You Should Make a Video Game

I had the privilege of spending last week working at San Diego Comic-Con with Microsoft. Its Games Studios wanted presenters to talk about the future of game design, and for some reason they wanted one of those people to be me. This was all in an effort to promote the upcoming game development software Project Spark, which opens up video game design to more than just computer scientists. It makes it so kids, adults, parents, teachers and students can all jump into complex game development in a very easy-to-use and easy-to-understand way.

Throughout the four-day event I spoke one-on-one with a wide range of people. The interactions that stood out the most though were kids and their parents. Project Spark requires some coding and development in order to create video games. Something that shouldn’t sound too appetizing to a 6-year-old. But every time I demonstrated a simple line of code, (WHEN: A is pressed DO: jump) which made the video game character jump up and down every time I hit the A button on a controller, little eyes lit up.

Coding, development and gaming are becoming the playthings of the next generation of communicators. Every parent I talked with told me about how they had their kid messing around with Scratch or Hopscotch (programming languages geared towards kids). They spoke about fun mini-sites their kids were developing and online resources they were playing around with. Now gaming is joining the open-source movement.

As I was walking through how you can make your own video game, kids were picking it up almost instantly (watch a 5-year-old explain game design). That’s in part because gaming is already everywhere around them. Points, levels, rewards, online competition, Club Penguin. These are staples of the 21st Century Playground. As gamification seeps more into our everyday lives, it moves closer and closer to the focal point of a communications strategy.

So what is my recommendation?

Think of communications like a gamer. Think about why the original Super Mario Brothers was so captivating in its 8-bit glory. It’s the challenge, the points, the score, the progression.  And it’s all of these things wrapped up together in a story (sometimes a very loose interpretation of the term) that makes you feel accomplished.

Gaming is no longer a fad, a platform for kids or a purely entertainment outlet. As future-leaning communicators, we should embrace gaming and gamification and understand how big of an impact it will have on our industry.

From my experience, the best way to embrace is to understand. Try making a game. It’s much easier than you think. Understand the architecture of gamification. There are a number of free tools to get you started:

  • Project Spark is free and currently available only on Windows 8 and Xbox One. That is my software of choice, because it’s simple to get you started and has very advanced layers when you’re ready to play with code and mechanics.
  • Scratch may seem geared towards kids, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned a lot from it myself. And it’s free, brought to you by MIT.
  • Sploder is a free online tool that is dead simple to make your own quick 2D game. It’s a bit limited, but great for people who want to dabble without getting into any sort of coding.
  • Game Maker Studio has a free version that is limited in what you can create, but great if you just want to poke around to see what gaming is all about.

So there is my big challenge to you: make a video game.



Something New for Your Ears

In 21st century PR, it’s hard to keep up with the news. What with the new social media announcements, industry flip-flops, online evolution, and the two-thousand new services announced every day. The capabilities of your average PR firm are also broadening dramatically. There’s social media strategy, online development, the company blog, community management, blogger relations, search engine optimization. Need I go on?

We’ve been cooking up something new at Finn Partners for the past month. A podcast. Not just a podcast, but the Finncast. It’s our attempt to dissect all of this information in our rapidly evolving industry. Our weekly podcast series is launching today, with a new episode planned every Monday. In each weekly episode we hit on some of the top news items of the week and then discuss one topic in the PR, social or digital space.

Your week-to-week co-hosts will be Alexandra Kirsch and I. And in each episode we will invite on another Finn Partners team member with expertise in the weekly topic to discuss it with us. The topic of discussion in this first week is “Who Should Manage Social Media Advertising?” In it, we are joined by Barry Reicherter, a partner of digital strategy. It’s a great discussion, where we weigh the credentials of marketing agencies, PR agencies and your community manager.

I’m passionate about podcasts and listen to about 15-20 each week, so I’m incredibly appreciative of this opportunity. I hope that passion translates to the enthusiasm we bring to each episode, and the topics we explore. Because ultimately we do this for you, not for us. We want to give you the best PR & digital podcast out there. We want to give you interesting news, knowledgeable insights and great personalities. And we want your feedback to. Tell us what you want us to discuss. Or even if you have questions for us, we’ll answer them on future shows.

You can find our podcast on iTunes, just search for Finncast, and subscribe to have each episode delivered right to you. You can also subscribe to our Podcast feed on Feedburner. Or if you just want to listen to the MP3 for our first episode you can do that as well.

I hope your ears enjoy what we’ve made here. I know we’re excited.


Social Media Week in Review

What lies in the future of social media?

I guess this social media thing is here to stay. There’s always news and this week had especially big news revealed around the social-sphere. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know I like to frame things from the perspective of how futuristic every new digital announcement sounds. This week is no exception. I think that future we always fantasized about as kids is already here. What do you think? Sound off the board at @FinnPartners and let us know what you think.

The Socialist Olympics Ever
London is already preparing for the crazy social media traffic they’ll be seeing once the Olympics open up shop later this summer. They already expect some of the Olympic sports to shatter every previously set Tweet-per-second record from other sporting events. Partly because more people use social media now then ever, but also partly because all of the teams, athletes and countries are all getting on board with it too. Take Canada for example. Their track and field team will be wearing hashtags on their bibs encouraging fans to send their support over Twitter. Read more about it:

Why it’s from the future: I’m going to repeat that last statement again. Hashtags on the bibs of world-renowned athletes!

Samsung Shrugs at Facebook
Samsung is great at making electronics. But now they want to convince consumers that they’re great at making a new social network. Their network, known as “Family Story,” is meant to be Facebook-like with an emphasis on photo-sharing, chatting and scheduling. The full product is due out later this year, but users with Samsung smartphone and tablets can already start to see the genesis of this service on their devices in the form of Family History and ChatOn. Samsung denies this is true, but something that combines all of its current smartphone products makes sense, doesn’t it? Read more about it:

Why it’s from the future: Large corporations with full access and control of your social life is a recurring thing is dystopia-style stories of the future. However, Samsung’s approach seems much more friendly and helpful, streamlining together all of their current Samsung-operated tools and making it easier for you to access everything at once.

Pinterest is #3
A recent report revealed that Pinterest is now the third most visited social media site (104 million visits a month), receiving even more visits than LinkedIn. Considering the fact that this site didn’t start working its way into the mainstream until a few months ago, this is mammoth news. For businesses that hear this and don’t know where to start with the social pinning site, relax, this ten step list will walk you through exactly how to use Pinterest. Read more about it:

Why it’s from the future: Maybe I’m alone here, but isn’t it amazing that we have enough online critical mass that we’re able to pivot so fast to a new service that it can surpass one of the staple social media channels in a matter of months?


Social Media Week in Review

With new changes in social media every day, the future is here. (Photo courtesy of

If you remember my last social media roundup, I like to take a momentary step back and provide a bit of context around why new social media news is so cool. In the digital world, things move at the speed of light. There’s an incessant re-evolution, re-design, re-branding, re-pivoting, re-[insert clever action word] every day. Amazing new innovations are sometimes glossed over as part of the steady drumbeat of these constant updates. Sometimes it takes that moment of reflection to come to the realization that: “Wow! We live in the future.”

So below are a few of those stories from the past week that prove that we already live in the future. If you know any other stories or want to share your own thoughts on the stories I listed below, tweet us @FinnPartners.

TV “Likes” Social Media

A new survey came out this week showing one out of every three people have interacted with social media after seeing a social media symbol on their TV screen. It means that people are actually interested when they see a Facebook icon, Twitter hashtag or QR code appear during one of their shows. Read more:

Why it’s from the future: This has been gestating for a while for sure; television programs have been trying a number of methods to further engage with fans outside of the show. But it’s amazing to see how many people are already receptive to this. We have finally begun to see the valued approach to integrating social media in your watching experience.

Social Media Integral to the Political Process

We saw in the 2008 presidential elections an explosion of use and experimentation with various social media channels, so it makes sense social media will be just as important in 2012. But its integration this year dwarfs that of four years ago. Both political parties have developed strong partnerships with Google to broadcast conventions and are now looking at other partnerships with the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Read more:

Why it’s from the future: Social media is no longer just another channel to disseminate political messages; it is actually becoming ingrained in the political process. This is a lot bigger than a candidate having a Twitter account. This is more along the lines of an entire political party being measured on how many partnerships they can make with social media providers. Also Google is involved in the social media strategy planning on both sides of the aisle.

Advertising Coming for Tumblr

Every social media channel has its own advertising platform. And starting on May 2, Tumblr will too. But these ads, under the platform titled “Radar,” appear to be something different. They’re evocative and rely on creative ingenuity. These new ads are meant to follow along with the current ad unit on Tumblr dashboards. Read more:

Why it’s from the future: If Radar lives up to the promise, these ads will be very different from what we’ve seen before. In fact, they’ll be ads that won’t even seem like ads. This is advertising 3.0, or maybe 4.0.

Facebook: the New Wall Street

Starting in June, thanks to the San Francisco-based company Loyal3, Facebook users will be able to buy and sell stock of their favorite companies directly on Facebook. That’s right. All you need to do is go to the Facebook page of one of your companies. No fees, no brokers and in as little as $10 increments. It takes three clicks on Facebook to start investing. Read more:

Why it’s from the future: There’s something almost sci-fi about buying stocks on Facebook. And I, for one, am excited to see how this thing plays out when it launches in June.


Social Media Week in Review

Hi, I’m Brian Perry, a senior associate in our Washington, D.C. office, and it seems that more and more often I find myself saying, “We live in the future.”

This was a big week, a busy week and a groundbreaking week in some respects. Besides Facebook rolling out a few big announcements, there were a good number of other interesting gems that surfaced. Because sometimes it can be hard to realize exactly how revolutionary some social media announcements are, I’ve put in a bit of context to these announcements to show you that yes, we do live in the future.

Google’s Privacy Change

Google’s new privacy policy went into effect yesterday. People may be alarmed about the conglomeration of all their online information (around seventy privacy policies condensed into one), but hold on a second. This is a landmark assimilation of all of that personal data websites have been collecting on you and your search behaviors. The keywords you type into Google search can be used to better recommend YouTube videos to you. When you’re typing a name into a Google document, it can now suggest spelling based on the people you’ve interacted with on Gmail. The locations you type into Google maps will be remembered in search across Google products in case you need to pull it up later. Read more:

Why it’s from the Future: Yes, this is the Google of the future. It is taking every one of its products and making them all talk with one another to better tailor everything to you and your online behaviors. We got the Internet to talk with the internet.

Facebook Brand Timeline

Now all of those millions of brands on Facebook have to suck it up like the rest of us did and embrace the Facebook timeline. Despite the announcement being made a few days ago, some brands have already transitioned to the new Facebook timeline. Mashable has their new timeline design up and so does Coca-Cola, both beautiful representations of what the new layout can do for a brand. Besides the updated look and feel, there are a lot of other new features here. No left navigation tabs, historical company information, expanded width of tab pages, no default landing page, highlighted posts, options to “pin” posts to top of timeline and private message features, to name a few. It’s a lot of new stuff to take in, but brands have from now until March 30 to jump on board. After that they’ll be shoved on board, forced to use the timeline layout either way. So love it or hate it, the future of Facebook brand pages is here! Read more:

Why it’s from the Future: The timeline itself is not a futuristic idea at all. But wait a second, this is being heralded as the biggest change in online brand communications in the past few years. Rewind two years and just a little over half of the Fortune 100 companies (54%) had a Facebook page.

Planning Your Future Check-ins

Want to know what others will be doing in the future? There’s an app for that. It’s called Forecast and it’s like Foursquare, except for the future. Here’s how it works: You make “forecasts” of what you’re going to be doing and when, then this is broadcasted to all of your friends. It’s like an informal invite, or a rolling social calendar. Your friends can see what you’re doing and click a “me too” button to indicate they’ll be joining you for this future check-in. Read more here:

Why it’s from the Future: You can’t get more futuristic than using an app that allows you to tell people in the present what you’ll be doing in the future.

Facebook Ads Revamp

More ads in more places. That’s the one-liner on Facebook’s recently announced premium ad shakeup. Besides ads appearing on the right within Facebook, ads from pages you like will appear in the news feed, on mobile devices and on the log-out screen of Facebook (side note: who actually logs out of Facebook nowadays?). It’s Facebook’s way of giving advertisers more options. And now things like status updates, photos and videos posted by brand pages can easily be pushed out as advertisements. Read more:

Why it’s from the Future: Status updates are going to start counting as ads. It’s a new ad-age, where social fights with the sales pitches of yesteryear.

KLM’s In-flight Social Network

KLM has started testing an in-flight social media program, known as “Meet & Seat,” in three of their international routes. The program allows fliers to upload their Facebook or LinkedIn identities and select details from their profiles to share with KLM. This is then shown while members are selecting their seats so they can choose a seatmate that most closely fits with them. Parents can sit next to other parents forming a ring of parents and crying babies, business members can look for potential networking leads, or someone could find a new best friend. And the nice catch is you can only see other travelers’ information if you reveal your own. So stalkers, prepare to be stalked yourself. If KLM sees success in this program, they will start to expand it along all of their routes.

Why it’s from the Future: Airplane seats are getting profile pictures. Traveling has never felt so digital.

Know any other stories that prove we’re already in the future? Tweet us @FinnPartners.