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Lisa Strick, Chief Idea Officer & FunVentor at The Idea Bungalow

While pitching new toys at ChiTAG (Chicago Toy & Game Week) in November, toy company inventor relations executives consistently asked me: Do we need to approach game design differently for Millennials? And if so, how?

Why did this come up? When thinking about inventing board games, most divide the target market into two categories: Kids and Adults. It doesn’t stop there. Games and toys targeting the kids market are further segmented by age and gender, taking child physical, psychological, and social development as well as related play patterns into account. But what about Adults? How is that target consumer segmented? Is there a big difference between Boomers and Millennials? How might we design new games differently and specifically for Millennials?

What you need to know first and foremost is that Millennials grew up learning and playing very differently than Boomers did, and therefore their play patterns and expectations are different. According to the "Let's Play Brand" study conducted by MTV (music television channel) to understand the relationship between Millennials and game play “ Millennials’ brains are—according to the game designers we interviewed in the study—’hard wired‘ differently than those of older generations. Older generations played analogue—chess with actual people who eventually got tired, sword-fighting with sticks that eventually snapped. Millennials played digital, with an opponent that never tired, that increased and decreased in intensity at their command.” -(Nick Shore, “Millennials Are Playing With You,” Harvard Business Review, December 12, 2011.)

Most game designers already understand this. What else is important to consider? As an innovation consultant with over 20 years experience, I have led the development of new products targeting Millennials across many categories including food & beverage, office & school supplies, and health & beauty care, and have discovered five key trends to consider when designing for this consumer that universally apply to all categories. Since everyone enjoys food, let’s look at how these five trends are exemplified in the food category and then apply them to game design. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

MILLENNIALS HAVE A VOICE AND WANT TO BE HEARD. The popularity of television series such as American Idol and Big Brother shows that Millennials are accustomed to voting to have a say in the outcomes. This trend has impacted the food category with the surge in co-creation. For example, Frito-Lay has had tremendous success with their “Do Us a Flavor” contest where consumers submit and vote for new flavors and the winners are produced and distributed nationally. And it didn’t stop there—participants digitally designed bags and promoted their flavors online to be eligible to win bags of their designed chips. Walmart leveraged this trend with their “Get on the Shelf” campaign, which invites consumers to submit ideas for new products and then the masses decide which ideas get produced and ultimately land on Walmart’s shelves. What does this mean to game designers targeting Millennials? Consider different game play options, preferably unique ones, that enable players to show off their strategies, opinions, or answers to others playing the game. Think about new ways you might include the requirement to vote, rank, compare, or score. Consider how you might enable players to co-create something, whether related to game play or the outcome. How might you involve a social media aspect to the game? What else might you do to enable Millennials to have a voice while playing or promoting your game?


According to Merriam Webster, a life hack is “a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently.”’ In the food category, a large portion of Millennials don’t take the time or know how to cook, so it is not surprising that, according to a number of recent studies, they eat out more than any other generation (some studies say at least five times per week). Their hack if they do want to eat at home? They order in from restaurants using apps such as Postmates, Uber EATS, and GrubHub. Another hack is that they order meal subscriptions such as Munchery, which provides fresh meals prepared by a chef delivered weekly. If they do enjoy cooking, Millennials have hacks for that, too, with ingredient-and-recipe meal kit services such as HelloFresh, Purple Carrot, Blue Apron, and even Amazon Meal Kits. What does this mean to game designers targeting Millennials? Consider game play that requires players to win by being more efficient than others or completing difficult tasks more quickly. Consider topics that may teach shortcuts or require players to share or compete with their current life hacks. Think about how you might stimulate players to come up with their own ideas for new life hacks. What else might you invent to leverage how Millennials like to hack the system? [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

[if !supportLists]MILLENNIALS SEEK UNIQUE EXPERIENCES AND SURPRISES. Retailers, restaurants, and manufacturers are catering to Millennials’ desires to customize their eating and drinking experiences. Millennials build their own six packs of beer at stores such as Kroger and World Market. Pizza Hut has a customizable pizza program where customers choose from 10 new crust flavors, six sauces, five new toppings, and four “drizzles.” McDonald's build-your-own-burger menu offers choices in types of bread and topping. Millennials also seek unique combinations, or mashups, such as the Cronut (croissant-donut combo) and the Piecaken (all-in-one holiday dessert that is a combination of pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and an apple upside-down cake) or creating their own drink combinations from the 100 flavors available in the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Millennials are often looking for a surprise; remember that they grew up with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and candies and gum that change flavor randomly over time, for example Starburst Flavor Morph and Stride Shift Flavor Changing Gum. Millennials don’t want to be bored or experience the predictable—so if they can’t customize or find unique combinations, they want to be surprised. This is driving the growth of a number of alternative dining concepts—pop-ups, communal dinners, culinary incubators, extreme dining like Dinning in the Sky and more—offering a fresh way to participate in shared eclectic dining experiences. What does this mean to game designers targeting Millennials? Consider enabling players to customize some aspect of game play or allow them to create their own additional rules or bonus rounds. Also consider how you might combine two ormore of their favorite games or combine some of their favorite activities with a game. Think about how you might incorporate the element of surprise, or even shock, into the game. Consider how you might include alternative reality or alternative reality. How might you change up the intensity or difficulty over time to maintain interest? There’s one thing we know for sure: don’t create a predictable outcome. What else might you do to leverage how Millennials like surprises and unique experiences? [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

[if !supportLists]MILLENNIALS ARE ADVENTUROUS AND CURIOUS ABOUT GLOBAL CULTURES. The most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials seek culinary adventures and are more willing to explore global cuisines. Desiring heat and bold flavors to spice up their life, they snack on products like Blue Diamond Almonds Bold Sriracha and Aged Cheddar Horseradish Kettle Chips from Deep River Snacks. They are adventurous and are more likely to try different types of foods and food products. This desire to explore, coupled with the above-mentioned desire for unique combinations, has led to an influx of new restaurants and food items that incorporate cultural fusion. For example, Sushirito is revolutionizing sushi culture with made-to-order, hand-held sushi burritos combining Asian and Latin flavors. And several other handheld flavor adventures have emerged, such as the Naanwich, the Naan Taco, and the Ramen Burger, which serves a burger between ramen noodle “buns.” What does this mean to game designers targeting Millennials? Consider how you might include the passion for adventure in your games. Consider ways in which you might incorporate elements from global cultures or combine facets of top games from around the world. Hmm, what might a “fusion” game look like? How might game play be more bold? Think about how you might design games that improve or test knowledge of global events, cultures, and other global topics that could be serious or silly and fun. What else might you do to use game play to enable Millennials to be adventurous and have global adventures? [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

[if !supportLists]MILLENNIALS ARE SOCIAL AND LIKE TO SHARE EXPERIENCES WITH FRIENDS. Millennials’ desire for shared experiences has had a big impact in the restaurant industry. Menus feature a lot more appetizers to share, and more restaurants are creating community seating areas to encourage young diners to expand their social circle and break bread with new friends. TGI Fridays has endless appetizers and a “taste and share” menu and The Olive Garden offer small plates referred to as Tapas. Importantly, according to The National Restaurant Association's 2017 State of the Industry report, 61% of adults say they would rather spend money on an experience, such as a restaurant or other activity, compared to purchasing an item from a store. This desire to socialize also impacts grocery store sales as Millennials like to entertain with causal get-togethers at home. They are more likely to buy family sized or multi-serving food products than other targets. And there has been a rise in prepared ready-to-eat and ready-to cook food items found in grocery stores and club stores such as Costco to serve this need. And of course, they want to share their fun with the world. As we have all likely experienced, Millennials like to broadcast food choices they’re proud of on social media. Whether on Instagram, Facebook, or SnapChat, food images with appetite appeal are just as important as the content being shared. What does this mean to game designers targeting Millennials? Besides designing games that require multiple players, consider games that encourage collaborative play. Also consider how you might design games that enable players to get to know each other better or stimulate shared experiences. Consider ways in which you might design a game to be played while enjoying appetizers or during a casual dinner party among adults. Think about what elements you might include to inspire Millennial parents to share game play with their children. And how might you create Instagram-worthy shareable pics as part of game play? What else might you do to use game play to enable Millennials to have better shared experiences? [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

WHAT’S NEXT? Just writing about these trends sparked a number of game ideas that I could design specifically for Millennials! I hope this article has stimulated ideas for you as well. Inventor Relations execs, I look forward to connecting and sharing my game concepts with you soon. Feel free to contact me at with questions or to discuss opportunities.

A final note:, a popular website offering graze discovery boxes, seems to have successfully taken in to account all five of these Millennial trends: first you create a custom snack profile online with all of your taste, dietary and delivery preferences (1. Want to Be Heard) and then subscribe to their snacks subscription service (2. Hack the System). Graze offers a variety of new flavor combos (3. Surprises) and fusion flavors (4. Global), that come with options for larger sized sharing bags (5. Social). Feeling inspired? Please post your thoughts and ideas!

About Lisa Strick, Chief Idea Officer & FunVentor at The Idea Bungalow

An innovation consultant highly regarded for identifying and translating marketplace trends, consumer insights and accelerating technologies into compelling new product and service offerings, Lisa has worked on both the corporate and consultancy sides in a broad range of categories for world-class companies such as P&G, Unilever, ConAgra, Pepsi-Co, Mattel, LeapFrog, Avery-Dennison, Big Heart Pet Brands, Maybelline, Pfizer, Bayer, BD, Caterpillar and NASA, among many others.

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