The goal of this paper was to determine the potential link between video games and tourism promotional tools and subsequently analyse them. Video games, much like film and TV, have been shown to affect the user's desire to visit a location they had seen in the game. A phenomenon called “Top-Of-Mind Awareness” (T.O.M), where a brand or location is the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when asked about a specific topic is the driving force of this study. T.O.M awareness has been shown to be a significant contributor to the destination decisions of tourists, i.e. when asked about a “Hot Seaside Location” potential tourists may think of Greece. This signifies that if a location is more prevalent in their minds, they may be more likely to choose that location as their primary holiday destination. Games such as Assassin’s Creed have proven to trigger this effect with the use of physically accurate locations, albeit set in a historical context, story, and role-playing.
This study focuses on a game centred on jousting based on the Alka of Sinj, a 306-year-old tradition commemorating a battle that took place in 1715 Croatia. The hypothesis of this study is that games, more specifically the game based on the Alka of Sinj, have a significant advantage over traditional tourism promotional tools. To prove, or disprove, the hypothesis a method of evaluating tourism potential in games had to be developed and tested.
The chosen method of evaluation is a variation on A/B testing, the participants were presented with a survey the asked indirect and open questions to measure their T.O.M awareness and preconceived notions when presented different geographical regions in Europe. Once the survey had been completed each participant was invited to play a short session of the Alka game. As the goal of the game is to incite long term behavioural and opinion changes, the second round of testing had to take place approximately a week after the first round to ensure that the potential changes in T.O.M awareness are long term and not a result of the participant seeing the desired answers just moments before the survey. The second survey round asked identical questions to the participant so the data can be easily compared.
The survey results are promising, despite the small scale of the study. After comparing the before and after surveys, the T.O.M awareness of Croatia had increased by 20% and a 10% increase in T.O.M awareness of jousting. However, as the study was conducted with 10 people, the accuracy and margin of error are not ideal. With an accuracy of 80% and a margin of error of 15%, it is possible that the increase of jousting T.O.M awareness could be irrelevant to the game and solely just normal statistical variance.
These findings are not exclusive to the tourism industry, with potential implications for other industries. Video games could potentially be used to promote other products and services, creating a more interactive and engaging promotional campaign. With these implications come some ethical concerns regarding the use of games and tourism. The first of which being, as of the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic, this study is focusing on tourism promotion while travelling is currently unsafe. Other concerns stem from the potential effectiveness of games. Issues ranging from an increased carbon footprint and over-tourism come to mind.
In conclusion, this study serves as a stepping stone for further research on the topic of tourism promotion in games. The game in questions, Alka Knights, has shown to increase the T.O.M awareness of the players in the two metrics that matter to the study, the country, Croatia, and the core premise of the game, jousting. This testing method can easily be used for other games in the future with only some minor alterations.