Spielwarenmesse: Changing the world with play - Interview with Christoph Deeg

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Spielerisch die Welt verändern - Interview mit Christoph Deeg
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Changing the world with play - Interview with Christoph Deeg

from Thomas Tjiang

Christoph Deeg is a designer of digital-analogue life spaces based in Nuremberg, Germany with a very special mission: solving global problems with game principles. This goes as far as specialised retail, which must redefine its playing rules.

Mr Deeg, what exactly is it that you do, as a studied musician who then switched over to become a designer of digital-analogue life spaces?

Christoph Deeg

Christoph Deeg: First and foremost, I consult and look after companies, organisations and institutions undergoing digital or other transformation processes. I make use of so-called game mechanics for these transformation processes. In the end it always comes down to change: we change the world, the world changes itself, and we are changed by it. To be able to work in these processes of change, I use game mechanics.

What does gamification mean to you?

C. D.: The main idea of gamification is relatively easy. Playing is the oldest cultural technique in the world. At young ages, people play to explore the world which surrounds them. It is an innnate behaviour that has much to do with neurology and neuropsychology. People learn best when they are playing, when they feel comfortable doing so and when the playing is separate from their educational background, culture, age and gender. These game mechanics can be applied to non-game processes as well.

Could you illustrate the Target-Feedback-Model with help of the classic game Ludo?

C. D.: You have a board, playing pieces and dice. The objective is simple: get your playing pieces from the starting square to the row of four called home. I can clearly see which way I must go. A temporary objective can come up when another player is much further than I and I want to “kick him out”. The dice do not change the objective, but the temporary objectives that result from the numbers we get from throwing the dice. I receive immediate feedback on my playing behaviour as well. I know exactly where I am in the game and experience the emotional reaction when I kick another player out. The Target-Feedback-Model is everywhere.

Does your approach help owner-operated toy retailers in the fight against online giants?

C. D.: In this game, retailers – and I do not say this to be unkind – have no chance against Amazon. As long as retailers try to be a copy of them, it will not work. The opposite position does not work either, trying to convince oneself that most people do not want to use the digital offering. I can find hundreds of thousands of toy variations on Amazon, retailers on the other hand have a limited product range. However, retailers can learn from game mechanics.

What exactly does that mean?

[Translate to English:] Chart Spielmotivation

C. D.: Retailers need to really look into their customers’ motivational portfolios. Sales and marketing on the basis of target groups depending on age, gender or income has failed. People are much more diverse than those target groups show. Some people like to meet new people through play, and for them, the social aspect is most important. Other people like being surprised time and again. Some people like to have the feeling that they are gradually becoming experts in a topic, in this case toys. This is how different motivational portfolios can be created.

And then what?

C. D.: If you are working with motivational portfolios, then you first define the various possible motivations, and then check whether it is possible to address all of those different motivations through product presentation, sales pitch and advertising. What that means, is that the presentation of wares must speak to all of those motivations. Sometimes it can be necessary to develop and implement new concepts for the store as a whole.

What does that mean for the three motivations in the example from before?

C. D.: The customers in the first group, the ones that love socialising, will react to an offer of playing and trying something out in the store. When it comes to the second group, that likes being surprised, it all comes down to presentation of wares. The presentation must constantly change, bring in new concepts and try different things out if possible. For the third customer group, it is a question of having various genres in a toy store. Above all, they expect additional information and an extensive inventory. This group also includes people who like to inform themselves online.

So there is no way around addressing customers individually?

C. D.: It is of paramount importance to know the reasons why someone is in your store. This can add up to even ten or twelve different motivational portfolios. Brick and mortar retailers that succeed in covering all the portfolios around their locations will receive a high level of customer loyalty and benefit from that.

But is that enough?

C. D.: There is another further step that I believe to be much more important. And that is the creation of multi-optional experience spaces. These are the result of implementing various motivational portfolios. It comes down to creating a space, which can also be a toy store, in which customers can experience and try out toys and games in various ways. Not only retailers, but also manufacturers must ask themselves how to turn stores into analogue experience spaces. Maybe we need to come up with new ways of cooperating with one another.

Is that not taking a step back into the analogue world, away from digitalisation?

[Translate to English:] Schreibtisch mit Laptop und Bausteinen

C. D.: No, we need to work in a more digital-analogue manner. The world is not undergoing a digitalisation, that is a myth. What we are experiencing is the creation of digital-analogue life realities. An example: young people can be very interested in an analogue book, with everything that culturally goes with it. And then they indulge in it on social media channels such as Instagram under hashtags like #bookstagram and the like. To include this group is a huge opportunity for retailers, as Amazon & Co. cannot do that. To work with people, both digitally and analogue, is something the online giants will not be able to do in a hundred years.


And how could that work for toy stores?

C. D.: A digital connection is extremely important here as well. With that, it would be possible, for example, to have the presentation of wares or rather the whole store function like a game. And it is of course just as important that the customers stay connected to the store via an App or a very good website connected to social media channels. If a single toy store is too small to be able to afford something like that, it would make sense to create a network with other toy stores in the region.

The Corona Pandemic is accelerating the process of change and the speed of digitalisation immensely. Is that a curse or a blessing?

C. D.: We are culturally and functionally not prepared for this new life reality. We must first learn to implement certain processes digitally. Simply transferring analogue business ideas or communication patterns to the digital world is not enough. Because of this, everyone should be aware of the fact that quickly implemented digital solutions during times of Corona are small steps into the future. However, real digital transformation requires starting and shaping a universal process of change. The complexity of the subject requires a new way of conceiving the processes that are to change an organisation. That is not possible with quick solutions. But Corona also brings opportunity. We can learn how changeable a society really is and which general conditions must be present to make transformation possible. This is of course an extrinsically motivated process. The scope of possibilities is reduced from the outside. The question of which rules the government sets for us is not relevant, but what people then make out of them, what we make out of them.

About the author

Thomas Tjiang is business and local journalist and communication consultant. Since the start of the 1990s, he has worked for all types of media. The freelance expert for literature and communication science has lived in Nuremberg for 30 years. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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