How Game Design Principles Can Help Brands Engage Customers

Steve Desjarlais
November 26, 2018

By 2020, chatbots should take over 25% of customer service interactions. By 2025, the cognitive computing market is predicted to reach USD 49.36 billion.

As mobile becomes the preferred customer interface for online shopping, customer service is moving further away from in-person interaction every day, making it increasingly hard for brands to connect on a personal level. In the world of ‘on-demand’ where instant gratification is now an expected service, more of us are turning to chatbots when we need information, and when we need it fast. From finding a recipe to booking a driving test to simply answering FAQs, chatbots have become our trusted online companions.

But there’s more to a chatbot’s appeal than its instantaneous capabilities — chatbots are now pivotal at creating complete experiences for customers, complete with graphics, creative storytelling, and personalization akin to that of the gaming world. What’s more, this link between the design principles of the gaming world and that of the modern chatbot goes further than we might imagine.

From immersive engagement like the Call of Duty bot (6 million messages exchanged in the first 24 hours) to self-serve customer support for a renovation center (58% of FAQs were automated in just 8 weeks), the results are already enormously effective.

At Heyday, we know a thing or two about gamification. In fact, it’s been foundational to our DNA from Day One. Two of our co-founders—Hugues (our CTO) and I— have spent more than a decade at Ubisoft building blockbuster games such as Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs, Far Cry, and many more. Plus, we scouted the cream of the crop from our experience there to join Heyday’s ranks, so much so that we count on the expertise of 6 Ubisoft alumni, including the Narrative Producer from Far Cry 3 & 4 who is leading UX for our top clients.

In our new day-to-day designing engaging customer experiences for Fortune 1000 clients, we see a direct correlation between designing immersive games and crafting meaningful conversations with customers. Here’s where our experience comes into play.

The onboarding process

Unless you’re an avid gamer, chances are the first time you play the latest game release, you’re going to need a little help. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your enthusiasm quashed within the first 10 minutes because you simply can’t figure out how the game works, and that’s enough to discourage the average Joe for good. Beginner tutorials go a long way.

The same underlying principle applies to chatbots—the initial interaction, or ‘onboarding’ process, is ultimately the deciding factor of whether or not we continue to engage. Setting out the expectations of the conversation from the get-go, such as what exactly the chatbot can do for you (finding the nearest grocery store, answering FAQs), is much more likely to gain and retain the customer’s attention.

This hand-holding found in the early stages of game onboarding is a transferable principle which will help your AI assistant create an engaging experience from the start.

Storytelling and persona design

The increase in the sophistication of NPC (Non-Player Characters) AI has enabled storytelling capabilities to reach impressive new heights. NPCs are a vital part of any successful game — they help to set up a credible narrative and immerse the player into the game world. NPC behavioural AI is now creating reactive characters that can personalize your gameplay — NPCs are often your sidekick or wingman, helping you to navigate the game by providing vital information and aid when you need it.

Chatbots are no different than immersive NPC sidekicks. As an extension of your brand, chatbots serve as the virtual companion that guides customers through their buying journey; the shopping guide, the restaurant connoisseur, or the deal finder.

The goal of your chatbot is to bring your customers down a path based on their unique intent and have the same responsive capabilities as that of an NPC gaming sidekick. For the first time ever – thanks to conversational AI – the customer experience can now adapt to each person and provide a level of personalization that is centred around your journey, just like a game reacts to your intents and actions.

Better still, an AI assistant with a strong brand voice is essential to making the experience engaging.


Behind a strong narrative, graphics can make or break a game. Everything from the environments, the characters, and even the lighting all play a role in the overall look and feel of the game, and how it resonates with the gamer.

The chatbots that are making waves today are those that are incorporating this attention to detail in terms of their visual appeal; CUIs (Conversational User Interfaces) blended with GUI (Graphical User Interfaces, such as quick reply buttons and product cards, etc.). The use of emojis, videos and other media have enormous pull on the new generation of customers who are text-hungry and who love to be entertained.

This also feeds into the replayability element of gaming — great graphics contributes to a gamers desire to play, and play again. Chatbots designed with replayability and longevity top of mind are those which change up their use of graphics and don’t become stale after one use.


Possibly the most important aspect of both gaming and CUIs is the role that personalization plays. From player selection to customizing weapons and accessories, to choosing the aesthetics and attributes of your character, gaming is all about giving the gamer control. And people love to be in control of their own narrative.

AI chatbots can mimic this personal touch to great effect, leveraging data from conversations to personalize messaging and offer appropriate responses at the right time. In addition, the entire story of the brand can be focused around the customer journey within the chatbot, marking a paradigm shift from traditional media where brands are used to having a monologue about themselves.

With more emphasis than ever being placed on AI-driven personalization, storytelling, and graphics in the gaming world, we can replicate these same elements within branded chatbots to create engaging customer conversations.

At Heyday, we’re bringing this principle to life every day. We know that the more immersive and personalized customer experiences are, the more effective they are, and that in turn leads to boosting sales and increasing customer satisfaction. It’s a virtuous circle, and we’re just getting started.