Lessons that 80s Video Games Teach Today’s Inbound Content Marketing

Jen Saunders
Reading Time:5minutes

Today is National Video Games Day. If you grew up in the 80s you got to experience the era where video games began using the narrative approach to hook players and keep them glued to the screen for hours. While the late 70s and early 80s primarily saw games like Asteroid and Pac-Man that were void of a storyline to suck in players but instead relied on strategy to maintain an attraction (and an addiction), the mid 80s evolved not only in gaming technology but also in adding the narrative to give games depth and greater appeal to our human sustanance.

As video games evolved in the 90s and into the 21st century, story lines became more developed (even complex) allowing players to change multiple outcomes of the storyline itself. The video games from the mid 80s are responsible for introducing clearly defined narratives and showing game developers that there is always room to evolve not in just bit technology, but also in evolving captivating gaming strategies that tells its players.

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Why is Our Present the Time to Get Serious on Storytelling?

When Google Hummingbird rolled out into the search algorithm back in 2013, most websites lacking well-written, authoritative content dropped in ranking. The idea behind the update was to improve search results by providing detailed, entertaining content that educated people while providing an architecture Google bots could despiser. Then Google RankBrain took it up a notch, and here we sit creating content from the mentality of thinking more like humans, and less like bots. If we through the analogy to video games, its like evolving Pong to Donkey Kong, to Super Mario Brothers and on to World of Warcraft.

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Why Google RankBrain is Like Donkey Kong Evolving to and Beyond Halo

I am not a video game historian, but from my limited knowledge Donkey Kong was the first game to offer a story, even if it was weak. The game was way ahead of its time for 1981. The objective was to strategically work your way up a structure jumping over barrels, avoiding alligators, and  a number of other obstacles so you can reach the top and save the princess being held captive. This was the first appearance of Mario, and 2 years later Super Mario Brothers premiered and the storyline was more developed (though the narrative was not as defined as The Legend of Zelda that hit shelves in 1986). Then games like Duke Nuke Em and Halo came out improving its visuals and running a storyline that any creative writer could spin into some solid fan fiction.

From Hummingbird came RankBrain (they are part of the same algorithm) and in time I predict that a new algorithm will roll out that accommodates local search technology in vehicles by pulling the story we tell the search engine through our social media profiles and spending habits. Also, as Google’s mission has always been, and will continue to be one that tries to relate to human searchers, and since our marketing landscape is shifting towards Inbound marketing automation with tons of buyer-persona focused content, it only seems natural that when examining the history of Google’s evolution, something big will come out to better facilitate inbound strategies more directly tied into SEO focused on optimizing for more finely-tuned defined audiences. Though some brands are using storytelling to a certain extend, few are at the Halo level and are still whacking barrels in Donkey Kong.

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Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start

If this makes any sense, you were old enough to play Contra on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1987, and use this code for unlimited lives. This game used popular news to tell the story of a pair of CIA-backed Nicaraguan rebels who were all over the news in the 1980s. In this storyline the year is 2633 and the Evil Red Falcon organization has established a base near New Zealand with the goal to conquer the world. Commandos Pfc. Bill Rizer and Pfc. Lance Bean of the Contra unit are sent to the island to destroy the enemy only to learn that aliens are controlling them. This game resonated with lots of players because Contra was all over the news; it brought a level of realism to the playability and appeal. As a content marketer, you can leverage news events trending to get your point across, so long as you are careful not to embrace a political agenda in your words.

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Play Your Inbound Content like a Game of Zelda

In The Legend of Zelda, your mission was to complete a task by picking up necessary items that lead you through a journey funnel to complete the foe and save the princess. your inbound-driven content is no different. You are picking up vital data on consumers to build buyer personas that enable you to create content that resonates with buyers, moves them through the conversion funnel, and awards them with a measurable ROI and more revenue in their pockets. There are no cheat codes here, just a strategy bent on the inbound approach performed by expert players and have a winning record for enabling business growth.

By taking a popular topic that every household heard about in the evening news and placing it into a video game’s futuristic narrative, the game’s developers were able to inject a level of familiarity and relevance into the player’s conscious while  blasting his way from level to level.

When marketing your products and services through engaging content, consider taking a popular topic trending in the news relevant to your brand, and tell your story with a twist or play on the news event everyone will recognize. Not only will this strategy lend well to social media hash tagging, but it will help make your products recognizable to buyers. And when people can see how they will benefit from something by relating to it, they will likely make a purchase.

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Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.