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Tag, We're It

Feb 22, 2022

When I was a kid, my go-to video games were Pac Man, Frogger, and Tempest. I enjoyed playing them and I was intrigued by them, even though I wasn’t very good at them. And there was just something about being outside that captivated me more than playing video games. Not saying I was more advanced or disciplined than other kids, I was just high energy and got bored quickly staring at a screen for hours on end.

So, as an adult, when games like Farmville and Candy Crush became all the craze, I wondered what it was that held people's collective attention. I also was amazed at the size of the virtual communities created by games like Second Life and Minecraft. And now, here we are, living within the roadmap of Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to TikTok to Metaverse. Seems like we’re going from playing games, to video games, to virtual reality, to augmented reality, to… what’s reality?

I remember in 2016, Pokémon Go took the country by storm, making location based augmented reality mobile games relevant and mainstream. It was a common topic of discussion, not just amongst gamers, but “non-gamers” like me, and parents, and teachers, and coaches. Whether we were playing the game or not, we realized it was all around us and we were affected by it. I mean, I had a friend spending real money to tend to virtual tomatoes. What gives?

I decided to dive in and study the dynamics of games like Pokémon Go, which thrives on users capturing virtual creatures. Let’s think about that for a moment. Real human beings (users) get captured in the pursuit of capturing virtual creatures (Pokémons). Who’s really capturing whom? Are we disciplined consumers or are we actually being consumed? I’d like to think the former, but if we don’t find time to unplug and look around, we may wake up and realize we’ve spent our savings tending to the virtual farm.

To protect our time, our wallet and our peace of mind, it’s important to know the science behind it all. The same dynamics that drive the virtual world are at the root of the most non-virtual game played in history - Hide and Seek. Hide and Seek is powered by four powerful and pure game dynamics/motivating emotions: Mystery, Incentive, Laugher and Empowerment (MILE™). The Mystery is in where the person is hiding. The Incentive is in the hider hiding and the seeker finding them. The Laughter is inevitable as two or more kids build friendship, community and trust in the spirit of play. And the Empowerment is in the ownership and control of the game when the hiders claim their space and the seeker proclaims, “ready or not, here I come”.

With these four, authentic, powerful and positive dynamics in the hands of children at play - with no profit in play - it becomes pure gold for the kids. When these same dynamics are in the hands of content creators, advertisers, promoters, etc. - with tremendous profit in play - it can also become pure gold…for those in charge of the game.

If we allow ourselves to get played into believing this is all a healthy replacement for true, authentic, human connection, then we’ve gone from consumer to consumed. Instead, let’s celebrate the productive elements of the video game/virtual reality/augmented reality phenomenon, learn from it, have fun with it, explore it, and then put the controller down, take control…and get back to reality.

The game is on, so let’s do our best to keep it real.

Tag, We’re It!

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