Gamifying the Movie Experience

Gamifying the Movie Experience


Clinton Bonner brings up some really interesting ideas about gamifying the movie theater experience in his recent blog post “Please Turn Your Cell Phones On! – The Future Movie Experience“. There have been many different attempts over the years to make watching films more interactive, from 3D glasses to the gimmicky catalog of director William Castle. Most of these effects were largely passive, they were merely things that happened to the audience. Recalling reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a child, where the reader would reach a fork in the storyline and have to select how it would continue, Mr. Bonner considers how this can be tied into films. He suggests the idea of the audience voting via mobile devices to determine the outcome of  the film.

Mr. Bonner’s idea goes further by suggesting a game that proceeds the screening, so that audience members can accrue points that give them more clout in the process. A higher ranking player’s vote would be worth more than a newbie player’s. This would provide the opportunity for online communities, promotional deals and separate interactive screenings that would be priced higher than the standard screening. This idea is not entirely new. In William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus (1961), the audience was instructed to vote for the film’s ending with a ballot card, but it’s been widely argued as to whether or not alternative reels actually existed and if the voting process made any difference. In the internet age, where fans are more able to sniff out scams and trade information, duping people into a fake voting situation would never work. Directors would have to do it for real.

The idea creates an interesting potential for creative film making as directors could include previously deleted scenes and alternate endings without responsibility if they don’t work well. (“It’s not my fault, you people voted for it!”) Of course it also creates possibilities for marketing and advertising tie-ins. Companies could offer points for the film’s online game for purchasing products or TV stations could offer special codes during a show. It might even encourage people who have fallen in love with home viewing options like Hulu and Netflix back into the theater by making movies more fun.

Read more about Clinton Bonner’s idea by checking out the full post here.


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.


  1. One of my favorite “gameified” movie experiences was Clue, circa 1985, which was based off of the actual board game. There were three versions of the film each with a different ending – sometimes the theater would let viewers know which one was going to be featured, other times it was random. Of course the 2011 version of that would actually allow consumers to interact and influence the ending in some capacity.

  2. What I would find even more engaging would be triggers in the movie that caused a real life event (eg make someone’s phone ring) where a person (selected at random or weighted by experience points) would get a secret message or have a super user influence at one (or more) points in that screening. That person would feel very special and people would love to be him/her.

    Could also make it happen to a couple people and they have to crack the code before a certain point in the movie.

    The mind boggles at the creative possibilities.