Fun Social Gaming Experiences
How do we create more of them?
Creating new habit-forming social gaming experiences is really hard. Why? Because, we have to figure out the best ways to maximize the integration of the gaming, the social gathering space that faces or surrounds the gaming, the services that help to enhance the quality of the social gaming experience (food & beverage, ease of reservations & payments, as well as the staff members who facilitate the overall experience), plus the triggers, which are hugely important to encouraging more repeat visits to occur.
The ingredients listed above are the essential building blocks that make up a Fun Social Gaming experience and must be fully developed and integrated to work together to maximize the likelihood of habit formation. Habit formation is what ultimately enables Fun Social Gaming Experiences to be successful for the long-term.
An important hack to creating fun habit-forming social gaming experiences is incorporating the types of games that are already popular. There are many popular gaming genres that have been around for a very long time. For example, throwing and shooting games – using balls of all sizes and shapes, plus pucks, darts, axes, and more. Then there are driving games, trivia games, skill games, card games, and many others – all of which can be competitive player vs player (good) or team vs team (even better). The best games to incorporate are the ones that have been around for a very long time and will continue to be popular far into the future.
Newly invented games that are not similar to other existing games have to overcome a learning curve. But, before players get to the learning curve part, the game must be marketed to enough potential players and a large enough percentage of them must be sold on giving it a try – this is a very big hurdle. We painfully know the challenges of introducing new concepts, because on more than one occasion, we pushed to develop new and supposedly better concepts, but they failed – even though some of them were really fun to play.
When introducing a new game, it must be really, really, really fun to play. It has to create its own fanatical following. It must be loved by enough people to have the remotest of chances of becoming a successful game. Even then, it might only be popular for a short period of time, because those same players are likely to be drawn back to playing their favorite perennial games. This is why trying to create a new, unrecognizable or unfamiliar game may be the next best definition for insanity.
With our new high-end gamified Axe Throwing attraction, our goal is to provide our guests and your guests with the ability to choose from a wide variety of recognizable or very familiar looking games that need little to no explanation.
There are two things that our human brains really like – one is having several options to pick from and the other is being able to choose an option that is recognizable or at least very familiar.
Thinking about something unfamiliar is not what our brains want to do.
In fact, our brains will work diligently to avoid thinking about unfamiliar situations or choices and especially ones that require a lot of thought – this means unfamiliar games are far less likely to get picked.
The idea that humans love trying new things or more specifically things they don’t recognize is total BS – it’s just plain wrong.
Humans love to make their own choices, but only from a limited number of familiar ones – the leap, if there is one, is going to be very small.
For example, in the winter we might go snow skiing, but then in the summer we are much more likely to go water skiing than horseback riding. When we were kids we loved the fun and freedom of riding our bikes and now that we are adults we go out and buy a Harley (or sports car), which will enable us to have fun and be free again! We almost always pick similar or familiar choices that help us to achieve the same perennial goals (i.e. to have fun, gain a sense of freedom, etc).
Throwing an axe at a target has been around for a very long time, but it wasn’t until the last few years that it suddenly became a much wider and growing social gaming phenomenon. Maybe it reached some kind of tipping point or maybe it’s just similar enough to throwing darts into a dart board that our brains connected the dots and said this is like (x). Or, maybe it reminds us of when we were kids and we learned how to shoot an arrow into a target using a bow at the YMCA, Boyscouts, or a backyard.
The fact that Axe Throwing has spread like wildfire in the last few years means that it must have some core recognizable attributes that make us think we can do it or at least want to try it.
When we took on the development of a high-end Axe Throwing attraction, the key question for our development team was – how do we make it dramatically better?
From a gamification standpoint, axe throwing has not been done at a very high level especially when it comes to designing it with the triggers needed to become a habit-forming social experience.
It’s important to note that only a small percentage of Axe Throwing places have figured out that throwing an axe at a simple, painted-on target that never changes is a recipe for failure. There needs to be a much wider number of games that are recognizable, highly fun, easy to play, and specifically designed for the larger market of casual players (not the axe pro or semi-pro players).
These recognizable, fun, and easy to play games must attract a large enough number of casual players to make the attraction successful in the short-term and medium-term. BUT, it needs all the other parts (social gathering spaces that face or surround the gaming, the services (food & beverage, easy reservations & payments, and a good staff), plus the integrated triggers that will ultimately make it a long-term success).
We have already incorporated over a dozen popular games into our Axe Throwing attraction (plus 8 more are being developed) and now we are adding additional bells and whistles that will enhance the overall experience. This includes lighting and audio effects as well as enhanced seating and guest services that maximize the social part of the experience.
An Axe Throwing attraction has to be staffed with Axe-perts that know how to maximize the fun of each game and, most importantly, to help their axe participants to safely and quickly learn how to throw and stick an axe. The Axe-pert must also lead each group down the most fun social path. This is done by helping them to select the most appropriate games based on the overall skill level of the players within the group as well as the number of participants playing.
In addition, the Axe-pert shows the participants how to use the automated touch screen scoring software and how to browse and select different games – including new (recognizable and familiar) games that have been added since their last visit.
Important note: the operating side of helping our guests to maximize their enjoyment of our Fun Social Gaming Experiences with their friends, family, groups, and fellow guests is very different from what is required to operate an arcade.
What’s the point with the Important note above? We can’t operate an Axe Throwing attraction, or any other Fun Social Gaming Experience, like they are just another game being added to the arcade.
Arcade games were never designed to be highly social gaming experiences. They were designed to operate autonomously without much need for staff interaction, which is a very big plus and another reason why so many arcades are highly profitable.
Social Gaming requires more work and creative integration of hardware and software along with staff members to assist with elevating the overall experience.
Designing Social Gaming experiences is complex. It requires us to combine the elements of gaming, socializing, along with services like eating and drinking, in a highly synergistic way. It requires a different operating approach, which includes training our staff members and providing them with the tools and systems required to enhance and maximize the combination of all these experiences. And, we must not forget about integrating the triggers that will bring our guests back for their next visit.
The ultimate goal is to fully integrate The Power of ALL 4 in order to provide our Guests with the ability to Play, Socialize, Eat, and Drink in reserved gathering spaces with their friends, family, groups, and fellow guests.
As social creatures, people need places where they can gather and bond. It’s all of our jobs to provide great ways to come together in the same space to play, socialize, and bond.
If you would like to receive a personal online presentation of our gamified LED Illuminated Axe Throwing attraction, please reach out to Ann Kessler (305) 257-3930 or Greg Watches (716) 748-6430.
Thanks for reading,