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Braid Creator on 'Evil' Social Games 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-care-about-your-virtual-farm dept.
PCGamer recently spoke with Jonathan Blow, creator of the popular indie platformer Braid, about his views on the rise of social games over last few years. He thinks many games in that category aren't actually very social, and when asked if he thought such games are evil, he replied, "Yes. Absolutely." Quoting: "[With certain social games] it’s about the game exploiting your friends list that you already made, so it’s not really about meeting people. And it’s not really about doing things with them because you’re never playing at the same time. It’s about using your friends as resources to progress in the game, which is the opposite of actual sociality or friendship. Maybe not exactly, but it’s not the same thing, right? They’re really just called social games because they run on social networks."
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Braid Creator on 'Evil' Social Games

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  • Sort of... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:34AM (#35219512)

    He's right to a point.

    But I have actually met people on Facebook games like Castle Age (Mafia Wars clone) and got to know them a bit. We cooperated on some things in the game without ever being on at the same time.

    My mother met a lot of people playing Farmville. (Or one of those farm games.) She would meet them in the chatroom and 'work' on their farm and stuff, and get to know them while she did it.

    So yeah, they can be played anti-socially, but they don't have to be.

    • Re:Sort of... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Canazza (1428553) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:21AM (#35219700)

      These "Social Games" aren't really Social Games, they're "Social Media games", ie, games you play that exploit the social media platform you're on. Exploit being the operative word.

      • Exploit being the operative word.

        Indeed, "exploit" is the key word. They aren't "social games"; they are "sociopathic games".

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          they are "sociopathic games".

          I had a dummy Facebook account for awhile that I used to play Farmville. It was kind of neat and it allowed me to connect with some of my younger relatives.

          Of course, being competitive, I added a buttload of friends I did not even know to play the game more "effectively". Interesting, how that works.. but I digress.

          I get on to it one day to interact with my niece and I find a sign near my corn field. "I fucked your chickens". So when you mention sociopathic I figured that is about right in some cases.

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            I actually read the title as " Braid , creator of 'Evil' Social games" . That would have been fun.

    • On Farmville, facebook farms you.

    • by ildon (413912)

      His main argument is that in these games you're not really cooperating with the other players; you're using the other players as resources. I realize that some people really do treat their friends as resources to be exploited, and may not think that this is wrong, but I'm not friends with any of those people.

  • Couldn't agree more (Score:4, Interesting)

    by N1AK (864906) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:40AM (#35219552) Homepage
    There's always been a trend among online games to encourage recruitment of new players. Social networks like Facebook have just allowed this to become even more invasive.

    I've de-friended a few, less close, contacts because of messages from games etc (before FB sorted it out). Had to tell closer friends that I'd have to de-link them if they didn't get more selective about messages they send out (most of whom were ignorant of what they were doing). Yesterday I removed a friend because I got a notification that he answered a question about me on some Facebook application. I didn't join this app, and a friend who is willing to give details about me out to a third party so casually isn't someone I am willing to share a link with on this type of system.

    All of the above isn't Facebook's fault, or even the game makers. It is the users who allow all this, who send all the invites, who accept or tolerate those invites etc. Sadly, as most users aren't going to change, we are reliant on FB etc to implement changes to protect us.

    Finally, before this turns into another thread of endless "I don't use Lamebook" etc posts. No one gives a shit. No one. Bothering to post to say you don't use the tools makes people assume you're a social pariah. The people who don't use facebook, and aren't, don't need to shout about the decision whenever there is an opportunity.
    • by thasmudyan (460603) <udo DOT schroeter AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:38AM (#35219790) Homepage

      Yesterday I removed a friend because I got a notification that he answered a question about me on some Facebook application. I didn't join this app, and a friend who is willing to give details about me out to a third party so casually isn't someone I am willing to share a link with on this type of system.

      Sadly, those apps are lying. Chances are, nobody answered anything about you. It's a ploy. I can almost guarantee you that the app only had access to that person's friend list and used the friend list to contact you. It's probably not your friend's fault at all. Most of the time, when you're trying out a new FB game, it wants access to your friends list before you can even find out whether the game is legit. Even if you remove the app again immediately, it still had enough time to siphon off your data.

    • by kaizokuace (1082079) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:59AM (#35219918)
      They have to shout out here that they do not use facebook because they are not on facebook to tell you that they are not on facebook.
    • by DrXym (126579)

      All of the above isn't Facebook's fault, or even the game makers. It is the users who allow all this, who send all the invites, who accept or tolerate those invites etc. Sadly, as most users aren't going to change, we are reliant on FB etc to implement changes to protect us.

      Apportioning blame is a tricky one. Is it a user's fault for choosing a system that exposes their personal network of friends & info, or Facebook for facilitating & profiting from evil games that want to use the info, or the naked greed of game maker who are prepared to spam, run affiliate scams and set friends against each other by exploiting it.

      At the end of the day I consider the whole system to be rotten and I kind of wonder what exactly people are deriving that makes them put up with such ab

    • yes, there are the friends that connect all their "toys" together, and then you get lots of automated messages when they are in a traffic jam, when they publish a tweet even if you don't use twitter. Most of the times, I just "unfriend" them. They're still my friend in real life, but not in the digital world anymore.
    • by izomiac (815208)
      Out of curiosity, why are you still opt'd into the application platform? It seems simpler to just opt out so that no application can tell you exist, so you don't get notifications from them and they can't leech the information your friends can see...
    • by ildon (413912)

      All of the above isn't Facebook's fault, or even the game makers. It is the users who allow all this, who send all the invites, who accept or tolerate those invites etc. Sadly, as most users aren't going to change, we are reliant on FB etc to implement changes to protect us.

      You can't exonerate the game designers when they're purposefully taking advantage of players' naivete and ignorance in a lot of cases. Just because it can be solved by the users doesn't make it not the developers' fault.

    • by chihowa (366380) *

      Finally, before this turns into another thread of endless "I don't use Lamebook" etc posts. No one gives a shit. No one. Bothering to post to say you don't use the tools makes people assume you're a social pariah. The people who don't use facebook, and aren't, don't need to shout about the decision whenever there is an opportunity.

      I think there actually is a place for people saying that they do or don't use a certain social network. As we all get our cues on what the societal mores are from other people, it's important to know what social activities others choose to participate in. When Facebook goes the way of all the other networks before it, the transition will be reflected by the number of people claiming that they don't use it. People saying that they don't participate in an activity are just as important to that activity as the

  • Initially attracted to Mafia Wars due to it's similarity to a good text rpg I had played for a while before Facebook way around, I have grown disillusioned with all the Wall spam and NON-real interaction that I found the game to be about.

    Glad I never stopped playing the original.. If you want to see what a Social game should be more like try http://www.torn.com/130690 [torn.com] Yes I would get a referral bonus, but only if you make it to level 10, Which I doubt many would make it to just in the course of checking i

    • by Canazza (1428553)

      Try out WittyRPG [wittyrpg.com], it's got a small community but it's alot more social than mafia wars. It's also very quaint.

      • by binkzz (779594)
        It looks more like Legend of the Red Dragon to me
        • by adamstew (909658)

          If you like Legend of the Red Dragon: http://www.lotgd.net/ [lotgd.net]

          That is legend of the green dragon. It's a remake...and you can even use the keyboard to play. Even though it differs in a lot of areas, it definitely has the same feel as the original.

  • its rare to see people put rather muddy concepts into words as clearly as this.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @08:28AM (#35219730) Journal
    " It’s about using your friends as resources to progress in the game, which is the opposite of actual sociality or friendship. Maybe not exactly, but it’s not the same thing, right?"

    "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end" -- Immanuel Kant

    He certainly isn't the only person who would consider such games "evil"...
    • Displayed in a What-a-Burger store from years and years ago:

      Love people, use things. Not love things, use people.
  • It summates all of these facebook games down to their core purpose - to make people click a lot and see ads, plus pay money.

  • "Wahh! People aren't being social the way I think they should be. Make them stop."

    Sorry, but no-one gets to be the arbiter of voluntary human interactions. No-one is forcing you to participate, and decrying others for what they clearly _mutually_ enjoy is interference.

    To be sure, many errors are made. Feelings get hurt. The real test of person's worth is how they recover from errors. Not making any is camouflage.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Umm... did you even read the article? Quoth Jonathan Blow:

      If you go up and you say that to somebody, then you’re just kind of being a jerk, right? That you don’t know what’s best for you. I’m not trying to be that strong about it. I’m not trying to say “I know what’s best for players and they shouldn’t play these games”.

      • If you go up and you say that to somebody, then you’re just kind of being a jerk, right? That you don’t know what’s best for you. I’m not trying to be that strong about it. I’m not trying to say “I know what’s best for players and they shouldn’t play these games”.

        Joe Quesada said the exact same thing about the Spiderman storyline One More Day, that readers who disagree with his idea of un-existing Peter's marriage aren't true fans. How's that working out for him now?

        • by redelm (54142)
          Then what are you saying? I would argue that those who play these games without respect for their friends both need and will very likely receive a sorely needed lesson in respect and consideration for others. The game is actually good because it drives that.
      • Sometes,sure. But sometimes, telling people that they have NO FUCKING CLUE what's best for them doesn't mean you're a jerk at all, it means you're paying attention and possess a spine.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      So, do you disagree that the primary purpose of most "social" games is to exploit player's friends in order to expand their revenue potential by exposing more people to ads or inviting more purchases of content?

                -dZ.

      • by redelm (54142)
        Certainly that is one way to play. One likely to lead to consequences, even IRL. Very good, cheap life lesson.
  • Isn't Braid a single player game? That's not very social!

    I see what you did there, Jonathan Blow.
  • They aren't "social" games, they're "capital" games... use whatever resources you can to maximize personal gain!
  • by ledow (319597)

    Most "social" games aren't social? So sitting in front of a PC and shooting imaginary objects is, just because they're swearing at you as they "die"?

    The biggest problem I have online is that I *don't* want the social element. I have friends, thanks, and if I'm gaming it means that I'm not with them. Sometimes we join up and have a LAN game or similar but it's rare and it's usually quite a private, organised affair.

    When I do go online to play (because single-player is my favourite but does have its disadv

    • So sitting in front of a PC and shooting imaginary objects is, just because they're swearing at you as they "die"?

      Where did he say that?

      The biggest problem I have online is that I *don't* want the social element. I have friends, thanks, and if I'm gaming it means that I'm not with them. Sometimes we join up and have a LAN game or similar but it's rare and it's usually quite a private, organised affair.

      When I do go online to play (because single-player is my favourite but does have its disadvantages after a while) I don't really *want* to socialise, or step into a well-established social circle that I'm not part of.

      So you agree with him that they're not social? He never implied that a game not being social is bad - his own game is SP. What he's saying is that games claim to be social but they're not.

      Try joining any L4D2 game and see how "social" it is - co-operate with everything everyone says or get kicked.

      To be fair, that seems exactly like society IRL.

  • What happens if your friends aren't able to play a game at the same time as you due to time zone differences? This is where this kind of game is cool cause you can still do stuff together and maintain friendships.

    • Such games have existed for longer than the Internet: they're called "play by mail".

      But in many "Social Games" you never actually play with or against your friends, they're just a resource like "coins" or a slot machine that gives you prizes (if it's dependent on their development in the game, like in Farmville).

  • The real problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rysc (136391) *

    The real problem with so-called "social games" such as mafia wars is not that they are exploitive, though they are, and not that they are not very social (ie, no real player interaction). These things are possibly problematic, or not, depending on your views. No, the real problem with these social games is that they are pure time sinks.

    A real game ought to be *winnable*. This is a basic principle and exceptions prove the rule. Maybe you can't "win" at dungeons and dragons, but you can complete definable goa

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      So because you don't like that sort of game people playing them for "no reward, no effect, and no return" should just kill themselves. But people wasting just as much time for "no reard, no effect, and no return" playing games you don't think are stupid should just keep on doing so?

      Seriously what is the difference between spending 1 hour a day playing mafia wars and spending 1 hour a day playing call of duty and spending 1 hour a day playing dungeons and dragons and spending 1 hour a day playing tetris and

      • So because you don't like that sort of game people playing them for "no reward, no effect, and no return" should just kill themselves. But people wasting just as much time for "no reard, no effect, and no return" playing games you don't think are stupid should just keep on doing so?

        Seriously what is the difference between spending 1 hour a day playing mafia wars and spending 1 hour a day playing call of duty and spending 1 hour a day playing dungeons and dragons and spending 1 hour a day playing tetris and spending 1 hour a day watching House? They're all equally time sinks with the onley upside being people get some enjoyment from them.

        D&D improves your creativity. Tetris improves your spatial reasoning, as does CoD, which also improves your dexterity. I don't know whether Mafia Wars/Farmville would be more or less beneficial than House. The games are interactive, which tends to engage more of your brain than passively consuming something like a television show, but MW/FV are almost uniquely repetitive, unstimulating experiences. They may be more akin to spending an hour counting pixels on your tv.

      • by grumbel (592662)

        They're all equally time sinks with the onley upside being people get some enjoyment from them.

        I can't answer the question for Mafia Wars, as I haven't played that, but the problem with FarmVille is that it works on real time. You can't switch it off, do something else and come back in three days as you can with regular games, as by then all your plants in the game will have died. Leaving the game doesn't stop the clock, it just keeps ticking. The game requires constant attention to keep your plants alive and harvest them in time. In that sense FarmVille is a hell of a lot closer to a Tamagotchi then

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        I don't expect you to understand what I'm saying, but there is a difference. I have played all kinds of games and all kinds of video games. Facebook's "games" are almost all pure soul-crushing madness. They're pointless to the point of being actively harmful to the psyche. Go play some god damned tetris, instead, it's far more mentally stimulating.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          And other people will find RPGs to be soul-crushing madness.

          And hat does soul-crushing madness have to do with them not being winnable losable (something they share with games like WoW)?

          • by Rysc (136391) *

            You're attempting to argue an abstract concept, and you are entirely right in general. It's all relative, it's a matter of opinion, different things to different people, etc, etc.. I get it. It's not that I don't understand what you're saying, it's that I'm saying in this case there is a difference. You can keep replying and saying the same thing if you like but it changes nothing; I don't misunderstand you, I disagree with you. In this case it isn't all relative, it isn't a matter of opinion. I simply don'

    • Yes! Another game designer _gets_ it ! Completely agree with everything you say.

      > A real game ought to be *winnable*.

      That's why I prefer the word "Social Toys" because that's what these are, at best. You "play" with a toy; there _may_ be goals, but there is nothing to "win." A game has (clear) ways to win _and_ lose. If you don't have, you don't have a game!

      This same reason is why I am starting to detest MMO's like McWow. There is no winnable state -- granted, it confuses the issue, like getting to

    • by Spatial (1235392)

      You might find this article [cracked.com] interesting.

    • by CaseM (746707)

      Philosophically speaking, everything can be considered a "timesink" in its reducted form. "Waste" and "value" are notoriously challenging words to define because they mean something different for everyone. While I happen to agree with you that these games are a "waste" of time, I think it's overreaching to conclude that participation in such activities is tantamount to suicide.

      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
        Correct, anything can be a waste of time. But we now are led to the purpose of these "games". What is it? Are the good folks who run Facebook so altruistic that they are giving you free time using their server because they love you and want you to be happy?

        Probably not, and all apologies to Ben Franklin for borrowing his quote about why God gave us beer.

        Probably some other reason they want you to spend a lot of time there.

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        While you are correct I stand by my point. If you are spending your life playing these 'games' you are not really living at all. A mind turned off, a body disengaged, you are nothing and no one while you are engaged in this activity. If you spend most of your time this way you may as well not be alive at all.

        However indefensible this point is, technically, I believe it to be correct.

    • by Sparton (1358159)

      No, the real problem with these social games is that they are pure time sinks.

      A real game ought to be *winnable*. This is a basic principle and exceptions prove the rule.

      Man, those million people who bought Minecraft were totally had, eh?

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        Exceptions prove the rule, as I said. Even minecraft has a reward system, just not a traditional one. At the end of the day you've expressed your creativity, you built something, you destroyed something. There's nothing creative taking place in most facebook games and no personal growth; it makes them fundamentally unrewarding.

        • by Sparton (1358159)

          People have made stunningly elaborate pixel images in FarmVille, working under bigger constraints than what is available in Minecraft. How is this "fundamentally unrewarding"?

          It's easy to try and take a shotgun approach and say that "most" facebook games have nothing creative in them, but outside of Mafia Wars and other games that mimic it, you'd be hard pressed to find successful games in the genre that don't allow for a great deal of creativity, at the very least.

  • These games provide entertainment value, don't they? Ultimately, that's the point of a game, not whether it has a definable ending or not. If you're sending invites to friends for items presumably they're playing as well. If they are then the benefits provided are mutual.

    I do have a real problem with all the pay walls and various schemes built into these games, and that's why I don't play them.

    But if other people want to spend their time playing these games what the hell is the problem? And what exactly inh

  • Has anyone bothered to port old door games like Operation Overkill or Trade Wars to fb yet? At least those were antisocial and fun!

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