Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Strategy for the Gaming Industry with R/GA’s Karon Cannon

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
The associate strategist on the overlap between gaming and strategy, and how each can inform the other

“It comes down to either bringing the gaming world into culture or culture into gaming,” says Karon Cannon, associate strategist, R/GA NY on why he is passionate about working in strategy, the gaming industry, and why strategy will always be an important part of every business and brand.

Q> Tell me about your career. What was your path to where you are today?

Karon> I will work this out a little bit backwards. Right now, I'm an associate strategist at R/GA NY. I work in the Talent Pool, which is a department of various talent that gets pulled into multidisciplinary projects for different clients. Generally, I work on projects out of our New York office, but occasionally, I will work on projects led by other global offices as well. 

Before I became a strategist I was a producer working with clients including Samsung and Mercedes-Benz. Prior to R/GA, I worked for the Clio Awards, where I was responsible for building juries, my favourite being the games jury. I’m very passionate about video games, so that was a very exciting and insightful opportunity. Through that process, I came across a lot of creative leadership and output from R/GA which influenced my decision to seek an opportunity here.  

Q> What about video games and gaming makes you excited?

Karon> At times I can be very nostalgic and video games are a big part of that. I still enjoy older stories as if they were brand new. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to understand storytelling in this medium in a different way. Now, I have a genuine appreciation for it. Part of my work in strategy is storytelling, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy video games so much. Winning is also an exciting part of playing video games.

Q> What do you find exciting in your current role/client work?

Karon> What really gets me excited about working in strategy is working with creative talent. I’m always impressed by their output from briefs to new challenges I present to them. That, and when they come to me with interesting ideas and concepts and I find a way to tie them together with a need our client never even knew they had. That makes it magical.

I also love working on gaming projects (obviously), whether it’s a client that’s already in that space or a client that’s curious about what the buzz is around gaming. It’s important to provide a fresh point of view on gaming and culture.

Q> The agency world is very fast-paced and you have switched roles. How did you adjust to changes?

Karon> I’m a Taurus, which means I’m stubborn and I don’t necessarily enjoy change, but being here, you have to get used to moving with the rapids. My transition from producing to strategy was an easy adjustment though. As a producer, a lot of my energy was focused on what is happening internally. But I’m naturally very curious, so figuring out what is happening externally, in conversations, and in culture was more up my alley. 

Q> What are your thoughts on the future of strategy?

Karon> Strategy will always be helping businesses boil down available information into what is real, what people want, and what they are talking about.

Strategists will always be important, not only to build narratives but to live them as well. Part of that is who we are outside of work and how we bring that experience and personality to the table to inform what we do to make it real and relatable. As we increase intersectionality we become more nuanced and that makes things more authentic. This is why strategy is so important – it’s about who we are outside of work. We are all different and come from various cultures and have our own individuality. This helped me when I switched from production to strategy because I brought unique perspectives from the gaming space and the cultural space. As a black gay person, but also a person that plays games, I fit into many different facets and I'm trying to bring them all into my work. When businesses want to penetrate specific markets, it's important to have the perspective of someone who fits into all those categories.

Q> How do you see strategy developing the gaming space?

Karon> There are brands that really want to have a footprint in the gaming world, whether it's wanting to talk to gamers or being able to authentically support them. This is where strategy comes in to say, “based on what you’re doing, here’s your way into this community, and here’s how you can talk to a gamer in a way that makes sense for them.”

On the other side, there are brands that are already established in the gaming community and have gamers’ trust. With these types of brands, we may want to try engaging new audiences. Avid gamers know what they want to hear, but what about people who are just on the cusp of gaming? What real insight can we unlock to bring them into this world and keep them interested?

It comes down to either bringing the gaming world into culture or culture into gaming. Sooner or later they’ll become the same thing. Similar to how art and music are just a part of the culture; we’re on our way.

Q> What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Gaming?

Karon> Ha! Yes. I love playing games but I also enjoy streaming them on Twitch or YouTube. I spend a lot of time watching playthroughs and people usually think that is boring and ask me, “Why would you watch someone else play a game?”  But people watch sports all the time so I’m not sure I understand that question.

Apart from gaming, I enjoy practising contemporary and jazz dance. It's a big part of me – I’m no stranger to the audition scene. Also, I like learning new languages. I speak Japanese and my next goal is to learn Swedish. I’m in love with Sweden. Also, I am a cat dad so I love spending time with my cat; she’s an avid game watcher. She likes to watch me play sometimes, but if the game gets boring, she’s out.

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