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Philipp Reinartz is only 33 years old, but he’s already written novels, worked as a journalist and game developer, researched gamification and founded his agency Pfeffermind six years ago. Since then he has been developing games and advising companies on how to make learning about gamification more interesting. This year he’s speaking at future!publish and asking: How can literature be made more interesting, increase sales and become more varied through gamification? A conversation with someone who ought to know.
CCB Magazin: Philipp, you’re only 33 years old and you’ve done so many things, written books, given lectures, developed games. Do you ever sleep?
Philipp Reinartz: (smiling) Oh, actually, I don’t sleep all that much.
CCB Magazin: In 2013 you co-founded the Pfeffermind agency, which develops games and advises companies on how to make learning processes about gamification more interesting. What was your idea back then?
Philipp Reinartz: In the beginning we developed our own smartphone games. To avoid having to get investors on board, we wanted to finance ourselves in the initial phase by advising companies on gamification. After all, we were so successful with our expertise that we pursued this double track - game development and consulting - and continue to do so today.
CCB Magazin: You have advised companies like AOK, Ikea, Porsche or Bosch. What does the term gamification actually mean?
Philipp Reinartz: There’s a standard definition: The use of game elements in a non-game context. That’s pretty good. It’s about transferring components from successful games to other areas. For example, I look at a box-office hit like Settlers of Catan, examine its individual game elements and consider whether I can use one of them in a different context. For example, in teaching Bosch employees about IT security in a fun, playful and casual way. It’s about creating a playful approach to lifelong learning, because this is increasingly becoming an economic prerequisite for work. The subject of games today also has a completely different social acceptance than 20 years ago. If we do workshops with managers over 60, then they tend to be much less open-minded than the younger professionals that are now coming into decision-making positions. The concept of “playing” used to only be for children, but today its potential for learning is recognised.
Gamification is about game elements in the non-game context. It’s about creating a playful access to lifelong learning - everyone can benefit from that.
CCB Magazin: You’ll be speaking about gamification and literature at this year’s future!publish. German book market sales have been quite stable for years. Every year, around 80,000 books are sold over the counter, even though turnover in 2017 fell slightly to around nine billion euros. The games industry, on the other hand, has been booming for years. With a turnover of 3.3 billion euros, it’s still well below the literature market, but has shown growth of almost 30 per cent since 2012. What exactly can the publishing industry learn from gamification? How can it benefit?
Philipp Reinartz: They’re quite different. A first step is the merging of book and game content. So the question of how to make reading cooler and more contemporary so as not to lose even more young people to Netflix. How, for example, can digital elements be integrated into the reading flow? This is not only an option for e-books, but also for analogue books. Another idea is, for example, to build an app that provides additional information about the protagonists, shows family trees or illuminates biographical backgrounds - a kind of second screen for the book.
CCB Magazin: Sorry if I sound a bit old-fashioned, but I’m enjoying the introspection while reading, without any additional digital frills. My imagination is actually enough for me. Isn’t the quality of the publishers only diluted when they publish books that are enriched with all kinds of digital gimmicks to help the reader’s imagination?
Philipp Reinartz: But why? If I have content that is difficult to understand, for example a philosophical work, then I can make it more understandable through gamification. This gives people the opportunity to read and understand books that they would otherwise not have picked up.
Playing used to be for children, but today its potential for learning is recognized.
CCB Magazin: What about marketing, can gamification be used sensibly?
Philipp Reinartz: Of course! Nobody likes advertising any more. Gamification can, however, be used to make advertising so interesting that people first feel like dealing with it. To stay with the example of the publishing industry: For her novel “Unterleuten”, Juli Zeh collaborated with an agency that created fictitious lives on the Internet for characters in her book, Facebook profiles, the homepage of a horse farm, a village restaurant. This was part of a sophisticated marketing strategy.
CCB Magazin: Right, I remember. She even wrote a success guide, allegedly by a certain Manfred Gortz, which is quoted several times in “Unterleuten”. I found the guide so convincing that I bought it. Only afterwards did I find out that Juli Zeh had written it herself.
Philipp Reinartz: You can take that as a good basis for gamified marketing. If you now give the user a game goal, a task, you have a gamified product. The problem is that publishers still think antiquated when it comes to marketing. For the publishers, marketing is often a favour that one does for author. They don’t know how to make the most of the opportunities offered by digitalisation. For example on Facebook or Instagram with comparatively little money to test target groups for a book in order to then plan the next step. Marketing today works bit by bit. I bring out a product, see if it goes well, and better ones if needed. The publishers, however, act according to the motto: We put a hundred books on the market, three of them will be very successful, and we put the entire marketing budget into them. The other titles get almost no money at all. That’s a wasted opportunity.
When it comes to marketing, publishers still think in an antiquated way. For them, marketing is often just a favour that you do for the author. They don’t know how to make the most of the possibilities offered by digitalisation.
CCB Magazin: You have published as an author with publishers and are also a game developer. Have you ever used gamification to market one of your books?
Philipp Reinartz: You bet. Basically, I used it in school. I thought about how I could playfully learn and convey: I gamified learning processes for myself. And with my current third book, a detective novel, I thought about how I could market it better. So I divided my hundred closest acquaintances into teams. They got points from me for developing creative marketing ideas, but also for sharing my advertising for my book on social media or buying a book from me. The winners then got book packages from my publisher plus a free drink at the premiere celebration of the book launch. It was a very simple gamification application, but it worked.
CCB Magazin: You’re telling a consistently exciting and beautiful story of gamification here. The other side is that digital applications consume an awful lot of time. According to the Federal Association for Interactive Entertainment Software, every third German regularly plays computer games. The American game designer and author Jane McGonigal discovered in 2010 that young people up to the age of 21 usually played about 10,000 hours, and self-responsibility also increases as a result of digital penetration. Authors have to take care of everything themselves and come up with all the nonsense.
Philipp Reinartz: Yes, but what’s wrong with it? I would rather emphasise the opposite side that there has been a personalisation trend for years that creates new opportunities. As it can already be seen with YouTubers and bloggers. This trend is increasingly competing with traditional media, including publishers. Of course, the author has to make a brand out of himself more and more, but in the long run this will bring the big ones to their knees. Media brands such as ZDF, KIWI and Spiegel are increasingly becoming personal brands of individual journalists and authors. For example, the Stefan Niggemeier brand. Or the Philipp Reinartz brand. The Rowohlt author who published my first book still has a brand character thanks to his good reputation and that benefits me as an author. But if you have a sufficiently large platform as an author, i.e. have already become a brand, then publishing houses become less important. I advise young authors with a large reach to try their hand at self-publishing. Financially, they usually do the better business with it.
CCB Magazin: Charles Bukowski was always drunk during his readings. Do authors have to push themselves more into the limelight again?
Philipp Reinartz: Without a doubt. You have to reveal more of yourself. But there’ll always be this type of author, of whom it is said that we don’t know what he looks like, he lives in seclusion somewhere in France. That’s also something that can be branded and marketed.
CCB Magazin: Philipp, thank you for the interview.
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