Gaming has developed a bit of a reputation. If you think it’s mostly sweaty guys shouting into headsets or antisocial teens addicted to World of Warcraft, that’s not strictly true.
Granted, gaming has a fair bit to answer for. It’s been accused of increasing anxiety, depression, obesity, aggression and insomnia, especially in younger age groups. But over the course of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, its pros have also come into focus. Namely, it offers escapism, fantasy and the ability to experiment, unwind and connect with like-minded people (and like-minded brands).
That traditional stereotype of “gamers”? It’s null and void, as a whole league of new demographics claim a space for themselves within the arena.
During the height of the pandemic, 82% of consumers admitted to playing video games or watching video game content, according to data firm Nielsen, and in the UK, uptake increased by 28%. But, even before the pandemic, female gamers were closing the gender gap.
Research by Newzoo found that women account for almost half (46%) of gamers, while queer and ethnic minority communities are also fighting for more representation. 60% of the adult LGBTQIA+ population play online each week, according to Synchronix Research, and collectives like Black Girl Gamers are heightening Black Women's voices in gaming. That’s not to say the issues that plagued gaming have been entirely overcome – the industry is still beleaguered with incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia – but communities are rallying to create safer spaces.
Overall, gaming's remit is expanding, and other industries have caught on to the advantages it offers. Many key players in beauty recognise they have an opportunity to change the face of gaming, ushering in new online destinations for their customers.
“Beauty brands are altering the way they reach consumers,” reveals research from Mintel. “Some are fully immersing themselves within the lucrative gaming world in an effort to drive engagement, maintain or build brand awareness, align with on-trend beauty themes and promote new products,” says the report.
Virtual wellness retreats and immersive makeup moments offer an alternative to the usual gun-fights and online football tournaments, especially in light of the IRL limitations we've experienced. “While in-store hygiene concerns persist due to COVID-19, beauty brands can use gaming as a way to allow players to safely and hygienically trial and experiment with their products, using gaming avatars,” explains the Mintel report.
That's exactly what luxury gaming app Drest is doing with the launch of its new Beauty Mode in a collaboration with Gucci Beauty. Alongside playing virtual fashion stylist, users can now play virtual makeup artist, too, choosing models, makeup and even hair looks rendered hyper-realistically onto the app's avatars using Gucci's beauty collection.
“At Drest, our players are creatives,” explains founder Lucy Yeomans. “Their main motivation is to get close to the product and show what they can do with it. You select the model, the makeup, the hair and submit it for others to enjoy, rate and shop from .”
It bridges the gap between fantasy and reality. “Everything we have from Drest came from the real world,” she adds. The fashion looks come straight from online retailer FarFetch, the beauty looks use real products, which celeb makeup artist, Mary Greenwell, consulted on to ensure it was utterly life-like. “Mary came in and designed all the makeup for the game. She sat with our artist who created all the avatars and she'd look at how this lipstick would work on that skin tone,” reveals Lucy.
The bonus? If you're mesmerised by one of your avatars lipstick shades or liners, you can click through to buy the IRL product from the app in a circular journey that ends up back in the real world. “I like the idea that it really encourages you to not just create and express on the platform, but as with everything in Drest, we hope there's some real-world influence as well,” says Lucy.
Likewise, brands like Tatcha have been tapping into virtual reality to create online landscapes for customers to explore. Tatcha teamed up with Nintedo's Animal Crossing (where you take over a fantasy island to create your own paradise – dream house, plants, neighbours, the lot).
The Japanese beauty brand reimagined Kyoto city as Tatchaland last year to celebrate the launch of its Rice Water Cleanser. Players could visit onsen spas, tea rooms and meditate in bamboo forests while discovering more about the products and entering into a scavenger hunt to win a sample. Givenchy and Glossier have also tapped into the popular game, making their products (the Givenchy Prisme Libre powder and Le Rouge lipstick and Glossier's pink hoodie) available for the games avatars to wear.
And to coincide with the launch of its Skinclusive Summer Line, Gillette Venus created inclusive skin and body designs to be used across the Animal Crossing avatars so that freckles, eczema, acne, vitiligo disabilities, cellulite and wrinkles, among others, could all be represented.
Meanwhile, Soap & Glory launched Soap & Glory Land on social gaming platform, RecRoom to celebrate its new Glow and Good Hydrations skincare ranges. Users are guided through a pink paradise, glowing citrus groves and fondant cloudscapes, with each space speaking to the key benefits of the ranges and offering up a new game. As players navigate through dreamy mists and gargantuan rain drops, they also have the chance to win products from the brand to redeem in Boots.
M.A.C joined forces with The Sims to become the first-ever makeup brand available in the game, which means your character can wear your favourite iconic products. And e.l.f. became the first beauty brand to launch its own channel on global streaming platform, Twitch, teaming up with the platforms mega and micro influencers to stream beauty chats and giveaways to reach gamers.
It's a new frontier for beauty, but it's quite literally changing the game. So, if you've ever wondered what you'd look like with blue eyeshadow, or want to unwind in a beauty paradise from the comfort of your sofa, you can. And that's just the start.
This was originally published on Glamour UK.