Betty Adamou, CEO & Founder, Research Through Gaming
‘Storytelling is a term us market researchers and consumer experts use to help create more engaging presentations and articulate insight to research buyers. But, for the past eight years, I’ve been using storytelling in a different, and arguably more important fashion as a by-product of designing and making games as instruments for research. My ‘ResearchGames’ replace the traditional ‘survey’.
In the ResearchGames I design, narrative is abundant; the participant is a fashion designer, an undercover agent, the head of a company, or a lost time-traveller from the future. Participants take on missions, meet other characters, have conversations and overcome obstacles. They are IN a story and help to SHAPE the story that unfolds, depending on their choices and behaviours.
For me, narrative is the most effective way of engaging participants in relevant emotive contexts and helps me design simulations that allow participants to experience an aspect of life, whether real or imagined, in a digital world.
Narrative also acts as a lasso where I can harmoniously draw together the game ingredients of Goals(s), Rules, Feedback, and Opportunities for Autonomy – the four keys that, when used together, unlock intrinsic engagement.
I was inspired to use games, and narratives as part of that, just over eight years ago. I worked at a market research agency, who, like any other agency, churned out traditional surveys. I thought ‘surely there is a better way to communicate with people than these boring surveys?’.
At the same time, I hadn’t grown out of the habit of playing games; videogames, card games, board games. I am, by nature, a playful person, or so I am told. I worked at my research job in the day. I played games at night.
The difference was that one screen was boring and cumbersome and users could barely keep their focus for 20 minutes, while the other screen captivated me, launched me in different roles and contexts where I underwent advanced cognitive tasks for hours on end, avoiding sleep and ignoring hunger. I felt emotions and felt complicit in situations, all from the comfort of my bedroom.
I’ll let you guess which screen was which.
So why do digital games, and their stories, captivate hundreds of millions of players around the world, from as young as 2 years old to 90+ years of age?
And why do ResearchGames gain better nationally representative sample, data quality and even untapped insight, with higher response rates and completion rates, and with rave reviews from participants, and have consistently contributed to the development of new products, deeper or renewed audience understanding, and supported more qualitative insight gathering on a quantitative scale?
It’s the same reason that individuals and businesses have been using Serious Games and Gamification to grow success in training, education, customer loyalty and other areas in industries as wide ranging as healthcare to crowd-funding. It’s because games encourage intrinsic engagement and play, and humans enjoy being in these states. It’s quite handy then that intrinsic engagement and play encourage creativity, stimulate the mind, boost problem-solving and allow people to perform (and even enjoy) what can sometimes be quite laborious or complex tasks; all qualities that researchers want in participants. These qualities are especially crucial when we consider how research has evolved; we no longer want to know what our users/customers/audience did yesterday, we want to know how they see, and what they want, for tomorrow.
This means that as researchers, we need to harness the imagination, use different degrees of role-play, immerse participants in different situations and worlds, in order for them to imagine and act out what ‘tomorrow’ is; all things games, and their stories, can do for market research.
And why is storytelling with participants more important than storytelling to the client? Because if we immerse participants in play and intrinsic engagement and with relevant and context-based narratives, then this directly shapes the stories our clients are told. Indeed, understanding how participants react in a ResearchGame narrative has helped me tell the right story to my clients.
And as market research evolves with AI and VR (and I predict even motion-capture technology) the breadth and abilities for storytelling in simulated environments with participants will be endless. When it comes to storytelling in ResearchGames, it isn’t technology that holds us back or even the pace of change, but our imaginations. I say we finally let our imaginations fly – for better research, and more effective research impact.
Find out more about storytelling and games for market research in Games and Gamification in Market Research by Betty Adamou, available now on Amazon and Kogan Page: www.gamesandgamification.com
Article published in the magazine ‘Investigación & Marketing’. Number 140 – September 2018.