Category Archives: Gaming

What blogs should I follow?


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I have just purged the blogs I follow and I find myself looking for some new perspectives.

Do you have any recommendations? I would love to hear them! Send me your comments below or on twitter.

Looking forward to your suggestions!

The virtue of virtual

Woman wearing a Samsung headset by Nan Palmero

2016 saw an explosion in virtual experiences created by brands for their customers. And by virtual experiences I don’t just mean VR. If you look closely there has been an expansion in all kinds of virtual experiences from chatbots, to drawing applications to AR games. We’ve arrived at a crossroads in communications technology.

One key driver of this explosion is clearly cost. VR was prohibitively expensive only two years ago, but is gradually coming within reach of even home users. Oculus Rift comes in at under $600 and Google Cardboard works with any smartphone and is just $20. Couple that with ever increasing processing power that is now available on small handsets or headsets and it’s clear that we have reached a tipping point in quality for these kinds of interaction. And quality plus cost is driving uptake from both brands and consumers.

But it’s not just about practical realities. For something to take off in this way there has to be a deeper resonance with a human need or desire. I believe it boils down to three key factors:

  • Hyper-real
  • Storydoing brains
  • Expectations of connection


Mintel have identified a search for authenticity that has been driving brand interactions for some years now. It can manifest in searching for the  an expectation that brands will be more open and more honest in conversation. But it can also manifest in a desire to come closer to ‘the real thing’, particularly when that thing is difficult to show in reality. Take for example Samsung’s gear VR rollercoaster, Yes, they have used it to demonstrate the power of Gear but they are also bringing a familiar moment in which to experience that. It’s relatable and understandable and it’s excitingly realistic. Other great examples of a desire for the hyper-real include Marriott’s The Teleporter, which allows you to travel to a Hawaiian beach and  London hotel and Merrell’s virtual hike which combines vision and movement to create a walk in the Dolomites which is actually scary! Land Rover’s recent I-Pace VR at the LA Auto Show is a prime example of this. A futuristic landscape combines with the real features and design of the forthcoming electric vehicle to create a deeply immersive experience about a product you can’t yet buy, but will be purchasable in the near future.

VR offers the chance to bring to life near future scenarios particularly in product development or display that drive uptake and excitement. This isn’t dreaming it’s hyper-reality.

Storydoing brains

lockheed-mars-bus_6Our brains are hard-wired for stories.  Bowker reports that over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009, which is more than triple the number of books published four years earlier  Even logical problems are more easily solved when they are embedded inside the fictional world of story. We also experience the world through a combination of senses. For this reason a story that goes beyond the telling to the directly experiential, the doing, is a powerful way of communicating. Virtual experiences can take us beyond even what we can imagine to a new way of experiencing messages and moments. Take, for example, the Lockheed Martin VR bus that let children ride to school as if they were living on Mars. or Superman VR Roller Coaster at Six Flags amusement park.

We love stories and virtual experiences can tell us stories in new and immersive ways. Why wouldn’t we gravitate towards them?

Expectations of connection

Service has become a price of entry for any brand in the market but expectations of service are dramatically different even than they were 5 years ago.  Social media has brought immediacy and changed expectations of what counts as ‘fast’; a global ‘always on’ culture has driven an expectation of 24/7 interaction, and customers feel more empowered. To provide the kinds of service that people need brands have turned to robots. These range from intelligences like Watson from IBM which can drive extremely human like interactions with physical robots such as Pepper  to much simpler chatbots who can answer the most common customer questions completely on brand, and 24/7, like Audi’s chatbot from the Frankfurt auto show.

This ‘Robot Renaissance’ as Rohit Bhargava calls it, focuses as much around striving to be as human as possible as it does around replacing humans, a kind of Virtual Humanity, if you will. And with machine learning these kinds of virtual interactions will only become more lifelike and satisfying.

What is the value to brands?

Clearly for brands who have technology at their heart the move into all things virtual is simply a stop on their journey. But you can only ride that wave for so long before everyone is doing it and you no longer stand out. Where then is the value in this virtual world we are creating?

As products become commoditized so experiences that communicate what a brand stands for become essential. They’re the differentiator, the reason to believe and to buy.  The best virtual  experiences bring humanity, connection and dreams to life in a way that is expressive of the brand. They generate an emotional moment that allows the consumer to really understand what you are about and to form an affinity with your product, brand or positioning which is rooted in personal experience.

Virtual experiences that create connections, drive emotions, and deliver immersions will make your brand stand out in a sea of gimmicks and lightweight conversations. The virtual world is your oyster.

an ingenious illusion

Those who read the blog regularly will know that I received a hologram from the nice folks at B-MAX as part of an awareness campaign around the coming launch. The next step in the pre-launch activity is now out there in the world and has been done by my company, Imagination. Hope you enjoy the illusion and if you have an iPhone maybe download the app so you can do an ingenious illusion yourself!

Gamification of therapy or gaming for good

“Up to a quarter of young people will have experienced a depressive disorder by the age of 19…However, fewer than a fifth of young people with depressive disorder receive treatment, partly because of shortages in the workforce.”

This quote is taken from a BMJ review of a 3D fantasy game environment, SPARX. It has been developed in New Zealand to help adolescents with mild to moderate depression who would otherwise be referred to traditional cognitive treatments and is in fact based on CBT.  A simplistic definition of CBT is this: it works on the premise of identifying negative thoughts, recognising that they are just thoughts or repetitive thought cycles and thereby dealing with them, instead of letting the depression cycle downwards.

The game provides fantasy spaces where the players combat and destroy game elements that represent typical thoughts.

And according to the BMJ review and research, it works. The results are equal to or better than the results from traditional treatment methods. Around 44% of those who played SPARX recovered completely from depression, compared with 26% of those in regular treatment.

I love gaming and though I’m not recommending  World of Warcraft as a therapeutic environment for the depressed (the pleasure of zapping demons aside) there is something powerful that role-playing games achieve in placing you in a different “brain-space”. It can create a space in which to explore adventure and imagination so why not a safe space to engage in therapeutic activity.

It will be interesting to see if the story is widely picked up on in the media. It’s much juicier to say that a boy killed his friends because he’d been playing Grand Theft Auto than it is to say that a young depressed girl was prevented from self-harming or anorexia through playing a fantasy role-playing game.
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when it freezes over

Ogilvy are “freezing” the Senate building tonight using projection art from Seeper the art collective. There will be 4 lasers that you can interact with and images of people skiing, climbing etc. down the building. The aim is to draw attention to the latest model S-Max, the people carrier for sporty, male types.

My questions are:-

How many of the target audience work around Senate House? Or is the aim to create an asset that goes on YouTube and can help win awards regardless of the audiencee?

How many of the Visteon pensions action group will be there? (Potentially quite a few when you look on the Facebook group of the 150 people who have said they will be attending)

Would the lasers enable me to hack the climbers/skiers off the tower thus allowing me to fulfill my James Bond villain ambitions?

Sorry if I sound jaded, but to create an event that has any meaning it has to be in the right place with the right message, not just generate some beautiful assets for YouTube that reflect the tv ad campaign. And I’m sure they will be beautiful and fun.

But relevant?

Foursquare – what’s the point?

I have had two discussions about the point of Foursquare with two very different people,  but both are heavily involved in social media – Russ Goldsmith and Ciaran Norris. In both cases we kind of agreed that at the moment there seems to be little point and actually, do you need to have a point with a game?

And it is a game – even though there are some interesting examples of brands using it to promote their activities.

What I find interesting about it, however, is emerging methods of use. After all, Twitter really became the vibrant social space that it is when people started to connect beyond what they had for breakfast. When they began to connect for business and world real-time gossip.

I used Foursquare the other day to find a restaurant. Instead of going to Google which I also have on my phone I went to Foursquare because I was sure it would be tagged and more importantly would tell me how far away from it I was and give me the address without even having to type it in. Being a bit of a useless navigator this was incredibly useful.

The fascinating thing about social spaces is the way that the users make them their own and I believe that this is where the interest lies in networks like Foursquare. It’s not about what you are told they have to do by their creators – it’s about what you end up doing by accident that shapes their future.

Top 10 Top 10s

Ok I am going to cheat and include some 25s and some 5s but since everyone likes to sum up a year or a period of record sales or whatever the hell you care to mention by using top 10s I thought I would too. Only I would point away from myself to some interesting pieces and writing by others. Here goes:
10. Top 25 Auto brands discussed online – Does it equate to sales?

9.  Top 13 Science Stories of 2008 on Wired – including a couple of ETs

8.  Top 10 Strategic technologies for 2009 – including cloud computing of course and green computing

7.  Top 10 predictions for the mobile marketplace in 2009 – refreshing to see someone say that “Monile TV still won’t take off in 2009′ . Props for the most realistic prediction!

6. Top 6 predictions for digital advertising – my favourite being digital linking to the physical world. About time.

5. Top 42 marketing predictions from Junta – whether there is much value in having 42 predictions  I don’t know (let’s face it some of them have to come true). However, I like the exuberance of it in these crunchy times.

4. Top 10 games of 2008 from the Guardian – predictably including Tombraider Underworld, delightfully including Spore, pleasingly includng World of Warcraft and frustratingly including Fable II when I haven’t even played Fable yet.

3.  Top 10 most powerful blogs – Predictable but keep going to the top 50 for some more interesting options

2.  Top 10 most obvious news stories of 2008 – scroll past the “photos” of food (why?!) to get some corkers.

1. Top 30 failed technology predictions – always good to avoid hubris…

anna’s phone

At last – it looks like Nokia might be back on their Nokiagame type form of yesteryear.

They appear to be launching a game/story event called Anna’s phone. I don’t know if you saw the advert last night, but there is already a whole load of attendant media around it. Go to and you can see the first ad.

Or check this one out below – one of the other characters, Jade, features in this one. Needless to say all characters have facebook pages and I am sure that more obscure sites will pop up around the place once the key phone (anna’s phone)  is “unlocked” in 6 days.

I certainly hope it is a game event and not simply a functionality campaign. It’s been developed by W+K so I imagine it will be professional and intriguing. It stands to reason that they bring back this kind of campaign now as convergence grows ever closer and all the tools that would have extended the Nokia Games naturally (ie social networking tools) are well embedded and well understood by the target market.

Right – am now off to the V&A for a client meeting. From the forefront of beautiful technology to the home of beautiful design. Appropriate.

Unsung hero

Maybe it’s the matter box, maybe it’s a couple of projects we have on the go at work, (probably both) but I think it’s time to big up Nokia game. In the late 90s and early 00s Nokia ran a series of what can realistically be described as ARGs to market new models. Starting before what is probably known as the first ARG The Beast they variously employed television/radio/flat plane ad space as narrative drivers, online gaming, community competitive gaming, mobile content and contact, share dealing environments and teams working together to solve storylines and puzzles for the ultimate prize….no not a new Nokia, a great time!

The last “game” was in 2004 and to be honest it wasn’t great because it was a broadband project ahead of it’s time and I couldn’t even play it on our work network the content was so video heavy. But it did have all the classic

What was so brilliant about it was that the product was so embedded in the experience that it didn’t feel like a marketing exercise where things like The Art of the Heist which Audi did in 2005 for the A3 just felt like it was designed to sell, sell, sell.

This is the kind of content that Nokia are producing now – – which is fun but…

We need to deliver more genuinely 360 projects as consumers move increasingly off broadcast media and into interactive environments. The medium is the message and in a multi-media environment we need multi-media messaging that actually reflects the type of experience users desire in those media, not simply messaging that tries to continue a broadcast identity in a conversational environment.

I’m not saying anything you don’t already know but you might not know of Nokia Game. You can’t play them any more (boo) but you can find out what made them so great. I advise you to do so.

Soho plays

Last night I attended a networking event at insync in 01zeroone, which is the basement of Westminster Kingsway college. They hold free events for industry types from all kinds of media, but with a digital focus.

Last night we were workshopping the key challenges and some solutions for a junta involved in building an ARG for the London Games Festival fringe. It was the fringe that really started me blogging in earnest at about this time last year when I heard Pat Kane talk on his ideas about th eso I has a special place in my heart (elsewhere in the “blogosphere”).

All the usual gaming luminaries were there (eg Dan Hon, Adrian Hon and Paul Bennan) and it was great fun and hopefully I will be getting involved in the labs to fully develop the storyline and gameplay.

The net provides opportunities for multi player games and alternate universes like never before. Team new platforms with old expressions like the work of Punchdrunk Theatre or the kind of games I helped create for the Hide and Seek Pervasive gaming festival back in May and you have a fantastic world that is as large or as small as your engagement with it.

Tim Wright believes that these kinds of games will be the key cultural expression of the 21st Century. I’m inclined to agree.