The Importance of Storytelling in Indie Game PR

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time, on an excel spreadsheet far, far away, a lonely games marketer sat and wished they could engage their audience just a little bit more….

Storytelling, when used in the context of PR and marketing, refers to the combination of facts and narrative. You don’t need to be an experienced writer to utilise storytelling PR, but instead, be able to see the story already there in your game’s development. Storytelling can open another entry point for players to access your game, and add a competitive edge to your campaign.

What Makes It Storytelling PR & How Do You Use It?

For games PR, storytelling is a tool that uses personal experience to create an evocative and compelling narrative behind the development of your game. But what is the line between ‘normal’ PR (if there is such a thing), and storytelling PR? If you tweet out that you broke your leg during the development of your game – is that storytelling?

On their own, broken legs and other hurdles in your development aren’t good PR storytelling technique – detailing them to the public isn’t going to sell your game. However, they can be a part of the long-term overarching narrative path you lead your audience through. Every success and problem your team encounters is a piece of your game’s developmental story. When you reveal, through skilled storytelling PR, how those pieces came together to form the final picture of your game’s release, you allow your audience to access your game in a completely new way. The focus for a large example of storytelling isn’t the game itself, but the development of the people behind it.

Take a look at your development process, from the very start to now. (This can also be a great technique of discovering your team’s motivation and identity.) Try putting events and milestones into the classic ‘Beginning – Crisis – Resolution’ structure. If it’s not quite fitting in, try a few of these exercises to get the story out of your development.

  • Talk about your personal influences – whether it be media, real-world locations, your idols or your mum.
  • Who is supporting you? Thank them! Talk about their support, and how it was crucial to the success of the game. Allow yourself to share how emotional fuelled making a game is.
  • Be transparent about the difficulties and rewards of your development cycle.
  • What are your planning meetings like? Does your team have any traditions or house rules?
  • Share photographs of your team/office space/dog/notebooks – ground your game in the people behind it.

Storytelling & Crowd-funding

Crowd-funding campaigns gain a tremendous boost from the use of storytelling. Players are more likely to connect with and want to see your project funded if your motivation and background is revealed during the campaign. It adds a level of trust that assists in assuring your audience that you will deliver what you’ve promised.

The format of a Kickstarter page facilitates the use of storytelling PR, and many fall again into that ‘Beginning – Crisis – Resolution’ structure mentioned above.

Beginning – You are introduced to the developers, told their background, shown their faces. You might be told their influences, their inspiration for the game concept proposed to you.

Crisis – Kickstarter itself then requires acknowledgement of the ‘Risks and Challenges’ of your campaign – what problems could stop your game? What issues already have hindered your team?

Resolution – Crowdfunding platforms have a ‘live’ resolution phase of their story. Making use of the updates feature, players are then invited to be part of the resolution, and become involved in it through on-site updates.

Of course, there are many facets to crowd-funding your game, and there is no one way to ensure success. However, the use of storytelling PR, utilised within a broader campaign, might give your title the community engagement needed to give your audience the drive to be part of your story’s resolution.

Why Use It? / The Science Behind The Story

Storytelling is a PR technique that is rooted in cognitive psychology. When you incorporate emotions in the delivery of your information, you’re engaging a different part of your audience’s attention. Not only can you learn about yourself, and your in-house processes through storytelling, but you can find out more about the people who support you, and the community you’ve grown.

There are plenty of detailed articles out there citing psychologists and scientists, but it largely boils down to the fact that the brain isn’t wired to hang onto data and facts for long periods of time. It can, however, remember a story long after it’s been told. We’ll just use the one quote here, from Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business;

A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.”

Epilogue

If you want to give storytelling PR a go, lay out your development timeline in front of you. Write down every success, failures, and bumps in between. You’ll learn about yourself, your team, your way of developing your project, and possibly find a new avenue to allow your audience to connect with you as people who enjoy and celebrate the culture of game development.

However, storytelling cannot work alone, and it isn’t an easy technique to master. It needs to compliment the rest of your campaign’s structure. Although storytelling can open new ways for an audience to engage with your game, there is no guarantee they will take them. It is a technique that can evolve with the current ever-changing games market – but it needs a team equally as adaptable and in-touch with the market behind it.