If there is one thing that drives how much I will hype a game to my friends, its how much I’m thinking about it outside of playing it.
Nine times out of ten, when I’m around other people, I’m not at the same time playing games. So your game has to last in my head for longer than while I’m playing it. Sometimes when I hit that game that hits just the right spots in my brain, I get obsessed, and I will eat, sleep, and breathe that game for the next few months.
When you want word of mouth advertising. I’m the kind of mindset you want to target. So what kind of things trigger my obsessions? There are four things I can think of off my head, and I’ll provide an example game that does each.
Planning your Party
Look, in some games, planning your party takes about five minutes. There isn’t much to choose from, just which three characters out of seven do you want to take with you. Not a lot of thought there.
But then there are games on the other side. The epitome of this type of game is a series that everyone knows: Pokémon.
Pokemon gives you 100s of different “characters” to use in your party, and each one can have slightly different stats based on personality, how you train it, and just for being individual. And then you can teach them different moves… there is just so much going on in how you build a team in Pokemon.
When I’m playing a Pokemon game, I almost spend more time with online pokedexes than I do with the game. Planning out what I should catch, what types I should try to cover, what personalities I should have on each one. In all likelihood, the Pokemon team you field will be different from every other team that has been used before. It’s like shuffling a deck of cards, there are just so many different combinations.
A Deep Game World
In some games, the world is pretty much what you expect. Fantasy world, old wizards, pious clerics, savage orcs, and graceful elves.
Then there is the other type. The game where everything was made up for that world and you can’t even fit all the explanations into the game itself easily. Or there are tons of parts that you may not see, or tiny details that aren’t necessarily obvious until you think about it later.
Nier is one of those games.
Nier is a world created by an event that is talked about only so briefly in the end. Combined with some New Game+ dialogue and some loading screens you can piece together a lot of what happened, but there is just so much to tell, because the world itself has so much history outside of the game.
I can spend time looking up fan conversations about what really was happening, or find the translated Grimoire Nier Japanese only guide book that talks about the full history. There is an entire history to talk about, to dissect, to discuss with your friends.
Reflecting on Strategy
Sometimes in games, you lose. You can’t quite finish out the boss or you just can’t beat the climactic rush of enemies near the end of the game.
When that happens in this type of game, your brain immediately fires in trying to think of what you could have done differently. It wasn’t that your reflexes just weren’t good enough, it was that your strategy wasn’t that great, and you can improve it.
The game I always think of that has this aspect, is Persona 4.
Even after I turned the game off, I would still be thinking about what I could have done better, what mistakes I had made. Some of those thoughts could have been wrong, and sometimes I come back and prove myself right, but the most important thing is that I’m constantly thinking about the game, which is what you want me to be doing.
Morally Ambiguous Characters
This one might be a bit more personal to me, though I’ve seen it a lot with others as well. It’s also a bit more specific. With the last one, I think about if I made the right choice strategically. With this one, I’m left to wonder if the characters made the right choice morally.
One of my favorite characters from any game embodies this question. Delita Heiral of Final Fantasy Tactics.
I’ve spent hours and hours on message boards discussing whether Delita was a selfish man, driven by revenge, or a righteous man who utilizes questionable means to achieve what he desires. He spends the majority of the game lying, manipulating, and killing, but the purpose of all of that is to create a better kingdom. Or so he says. Does he really mean it? Or is that just one more lie to get people to follow him in his crusade to destroy the system that killed his sister?
We may never know. I know what I think, but my opinion on it is no more valid than the next, though I’ll still defend it to the end.
You want your game in peoples heads. Even when they aren’t playing it. THAT is what forms word of mouth advertising. And there are tricks to keeping things in peoples heads. The above work for me, do they work for you? What in a game makes it stick in your head long after you put down the controller? Join the conversation in the comments section below!