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A communications challenge? Game on

Games aren’t just something nerds play in dark rooms, or families squabble over at Christmas. 44’s Tom Ives explains why embracing games can help you top the comms leaderboard.

The best communications are tailored to their audiences so they make a lasting impression. The ‘This girl can’ TV advert stood out for me. It was expertly pitched and made me want to share the discipline and fun of exercise with my two daughters.

By considering how humans behave, and how and why we make decisions, you can create a great, tailored experience and produce a successful product or service – whether that’s a motivating advert, an inspiring film or an informative newsletter.

That same logic applies to games too. If they’re targeted accurately and executed well, there’s no better way to engage people.


Think about it. People use games as a way to learn and enjoy themselves. They’re fun, absorbing, challenging, educational and, at times, even addictive.

If you’re not convinced about the potential they have, consider eSports. This form of online competition, where people play video games either locally or online, is on the rise. And it’s not just to play – it’s also becoming increasingly popular to watch, with 24/7 dedicated TV channels now on Sky and ESPN. The NBA is even launching an eSports league next year, and The International 2016 eSports final was watched by thousands of people live in the stadium, with the winning team earning $9.1 million.

The value of games has also been recognised by the medical profession, with the game Neuroracer. This medical experiment uses experiences, instead of drugs, to treat people with cognitive issues. By measuring players’ brain activity through an ECG cap as they play, it’s been proved that people aged 50+ could increase their working memory and sustained attention to the same level as a 20-year-old over a few months.

Another great non-traditional use for gaming is reMission – a game created for children undertaking chemotherapy for leukaemia. The game allows them to fight off cancer virtually inside a body as a mini-superhero. Scientists observed increased joy, optimism and confidence levels in the players, which activated the brain circuits involved with motivation – the same parts of the brain associated with patients’ increased adherence to treatments.

Following clinical trials, reMission has helped more than 135,000 patients stick with their cancer treatments and gain a greater sense of personal empowerment and control over their disease.

Inspired yet?

Gamification is where typical elements of game playing – point scoring, competition with others, rules of play – are applied to other activities like marketing or communications to encourage engagement.

So if you need to move up a level with your communications, here are three ideas:

1. Living the dream

When asked for ideas to raise awareness of a client’s business strategy, we suggested a game that put the players in the shoes of the organisation’s leader.

Like SimCity or Farmville, the employee has to find the perfect format for the ever-changing needs of customers within different locations, budget constraints, a competitive market and challenging supply chains. The result? Serious, complex process messages made simple.

2. Friendly competition

A great example we’ve seen in the industry is Albert – the learning and development game Virgin Media retail uses for its staff.

Played on in-store iPads or employees’ personal Android and iOS devices, Albert keeps 1,200 sales execs in the know.

Users complete three daily challenges about their roles and the business, receiving ‘experience points’ every time they play and boosting their personal scores every time they answer correctly. An employee leaderboard shows who knows their stuff.

3. Points mean prizes

Nudge is an app to reward employee behaviour, used by companies including Compass Canada and Unimin. Frontline staff use Nudge on their personal devices to receive commercial updates and information, like daily offers and product news to help customer service.

Employees who read the updates get a few points and those who act on it (upselling or pushing offers) are rewarded with more. This is a way to encourage engagement by turning points into actual rewards for employees – money, benefits or products.

Hopefully you’ve now got your head in the game. And we’ll give you 44 points if you gamify your next communications project…

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