When you get tired of hunting Pokémon, Hillary Clinton’s campaign hopes you’ll get addicted to her new game too.
The campaign unveiled a new smartphone app for supporters Sunday that borrows elements and strategies directly from the mobile gaming industry, a move that Clinton’s tech team thinks will get more people involved with the campaign.
Here’s how it works: The app opens with an interactive “mobile field office” that sends users four daily specific tasks they can complete on behalf of the campaign. Supporters might be asked to share a new digital video from the campaign on Facebook, send a text message to a friend or RSVP for a local Clinton event. The app also provides daily quizzes about policy aimed at disseminating Clinton’s positions on major issues and contrasting them with Republican nominee Donald Trump. Completion of those tasks are rewarded with “stars” that can be used to buy items for the “office” or even real items from the campaign store. (With 350 stars users get you a signed card from Clinton, herself.) Friends who download the app can compete to see who completes the most challenges.
The team that built the app pointed to games like Candy Crush, Farmville, Duolingo and Swarm as inspiration for the design. These games entice users to keep playing by endless promises for points, badges and awards, and they connect users with friends to make them feel competitive. And that’s what keeps people coming back.
“In gaming, there’s a lot of knowledge on how to engage people, there’s a lot of knowledge on how to bring the user back time and time again. And that’s a problem the campaign is also interested in,” said Clinton senior product manager Stephanie Cheng, who previously worked at DreamWorks, where she developed products for films like “Monsters v. Aliens” and “Shrek Forever After.” “They may have traditionally tried to reach out to those people in different ways, but I think there’s a lot of overlap between gaming and talking to supporters to get them engaged over time.”
Campaign apps aren’t a new idea, of course. President Barack Obama’s app gave people access to organizing and canvassing tools, and Republican Mitt Romney let supporters take photos with campaign logos in the foreground. (The first iteration of the app was widely mocked because it misspelled the name of the country as “Amercia.”)
Traditionally, presidential campaigns get supporters involved by encouraging them to visit a local office, where a field leader dispatches them to knock on doors in a neighborhood or make phone calls on behalf of the candidate. But the campaign found a large swath of people who are supportive of the campaign but don’t have the time to put in several hours at the phone bank. The app aims to get those people involved, and the gaming element keeps them coming back. The campaign’s data and research teams also found that key voting demographics – African-Americans, women and Latinos – engage more with game apps than the rest of the population.
“One of the things we heard was that if you’re a supporter and you like Hillary on Facebook, but you’re not quite ready to do traditional asks like knocking on doors or making phone calls. It’s a pretty big leap and it’s scary and it’s daunting. That was the problem I wanted to solve on Day One,” Cheng said. “A lot of them feel like they don’t have the time or resources to do these more traditional asks, and they didn’t know what else they could do to help. So this app is really for those people.”
Cheng said the campaign sees the app as a tool to get people comfortable with working with the campaign, which they hope will turn into more involved activism.
“The goal is to get people way more comfortable with traditional asks, and once we see they’re comfortable with the challenges, we’re gong to serve up the traditional asks and plug in more with the field staff and say, ‘Now this is a great opportunity for you to go talk to people or organize, or a great chance to visit a phone bank,’” she said.
And will Clinton ever incorporating something from Pokémon Go? It’s possible, Cheng said.
“I actually really wanted to build a game where we have ‘H’ logos hidden all over the world by local artists and you use your phone to take pictures and collect them,” Cheng said. “So we’re working on some features for how to integrate.”