SAN FRANCISCO — “Authenticity” in the gaming sphere is both a simple and profoundly complex topic, representing the connection between the ideas, people, and brands being presented in games and the people playing them.
In a talk at GamesBeat 2015 yesterday called “Why authenticity is gaming’s north star,” speakers Greg Vederman of Twitch and Matt Wolf of the Coca-Cola Company addressed the topic in-depth. Wolf heads up the global gaming division at Coca-Cola, which some people might be surprised even exists, given that Coca-Cola’s core product is soft drinks. Wolf, however, is no stranger to the industry, having worked previously at Electronic Arts and Sega of America. He’s devising ways to harness the reach of gaming in order to strengthen the appeal of the globally recognized Coca-Cola brand — such as this year’s Game-a-thon event — and in turn improve gaming experiences.
Vederman is the director of custom solutions at Twitch, where he works directly with brands to develop strategies for connecting with viewers.
“Creating games today is akin to social media,” Wolf said. “The two are inextricably linked. Because of that, people are communicating nonstop.” Because people are constantly communicating, they are a lot more aware and savvy of what they’re being presented. “If you build things that are meaningful and have value… [consumers can be] incredibly rewarding and loyal.” He points out that when Coca-Cola works with its partners in the gaming sphere, they go through an intensive process of iteration in order to build experiences that are unique and have longevity with the gaming community.
“For Twitch, brands come to us looking for help with authenticity … we will tell them the best way to do that for [our] community,” Vederman said. But this, he pointed out, could be a challenge — some firms are still a bit mystified by Twitch and game streaming in general, and they can be a bit reluctant to take suggestions for furthering their brand to the Amazon-owned company’s audience. Sometimes he might have a great idea, only to have to work and compromise on concepts with the partners in order to bring things to fruition.
Being seen as not “authentic,” however, can be a toxic problem. Gamers are a notoriously loud and demanding group, and damage to a brand’s or game’s perception can be difficult to repair. Wolf argues that many brands fail to understand how closely games and social media are tied together, and that gamers are a very smart bunch overall.
“They’re going to see through BS real fast,” Vederman said. “They’ve also been marketed to for a long time badly, so they’re sensitive … nobody wins if the brand brings something to the platform that the audience sort of cringes at.”
But Vederman also noted that when ideas can connect with players through the gaming sphere, it works beautifully. “To see a brand deliver really cool content in a way that’s… resonating with [consumers]… when you see it and it’s working, it excites the hell out of me.”
Ultimately, the two agreed that a genuine passion from creators lies at the heart of perceived authenticity on the consumers’ end, and that it’s the most important element in the mix. “It’s got to come from a real place,” says Wolf. “Things need to be meaningful, or why are you doing what you’re doing?”