Games Are Fascinating: Power On

Posted: October 20, 2011 in Books, Business Books
Tags: , , , , , , ,

We’re coming to the end of the series on Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. Future books won’t take me a week and a half to get through, but I couldn’t resist looking at this one in depth. Sally Hogshead has really broken down what it is about brands, messages, and people that capture our attention. I highly recommend taking a brief detour to her site to take the questionnaire that will reveal your F-Score, what triggers you naturally use to make people fascinated with you.


Power overwhelming

But today we come to a close with the final trigger for fascination: Power. Machiavelli, volcanoes, Batman . . . power compels us to pay attention. It can be an overwhelming force or a subtle suggestion. Power is about control. The potential to control others or the freedom to have complete control of yourself.

The video game industry has power. It’s such a huge monolith in the entertainment industry that there is no way it could not have influence. Gamers have gone from kids in front of a TV to the working world where they are teachers, managers, parents, and, increasingly, a large voter bloc. There’s more money tied up in the video game industry than there is in movies, and the amount is going up.

Power is one of the reasons we’re drawn to play video games. In the digital world you can be the primal force of Batman. Or you can bring down the embodiment of evil as the hero of Ferelden. You can be the subtle assassin Ezio, shaping history from the shadows. You can wander through Wonderland as Alice, knowing that the derranged creatures out to kill you exist only because you thought them up. You can be Sarah Kerrigan, with the fate of the universe resting in your hand. Video games allow us to try on the trappings of power and safely discard them when they find they no longer suit us.

One of the things that make video games so fascinating for me personally, is that spending so much time being the rockstar-spaceman-superhero-detectives is bound to rub off on the players. What is going to happen when we reach a critical mass of people who have had training in being in power?

So what are the pillars of Power? First, control the environment. In some games this is quite literal. In the Sims you have control over every aspect of the lives of the digital simulacrum that inhabit your world. There’s a reason this genre is referred to as “god games.” If that isn’t enough Power for you, pick up Age of Empires III or Starcraft II and build your own maps, scenarios, and challenges.

The second pillar is establishing a ranking system. Naturally, you want to be the top dog of this ranking system. This ties back in with the Prestige trigger a bit. Ladder rankings can show who’s at the top of the heap. But if you really want to go for power, you have to break out and make your own measurement and then dominate it.

The last pillar of power is the old carrot and the stick. You don’t have to go all Machiavelli and try to instill fear, but respect is more important than affection if you’re going to use Power as a mode of fascination. And here we touch upon one of the touchier parts of the video game industry: Digital Rights Management. The carrot offered by the industry is countless hours of fun. DRM is the stick. Whether it’s strict playability requirements like always-on internet connection or including a stipulation for arbitration in the EULA, companies can do more than take away your fun, they can impose stiff legal action. Leaving the huge piracy debate by the way side, there’s no doubt that it keeps people talking about a company, for better or worse.

And with that, dear readers, I’m off for the day. I just picked up a copy of Arkham City and intend to spend the next several hours borrowing some of Batman’s power.


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