There’s a new woman in my husband’s life.
Some bitch named Zelda.
Yes, Mr. Parker has been over the moon with excitement over the new Nintendo Switch gaming console since it was first announced last October, and his pre-order was one of the thousands that flooded Nintendo’s U.S. site back in January. While the days of lining up at GameStop at midnight are far behind him (been there, did that for Halo 2), he did take a half-day of vacation on March 3.
Yep, that’s when Zelda — also known as “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” — moved in.
These days our dinner conversations are filled with gleeful reports of the secret to defeating Guardians (using your shield to deflect their laser attacks back at them, in case you wanted to know), how a hang-gliding miscalculation hilariously landed his character on the back of a very surprised mountain goat (who then took him for a joy ride), and why those adorable chickens (cuccos) are arguably the deadliest characters in Hyrule (the name of the mythical kingdom where all this takes place, don’tcha know).
Actually, I find all this quite adorable. Must be love.
So yeah, my name’s Rachel, and I’m married to a gamer.
Having been the wife of a gaming enthusiast for nearly two decades now, I’ve learned a few things along the way … about, of all things, content marketing.
“What can we content marketers possibly learn from video games,” you ask? Oh, more than you know …
You’re Gonna Die. A Lot.
I remember the first time Mike tried to teach me to play Halo. No matter how hard I tried to master the controls (“Okay, so the right trigger is ‘shoot’ and the X button is … what again?”) or how many times we backed up the level of difficulty (all the way to whatever the vid-game equivalent of “bunny slope” is), my character kept dying. Over and over and over again. Barely could I get Master Chief out of his space-hibernation-pod-thingy without some wimpy low-level bad guy taking me out of action.
I was just about to hurl the controller across the room when hubby pried it from my frustrated fingers and said gently, “It’s okay, babe. You die a lot in this game. It’s how you learn.”
That’s when it clicked. The point of the game isn’t to not die. Dying is just part of the experience, and afterwards there’s always an automatic respawn that lets you start afresh from the last checkpoint, a little bit wiser than before.
Takeaway for Content Marketers: If we play not to lose, we’re going to fail. We can’t creep our way through the content marketing landscape with “Don’t screw up” as our mantra and ultimate goal. If we do, the best we can hope for is regurgitating the same old pablum that everybody else is putting out there. Our content will resonate with no one, and our strategy will wither and die.
We have to be bold. We have to use the weapons at our disposal and march forward, ready to take on any miscreants who would block the way. And guess what? Not everything is going to work the way we want it to. We have to be okay with that, learn from our mistakes, and try again.
As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” (He would have been great at Halo.)
Want to Level Up? Get Ready for a Boss Fight.
The “boss fight” is one of the most time-honored traditions in video gaming (for you history geeks, the concept goes back to a dungeon-crawl game called dnd, released in 1974).
It’s the final battle on any given level, against an enemy that is much bigger, much stronger, much harder to kill, and armed with far better weapons than anything you’ve faced before. If you’re going to get to the next level, you have to fight the boss … and win.
The odds of defeating the boss on your first try are slim to none. You’ll have to keep at it, trying different weapons, different approaches, and different defenses until you find the right combination. And yeah, along the way, you’re gonna die, a lot (see above). But once you wrest victory from the jaws of defeat, a whole new adventure awaits.
Takeaway for content marketers: If we stay on the same, comfortable level year after year, not only will we languish from boredom; we’ll also fall behind our more forward-minded competitors. If we’re going to survive — let alone thrive — we need to keep leveling up, and that’s gonna involve some boss fights.
Maybe your “boss fight” is getting your subject matter experts on board to create a thought-leadership series on your blog. Maybe it’s scoring a guest spot on a key influencer’s podcast … or starting one of your own. Maybe it’s making the leap into hosting your own conferences and other live events.
Whatever your own version of the boss fight happens to look like, don’t get scared — get prepared. Rally your team, your supporters, and your resources, make a plan and go to it. The next level awaits.
Pay Attention to Your NPCs
So, you have your hero (that’s you) making his or her way through a quest, you have the bad guys trying to stop/kill you, and then you have non-player characters (NPCs).
NPCs are the “extra” characters that complete the game’s landscape. They might be tradespeople, priests, sages, barmaids, or beggars. They can talk to you and you can trade items with them, but they don’t play a direct part in the action.
And NPCs can be vitally important. They can share vital pieces of information (such as the password needed for entry into a key location), they can give or sell you things you need (like armor), or they may send you off on side quests that will benefit your character in some other way.
Ignore NPCs altogether, and you might find yourself stuck on the same level for a long, long time.
Takeaway for Content Marketers: Inspiration for our content can come from anywhere, and it should. If we’re going to develop a unique voice that rises above the noise, we can’t focus only on what we read from industry gurus, news sources, and (let’s admit it) our competitors.
Integrating different perspectives from your personal life, from art and history, from pop culture — heck, even from video games — gives your content a unique richness that no one else can emulate. Seek out those outside “NPC” sources of inspiration and let them add color and texture to everything you publish.
Even if you’ve never picked up a controller and wouldn’t know a moblin from a chuchu, you have to admit we content marketers can learn a few things from our brethren who fight the virtual fight against the forces of darkness. They know that failure is just part of the experience, allowing you to begin again, as Henry Ford said, more intelligently. They know there’s always a big, bad boss between you and the next level you want to reach. And they know that sometimes you get exactly what you need from the people you’d least expect.
And so, gamers of the world, I raise this bag of Cheetos and this Mountain Dew in your honor. May your armor be strong, may your speed be swift, … and may the cuccos of Hyrule go easy on you.
Find out why Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, had this to say about The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN:
“A simple yet effective guide to an approach that most businesses get flat out wrong. Do yourself and your business a favor and take a deep dive into this book. You won’t regret it.”
This article originally appeared in Resonance Content Marketing.