Guest Post: PR and Video Games – what's the connection?

Longtime readers of this blog will know that Jens and I are big fans of video games as mass-entertainment medium and the effect they have on culture. That's why we asked Rick Weiss, who writes the Playing Games with PR blog to give us his thoughts on the connection between PR and Video Games. The switch to interactivity:

Video games, a huge medium in the North American entertainment industry, continues to grow and develop. Video games represented a huge advance in entertainment when they became mainstream in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s . Movies and television had been great fun for a number of decades but they were only a one-way medium. Video games brought interactivity to the small screen.

Lets take a look at PR and it's evolution over the past century or so. PR began with awareness and propaganda – one way messages being spread to audiences who took them at face value. It was coming from a credible source after all. In the past 20 years, there has been a movement in PR to push for two-way communication between organizations and audiences

Creating communities:

Video games create communities based on shared interests and experiences. One of my favourite video games is Starcraft. If I meet another fan, I immediately have something to discuss with them. And, unlike a shared interest in a TV show or movie, while talking about Starcraft we can discuss things that WE have done while playing games. It's common to talk and compare strategies and gloat about past victories. I've formed long-lasting friendships that began with a shared interest in video games.

PR aims to create communities through various communications strategies. By generating discussion about a desired topic, people are brought together. Earth Hour, organized by WWF, generated a lot of discussion both face-to-face and in the "blogosphere".

As a communications tool:

Video games offer a great communications medium. Games are fun and interactive; people get to DO things in video games, which makes them great potential learning tools. A good game evokes emotion in the player which solidifies the message in the game. By communicating a good message through a well made game, players will be likely to feel favourably towards the represented organization or cause. I'm not saying this is easy, or can be effective for every cause. You really need to understand your audience, but games can make powerful communications tools.

Connection #1: In the past 20-30 years, video games have made entertainment interactive while in the past 20 years PR has pushed to create interactive communications models.

Connection #2: Video games and PR both build communities.

Connection #3: Video games and PR can work together to communicate a message in a powerful way.

-Rick Weiss