Seeing the world in pixels and polygons

More than just breast and blood: Communicating to geeks.


165 billion, that’s how much the video games industry is expected to make in 2018 according to Digi-Capital’s Q1 2018 Games Report. Sector leaders appears to be the casual mobile market however, trailing mobile are PC hardware and PC game sales – that’s including digital distributions and DLCs. That’s just a single subset of the geekdom pie. San Diego Comic Con is a 3-day extravaganza held at the San Diego Convention Center. In 2014, an estimated 130,000 attendees spent 82,000,000 USD in just 3 days with a 140,000,000 USD economic impact across the entertainment industry.

You might think with so much money on the line, our entire industry might already have best practices figured out by now. Unfortunately, current industry best practices might not be the best anymore.

Geekdom have come a long way since the days of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. For the uninitiated, MK caused huge controversy for its explicit display of realistic violence and Night Trap featured scantily clad women in its promotional material and gameplay – the resulting controversy prompted the creation of the ESRB, a non-governmental ratings board for video games. The community is now more diverse as ever – according to statista, in 2017 42% of gamers are female, a 4% growth from 2006 with an overall penetration rate of 64%. Gamers are no longer overweight men living in their parent’s basements and as such, brands pursuing this lucrative market must tailor their strategy accordingly.

In this think piece, I will only be addressing gamer who are “hardcore” gamers, those who are deep into geekdom. Mobile and social only gamers are not within my definition.

Arby’s Social Media: By geek, for geeks
Instagram & Twitter: @Arbys

Here’s a tip, conduct an A/B test with Arby’s Instagram account. Get a self-proclaimed geek/nerd and get your average joe as your control. Show them Arby’s Facebook page, post by post and look at their reaction. Did the geek just burst out laughing or at the very least chuckle while the average joe just looked on with a slightly confused look on his face? That’s the power of targeted content made by geeks and for geeks. If you’re reading this and didn’t get why the geek burst out laughing, let me explain… Each Arby’s visual posts on Instagram and FB are references to current happenings in the geekdom world – not only are they timely and relevant, they are also non-pandering - intelligent jokes or references that geeks would understand.

Let me Geeksplain – yes, I just invented that word for use in this think piece.


Let’s look at this post… to your average joe, it simply showed a runic symbol made from Arby’s sauce surrounded by food on Arby’s menu. But to a geek, it’s the guild hunter’s crest from the then newly released game: Monster Hunter World – this post was made on Jan 26, the game was released on the same day, it’s a literal call to action. The caption “rally the crew; we’re going after the big ones” is a direct reference to MHW’s gameplay – gather a group of friends and hunt giant monsters together. The numbers speak for itself, 10,613 likes on Insta, 131 comments, 2.1k retweets and 8.1k likes on twitter. This might be chump change compared to larger brands like Unilever or Nestle but for such a targeted niche and without the use of hashtags (which will attract bots and like4like-ers), it’s pretty impressive – and it’s also safe to say, 95% of the impressions were organic.

The post immediately related to geeks who are in tuned with industry releases in general. Each Arby’s post is also meticulously crafted from things you’d find in an Arby’s chain e.g cardboard and sauces etc. It shows effort and dedication – the same kind of dedication and effort that cosplayers put into their costumes.

Showing gamer’s diversity: Call of Duty WWII Spot

As mentioned above, the gamers have gotten more diverse in both gender and ethnicity and as such, executions must appeal to a wider gender and ethnic demographic while still appealing to the overarching demographic (gamers). One of the better executions this year have got to be COD WWII’s spot from 72andSunny. The premise of the spot is simple, a guy recruiting his old squad back for Call of Duty’s return to World War II. Sounds cliché but 1 simple casting decision prevented it from turning into your typical dude-bro spot. They casted a diverse group of gamers comprising of different ethnicities, gender and even careers while still retaining a certain level of campy-ness. The resulting spot is a homage to classic video game ads.