put you in a position that leaves you defenseless against the competition. By varying your content types you can stay ahead of your competition and reach a larger audience while delivering your content in interesting ways.

The Bottom Line

Video games go beyond princess-saving quests and shooting zombies. We can learn a lot about creating interesting, varied, and emotionally-driven content. After all, these games are bestsellers for a reason.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of The Huffington Post.


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