In honor of the summer vacation months, I now turn my head to how technology emulates and influences our traditions of past and future. I was motivated to do so one day as I was anticipating my own vaunted getaway. I found myself repeating a practice that I thought had no connection to modern interactive marketing trends – only to realize, I was wrong. Again.
What I was repeating is a long practiced road-trip tradition of mentally inventorying road-trip games. These various kill-time endeavors reach from the annoying to useful to truly annoying to the essential. Games like – “Name that Semi” – a game where you try and call the truck maker name of a truck before others in the car. In my day, just answering MACK Truck would net you 80% score without fail – it’s a harder game to play these days. Or this one – “Punch bug yellow” – my children insist on playing this game 24/7 – 365 and my arm is sick of it. (If you couldn’t tell, this is one of the “truly annoying” and painful games. But my favorite and a favorite of every experienced road-trip-traveled parent is: “Who can be quietest, the longest?” This one is always executed with the wishful thought that “if only I could have started this a 1/2 hour ago.” If these don’t strike a cord, Susan Fox’s article, Classic Road-Trip Games of Disney Family Fun has hand-ful more classics to give you the idea.
The surprising thing is – each and every one of these arcane and inane games shares a surprising common thread of connection to our modern technical lives. They are all classic forms of the now in-vogue marketing strategy/term – Gamification. As Wikipedia defines it: gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the application and become engaged with it.
I see it as a marketing effort to turn either a brand interaction from boring to fun OR provide a fun experience during those times when a user is well – bored. Which of course – is the point of road-trip games. They are always engaged after hitting the n-teenth mile where everyone is about to keel over.
I guess this too has become the reason technology Gamified or “funware” brand experiences have become in vogue. Apparently, all those people constantly checking-in, FarmVilling out, earning badges and becoming the mayor are just too bored with walking, crossing-the-street or say, engaging with the friend who’s house they just walked into on a visit.
And here is where the road-trip games and our new-tech versions differ. The first – engages, and forces the assembled mass to face and conquer an entertainment challenge together – in the here, and now. The other – pushes us away from the immediate situation, and people – and allows us to escape with a disconnected mass of “people” in the cloud. So, this is the life we lead, with modern portable electronic entertainment devices that keep us connected, directed and spaced-out.
As a marketer and creative – I’m intrigued and entertained by the gamification strategy – I just hope they never come up with a funwared experience of “Smell the flowers.”