What video gamers can teach business about innovation
Last weekend I experienced innovation in its truest form. I snagged tickets to see the Video Game Orchestra (VGO) at Boston Symphony Hall. For two hours, I was, as they say, transported to another, better place.
Mind you, I am not a gamer. In fact, when I venture into the den where my son is immersed in some 3-D tableau, I typically avert my eyes from the screen before I succumb to motion sickness. So yes, it was my son’s idea to go to the concert.
VGO is a rock band backed by an orchestra—they call it “rockestral.” Picture this on stage. A full orchestra with complete strings, horns, drums, and a harp. These consummate musicians were flanked on the right by a 16-person choir. In front of it all was a rock band with bass and acoustic guitars, drums, tambourine, chimes—you name it, they had it. Not to forget the solo violinist with a shock of wavy hair who sprang out of nowhere every so often to add yet another piquant element when least expected. But here’s the best part. Keeping the whole shebang anchored was Haruka Yabuno on the keyboard. When she was pounding away, this woman was the rock solid foundation that turned each song into pure, pulse-pounding joy. From Final Fantasy VII and Street Fighter to Kingdom Hearts, Grandia and Chrono Trigger, I was transfixed.
The reason why I found the VGO so innovative is because they were not only a joy to experience, but they were genuine. The producer, Shota Nakama, was humble and sweet as he repeatedly thanked the audience for their support. The concert was part of VGO’s efforts on Kickstarter to raise $30,000 to release an album next spring. Kickstarter is an angel investment concept where aspiring artists can raise funds in exchange for perks like early or free access to published works, honorable mentions, or custom-made creations. VGO met their funding goal, raising almost $37,000. But unlike other funding instruments, such as VCs, artists that raise funds through Kickstarter keep full control of their creations. I’ve blogged about the pluses and pitfalls of the democratization of content, and this is an example of the greatness of the new model.
The melding of different genres to create something different isn’t entirely new. Last century old-timers might remember the strings sections in The Rolling Stones song, As Tears Go By. This century’s heroes, though, have to be the gamers. True innovation has its own unique beauty, and the VGO has this full force. This is how every business needs to approach innovation. Start with a solid foundation that keeps it all together. Change it up with something the customer hasn’t thought of but really needs—once they get it. Above all, be genuine. Let’s hear it for the gamers.