Maybe I'm scratching my head on this one because I'm not really a gamer. Sure, I enjoy watching my boyfriend play games like Assassin's Creed and Uncharted, but have zero drive to pick up the controller and try it myself. I didn't even get into the games that supposedly appealed to my peeps (40-ish women) like Farmville. And yes, I did love Angry Birds for a spell, but never to the point of addiction. Oh and, I like my Kinect 'games' - but mainly because they provide a great workout. I *AM* a pretty heavy user of gamified social tools like Foursquare and Foodspotting, but use those more for capturing my life activities than winning badges. So...it may just be that I'm not the target market here. That being said, I AM a big consumer. Such a big consumer, I pursued my own startup on making the process of shopping better. And when I see headlines like Fashion to Embrace 'Social Gaming' (not to mention the unnecessary quotation marks), I scratch my head. When I tweeted that I was scratching my head, my friend Emily Cavalier pointed out another article about Condé Nast getting into social gaming.
I wanted to give them a chance because I like it when big companies get scrappy and innovative, but as I read the premises of the games I wanted to cry:
"...players are challenged to form a career for themselves within any facet of the fashion world, from show production, to photography, to styling look books, runway shows or ad campaigns. Users are encouraged to tap into talents within these parameters, as well as network with other players and “rise to fame” with each challenge."
AND (this is the Condé Nast game):
"Aimed at teens and young women (think under 25), Fashion Hazard allows players to live out a runway model fantasy, then triumph over the hazards of the high-flying life on the catwalk.
You start by choosing one of four different model names and identities, (like say Estee), then embark on a career that takes you through New York, Milan, Paris and London—if you can survive.
Advancing through your model career means walking hazardous runways while dodging objects thrown by hostile crowds and playing touch-screen wackamole during “photo ops” as the paparazzi attack."
Oh god no. It's Barbie Horse Adventure for the XBox all over again. Who thinks this stuff will really appeal to women and girls?
I happen to think the fashion world is serious business. It's a mega-multi-billion dollar serious business. It's an art form that has figured out how to be a business serious business. But these games wreak of the frothiness that is too often associated with fashion and that leaves most people numb to the business of fashion. Hey young women, dream about a career in fashion dodging paparazzi and rising to fame!
You know what game I would have invented? Fashion Empire Tycoon. Like Rollercoaster Tycoon, but MUCH more complicated dealing with everything from sourcing fabrics from Bangladesh then getting the shipment to find out you went with a crooked supplier and have to start all over again to figuring out how much to mark up your luxury line to collaborating with Target on an affordable line.
But then again, I'm not a gamer, so that probably wouldn't appeal to women, right?
Personally, I'm all for elements of gamification in commerce and fashion, but they need to have purpose. For instance, I've always been a fan of Sugar Publishing's community rewards. The more you give to the community: writing posts, commenting, sharing, etc., the more points you gain that you can 'cash in' for virtual goods (and some real goods, too). When it comes to game mechanics in communities, points should be the reward, not the incentive in order to encourage the right behavior. At Buyosphere, we are bringing in a gaming layer similar to Sugar Publishing's, where we reward our community members for their awesome participation, with the idea that these will eventually lead to real-life rewards.
The last thing I want to see is money being thrown into games for the sake of creating a game. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the whole point of all of this stuff, whether it is social or gaming or mobile is:
TO MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS' EXPERIENCES (AND LIVES, REALLY) BETTER, LESS ALIENATING, MORE FUN, MORE CONNECTED, LESS STRESSFUL, MORE INTERESTING AND JUST PLAIN BETTER.
If you are creating a game to be cool or just get into the space, you are probably not thinking about or even touching the above. I challenge the industry to create a gaming experience that actually enhances customer experiences (which, btw, will lead to them spending more, so there's a good incentive) rather than glorifies careers in fashion. And if you are going to make a game about having a career in fashion or commerce, for the love of god, make it awesome, not about dodging paparazzi.