LavaCon 2015: Video Game Lessons for Content & UX

When Easy Wasn’t Enough: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Content Strategy and UX

Session-Summary-video-CS-UXSpeakers: John Caldwell and Ria Hagan, Intuit


Author’s Note

I have a tendency to sign up for anything with the words ‘video game’ in the title. This session was no different; however, what was surprisingly different was that I never expected to grasp that there is a direct relationship between the content strategy and UX for tax software and a few of my favorite video games (e.g., Legend of Zelda, Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, Witcher, StarCraft)!

The problem

TurboTax is a very successful product with lots of happy customers and a solid content strategy (based on delivering ease and accuracy); however, customer loyalty was something the makers, Intuit Software–wanted to improve. In order to address this problem, they decided to look outside of their world to identify experiences that were analogous to the TurboTax experience. They wanted to be provoked into thinking differently and to finding ideas that might lead them in a direction to develop a new relationship with their customers. They looked to the video game industry.

The relevance of video games

The current state of the video game industry is one of great, often fierce, customer loyalty — exactly what they were looking to improve with TurboTax.  John and Ria described the incredible amount of research that went into the history and world of video games. They eventually singled out the narrative video game experience as something they could apply to their customer experience. Narrative video games play out a story. In most cases, these types of games with have a player character (PC) and at least one non-player character (NPC). The PC works hard to complete quests and/or reach an ultimate goal, and the NPC offers help and/or guidance along the way.

Applying narrative video game principles to a customer-product relationship offers some interesting possibilities that they explored with TurboTax, such as:

  • Increasing the emotional engagement and form a deeper connection with your customers.
  • Understanding people and their relationship with your product (e.g., taxes and money, as opposed to just understanding taxes).
  • Communicating more effectively with people you can’t see.

John and Ria make some very Important points to consider when ‘merging the worlds of content strategy and video games’

1. It’s the customer’s story. Not yours.

  • Strengthen the connection between the customer and the product’s story.
  • The customer’s story and the product’s story is played at once. If there’s a disconnect, it can result in missed opportunities.
  • Create a story that resonates with the customers (e.g., Doing taxes is is hard for many people, so don’t tell them it’s easy).
  • Anticipate what your audience desires:
    • For instance, in the game the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia controls his own destiny by deciding to jump in the boat or form a deeper emotional connection with an NPC.
    • Similarly, not all TurboTax customers want to learn about charitable deductions, but if they do, that option is easily accessible and the information is designed to resonate with them personally.  

2. Give them what they want. Not what they don’t.

  • Consider that customers don’t want to be overrun with information (e.g., the data dump/the familiar ‘chunks’ and ‘snacks’ of content).
  • Finding a connection with a product could be more important than efficiency of the product or process — how do you want your customers to feel?
  • People listen if you’re connecting with them:
    • TurboTax used the idea of the PC as the hero, and the NPC as the voice that helps to give the customer what they want by enhancing their experience by providing guidance and staying out of the way.
    • To further execute on this idea, TurboTax added a screen that asked customers how they feel about doing their taxes and they received positive feedback from customers who really liked the personal touch.

Bringing the non-player character to life

3. We must accept that people are CRAZY.

  • People are predictably irrational and illogical in games, and in life.
  • Video games are designed to assume that emotions and instincts run the show.
  • Critical thinking comes last, therefore, the need to make an emotional connection is absolutely key.

4. Get comfortable being (really) uncomfortable.

  • If you’re not feeling uncomfortable, you’re probably not going to change the game.
  • Treat your customer like a hero, uncover their desires, and take them on a journey.
  • Support your customer by using an NPC as a mentor, who guides and supports the hero. The mentor’s desire is to impart knowledge and insights to help the hero win and succeed at the game. The mentor helps when needed, or steps back when the hero needs to take charge and win the game.
  • Forget about the standard content strategy/UX principles (e.g., keep it simple) and come up with some new ‘principles’ that will push you to be more aspirational.

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