What the Award-Winning Video Game “Journey” Teaches Us About the Customer Experience

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This post is part of a series discussing lessons gleaned from the video game industry. Catch the next part next Saturday.

Journey won eight awards, including Game Of The Year, at the Design Innovate Communicate Entertain (DICE) Summit in February, an accolade which was well deserved for a number of reasons. In the game, you guide a solitary figure through a personal story. Occasionally, along the way you meet other lone figures who are controlled by another player over the internet. But there is no interaction except for the ability to “sing” a note (depicted by a symbol that represents you), run, and jump. You don’t even get to see player avatar names; they are briefly just part of your own journey to the end of the game.

What has this got to do with the customer experience?

The game manages to convey and elicit an emotional response from you towards the character you control, and others you meet along the way despite the complete lack of feedback. You are woven in the story, the experience and, despite never hearing or seeing just who you are interacting with, sharing that experience actually brings an empathic context.

It’s this empathic context that drives an excellent customer experience and elicits delight from the consumer. It stops a good experience from becoming a great one. A good one lacks empathy and emotion with the consumer. In fact, from a customer’s point of view they are placed in the middle of a process but not a journey.

Read the email received from a young player below:

When did a customer ever send something like that when they had to participate in a soul-less experience with your brand? Customers have names, faces, records, a voice… in fact everything that is missing from Journey and yet what they experience from organizations on a daily basis is almost completely the reverse.

There is more content and stimuli received with a brand because of the complex set of [human] interactions that make up the experience, but what happens in reality is that all emotional context is removed because it is treated as a process. It’s not seen as a journey — a shared experience with both the organization and consumer. And it shouldn’t feel like an arduous journey at that.

The customer experience is the journey.

When we design the customer experience. we focus too much on the end goal, get the customer through it as quickly as possible and give them what they want. But it cuts out so much context, it carves and discards the empathy, we assume that “delight” and “satisfaction” mean speed and efficiency. We are wrong. The processes are wrong.

The Customer Experience should be about the journey. Perhaps then you’ll deserve to win awards like the game did.

For a deeper dive on how “Turning Customers Into Fans” can work in business, check out this whitepaper.

To read more from the series, check out our previous story on Call of Duty and Data Analytics.