Advertisers cannot ignore the social nature of gaming

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Fake news. Hate posts. Ranting and raving. Inappropriate content. These are just some of the reefs and shoals brands have to navigate as they seek the harbor of brand safety. Add that to the barriers that exist for us, the users, as we seek a safe approach to our own digital engagement, and you’ve got a serious challenge for the industry as a whole.

Clearly, the current Facebook boycott is front of mind as brands struggle to find new outlets to reach critical audiences in meaningful ways that provide not just a ’safe harbor’ for their messages but also measurement, credible viewability data, verifiable engagement, and of course, outcomes like sales.

The channel of all channels

While time and users will decide the fate of our so-called tech giants (a term I dip in sarcasm), there is a channel that already exists. It is not the next digital messiah –many have already claimed that title. This channel is already here and ripe for brand expansion. Better yet, it meets all the criteria I listed above.

I refer to the world of gaming and esports. This world is social, if not more so than Facebook or Twitter, and immersive in ways they never will be. With an aggregated, diverse audience bigger than any single social platform (a whopping 2.7 billion gamers worldwide!), gamers are active, focused, and spending money. Think Fortnite, Angry Birds, and the Sims – these are games that people use as platforms for meeting with friends, making new friends, and building online communities.

Gaming, specifically social gaming, is in our human DNA, baked in and part of who we are. Today, this channel is empowered in ways we only once dreamed about. Many of today’s most popular games are multiplayer games (Fortnite again) in which players can only succeed when they team up, ultimately leading to the kind of collaboration and communication we’d expect to see from in-person board games or team sports.

Gaming is, has been, and will always be social

The truth is, the moniker ’social gaming’ has long confused and befuddled me. Aren’t most games social by design? Hasn’t a big part of the experience always been about human interaction? Gaming is about people coming together, some as players, some as audience, and even some as higher authorities, to play, to share, to win, and yes, to lose. Have you ever seen an esports tournament? These live events can draw numbers that put even the super bowl to shame! How about an in-game concert? Recently, over 27 million players digitally danced around during Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert tour.

The bottom line is that our digital era has not created social gaming. In fact, there is ample historic evidence that games played a role in the development of civilizations and culture. Games bonded people, taught them skills, delineated status, and even had religious significance.

From prehistoric times until today, games have been core to popular ethos, worldview, and even the passing of information to future generations. Primal Twitch DNA can be found as early as 5,000 years ago in Turkey where 49 small carved and painted stones were found in a burial mound at Başur Höyük. Although many games were for the elite, ancient graffiti can attest to the popular spread of gaming for all.

And I haven’t touched athletic games: played and watched by, multitudes, social, interactive, manipulative, political, religious, cultural, brutal.

Video games - A continuation of what always was

To make us just a bit more humble, the first video game dates back to 1958 when a Physicist, William Higinbotham, created what was arguably the world’s first early version of Pong.

Since then, we’ve seen an incredible explosion of creativity and advancement in video games. This brings us to today – a time in which video gaming is so widespread and so social that it's become a key part of global culture.

I’m a video gamer and still in awe of the magnificence of today’s games that combine all the aspects of gaming including athletics in ways that are, frankly, the fantasies of my youth.

I remember an early American football game that sent little plastic 3D players scurrying across a vibrating metal board and wondering what it would be like if you could actually control them, have strategy, challenge teams… Madden, anyone?

Stay tuned for more insight about advertising, gaming, and culture in the next article in this series on behalf of Anzu.

David Sable, senior marketing executive and advisor at Anzu.

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