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Social Networks The Internet Entertainment Games

Social Networks As Gaming Platforms 52

Gamasutra is running a few articles about this year's Social Gaming Summit, a conference dedicated to how the increasingly popular social media market is influencing the design of games and how they are played. It's a unique market, in which relatively unknown games can attract millions of players over mere weeks, and where the players themselves often become the distributors. When discussing platform support and compatibility, Sebastian de Halleux, COO of developer Playfish, said, "For us, the next-generation platform is Facebook." However, Facebook's own Gareth Davis thinks the future of gaming will rely heavily on compatibility across many different devices, from conventional consoles to devices like the iPhone. Christian Nutt, the Gamasutra writer who attended the Summit, is optimistic about the possibilities this will open up, but is worried that creativity and fun will get bogged down by traffic analysis, marketing, and micro-transactions. He mentions one company who "spent $2 million developing a game called Guild of Heroes, but never launched it because 'it didn't drive the right metrics.' This makes business sense; these kinds of decisions are made everywhere all of the time. The disquieting thing is that the topics of fun or creativity — or any of the virtues most in the game industry like to inject into their commercial products — were rarely if ever addressed."
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Social Networks As Gaming Platforms

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  • Too simple. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:21AM (#28479367)

    Pirates and Ninjas is only very a game for very small values of fun. Call me when there's something more substatial

  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:33AM (#28479417)

    Why do these overpaid idiots have this strange idea that "social gaming", even in computer terms, is anything new?

    In the late 1980s, my friends and I were playing games like "Stunt Car Racer" on Commodore Amigas connected via their serial ports and organising complex but drunken "Speedball 2" leagues after a few beers at the weekend.

    Then just go forward a few years and many of us were "secretly" playing networked "Doom" in our offices.

    It really annoys me that these people are so shallow in their thinking that they don't see social computer gaming as really nothing more than an extension of simple "board" games with stones and pebbles that have been played for thousands of years.

    Either that, or they are just preparing to make themselves very rich by trying to convince the rest of us that it's perfectly normal to be enjoying a few games with friends while being constantly bombarded with marketing and advertising crap.

    Please go do some research, folks, instead of reading the utter nonsense in the main article. Most computer games are crap but gaming with others is a great thing, provided everyone is happy to do it just to have a good time, rather than being focused on winning and cheating which just ruins the fun of everyone involved. And there are thousands upon thousands of great games out there, many of which can be had for free, that are great fun to play with a few good friends and won't constantly bombard you with adverts for iPhones or other useless gadgets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The difference is that they're not talking about you and your buddies with your networked Amigas. By definition, you are computer geeks, which already means you have a very high chance of being a fairly hardcore gamer. They're not targeting you at all. They're going after the Soccer Moms, Stay at Home Housewives, all the non-technical people out there. And guess what. They outnumber the computer geeks by a large margin, and are an enormous untapped market. Yes, it's sad that these people aren't focusing on
      • by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:43AM (#28479789)
        The general market is easily entertained and companies will sell to them as much as possible. Why spend big $$$ to please the /. geek living in his mother's basement when you can pay a college dropout next to nothing to develop a series of pointless little web games that will appeal to a much larger (and less discerning) audience.

        This is the same logic used in the film industry, though in all fairness the film industry is at least starting to realize that there are more geeks than previously thought and trying to compensate for it (see also: LOTR, Batman, Watchmen).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I wouldn't call myself a "hardcore" gamer, only that I've been doing it as one of my hobbies for a long time.

        Yes, I would consider myself a computer geek but I think you are missing the point. I get sick and tired of "garnish", namely the idea that you make a minor change to something that already exists but sell it as something completely new.

        The whole point of a game is it has you wanting to play it again and again, so it really doesn't matter whether or not it's the latest FPS shooter or Solitaire in Win

    • by Deanalator ( 806515 ) <> on Friday June 26, 2009 @07:06AM (#28479907) Homepage

      I think you fail at grasping the concept. Social networking games are more than just playing games with friends. This is not even about playing scrabble with some friends over facebook. These new social network games take advantage of a currently deployed social network of friends, and use them to spread. For example, the vampire game. When you bite friends of yours that aren't playing the game, you get a bonus, and they get an invite to join the game. If they do join, you get another bonus, and you have someone to help you complete quests or whatever. This is also different from classical online games, because when you join, you start out with a list of friends that also play the game, as opposed to the chat room environment where there is more of a chance of meeting new people.

      In the end, it really is more of a marketing strategy than anything else, but it's a marketing strategy that propels itself, and the users enjoy participating in. Like a pyramid scheme with cooler graphics.

      • Those vampire/zombie/etc things are games? I thought they were pain-in-the-arse sig-links with no purpose other than to direct lots of people to an advert-infested site and to make some forum users disguise their links as something interesting.

        If those are the "social network games" the article is talking about then screw the economics and the decision making, just kill the things now!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mikael ( 484 )

      These "social network" games are different from traditional PC or console games, in that you are allocated a fixed number of action points and health points each day, which restrict you to one or two moves. It might be fighting another character or doing a mission. In each case there is an element of chance which rewards you with money and/or experience points. Your AP and HP recharge each day. As you gain experience you get more AP and HP. Some games require you to have a "horde", or allow you to join an "

  • That's backwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:40AM (#28479467)

    It is and has been, "Gaming Platforms as Social Networks."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Takek that, you pastamancer! Back at you, you stealer of my accordion!

      Check out [] it's free to play, fiscal contributions get you some fun ingame widgets, it's popular among smart children with a sense of humor, it's plain web based without fancy Java or flash reuirements, and it keeps my friends able to play on their modest systems so they don't beg me for my hardcore system while I'm playing the latest shooters.

      It's what web-based gaming _should_ be.

    • In my world, all sites that make people spend time on them have two main components: the draw component, and the retention component.

      Draw = main attraction. Like the fact that it's a gaming platform. Or in the case of (say) Wikipedia, the information.

      Retention = what keeps the people there. On single consoles, perhaps it's achievements or replayability. On social game platforms, almost always it's the community. "Gaming platforms as social networks" indeed.

  • Less griefers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:40AM (#28479469)
    The one benefit I can see with social networks as a game platform: griefers will be less common since they thrive in anonymity. Although, a friend's wife constantly griefs him when we play Settlers of Catan (her goal is to make him not win)...
  • by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:08AM (#28479625)

    The film industry, pretty much from the start, was plagued by concerns over markets and metrics - targeting their films to capture the largest "typical" audience rather than just trying to make good films. Usually, when someone set out with the noble intention of quite simply making a great film, they would surprise and shake up the industry, and the marketing gurus were left with their cocks in their hands, going "Wow, there's a whole market dollar we didn't think of there," and suddenly the studios are churning out flicks to appeal to that audience instead.

    Bill Hicks certainly had a few things to say about the crooked industry of marketing.

    So now we have the same problem with the games industry, and it's been documented in all sorts of ways. Who's the saviour? Independent developers, of course. Make something new, fun, addictive - even on a low budget - and suddenly the big boys are less afraid to stick their necks out.

    Independent developers are fulfilling the same role as independent film-makers have been doing for years, and they're an inevitable product of the current money-grabbing system. "The topics of fun or creativity were rarely if ever addressed." Well, strike the light...

    • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:31AM (#28479731)

      Bill Hicks certainly had a few things to say about the crooked industry of marketing.

      It's a shame that the passing of a man of such talent was not mourned by as many people as are mourning that strange and plasticized record company money-making machine that died last night.

      As for games, I'd love to see the indie developers save the gaming industry because ultimately that's where it all started from.

      Unfortunately, the sheeple will just go and buy what the adverts tell them to buy because they are all too mesmerized by pretty graphics and screaming brats demanding the latest games consoles and titles. Despite a global recession, many people still have far too much disposable income and therefore don't feel the need to worry too much about how they spend their money - it becomes far more important that they stay in with the in-crowd and not have little Johnny throwing a tantrum at home because everybody in his class has "Totally Derivative Game Sequel Part 5" except him.

      Maybe if the recession bites deeper and people really have to start making every penny count, then we'll see a return to talented film-makers, musicians and games creators getting the rewards that they deserve because the general populace has had to become more discerning. But the fact is that at the moment, the big media companies have all of the control and power, and will just stamp on anything that stops them enjoying their vast profits for churning out crap.

      • As the recession bites deeper, industry will be less willing to take the risk of making an original film or game. I'm sorry I meant to say "of developing an untested property." I don't think we'll see an increase in quality. But we won't figure out the future sitting here on slashdot.

        As for Bill Hicks, I see his name a lot but not many actual quotes or material. Apparently for people who know the work, the mention of his name is sufficient.

        • If you haven't heard/seen his work, I strongly recommend you spend a little time acquainting yourself with it. I'm hoping the fact that people do keep mentioning it is reason enough.

          He's a difficult guy to quote in most instances, because he was radical to the core and a lot of people tried to imitate him by doing "shock comedy", but his message was more heartfelt and warm than all the vitriol and bile he apparently spilled on stage in getting that message across. It's difficult to portray faithfully. Howe

    • I find it disappointing that the game industry has moved from the model where they kept having to innovate to stay one step ahead of the competition and into a realm where they simply churn out the same game over and over without really adding much or even bothering to differentiate their game from the competition. Unfortunately the game industry has figured out that a large portion of the videogame market is easily entertained, just as is the case with film audiences (Transformers 2 anybody?). If they keep
  • by sherl0k ( 1215370 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:11AM (#28479643)
    for social networking? Is that too much to ask for?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by biocute ( 936687 )

      Most if not all social networking services are free, and they have to somehow making a living.

      So users are like batteries and they will think of million ways to squeeze the last juice out of us.

      Same thing is happening to YouTube and Twitter. Once they have enough users, they will start thinking how to make money off those users.

    • Luddite.

      You probably want your phone to just make and receive calls, and your personal music player to just play music.

  • promises, promises (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wild_quinine ( 998562 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:30AM (#28479721) Homepage

    ...spent $2 million developing a game called Guild of Heroes, but never launched it because 'it didn't drive the right metrics.'

    Let's look at the likely story there, shall we? Hell, I'm just guessing, but: It completely drove the right metrics. With that title it was almost certainly designed by committee to cash in on the crossover MMO market. When it became obvious what an abortion it was in practice, they killed it.

    Then they had to explain that, so they said 'It didn't drive the right metrics'. What they meant was "It was designed with metrics in mind, of course it drove the right ones. It was right on target for demographic. The problem was that it was shit. Just... wow. Fucking awful shit, man".

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @07:23AM (#28479985) Homepage
    check the cron? i think something is set up to generate one of these stories periodically (like monthly it seems) for "testing reader sanity and intelligence" purposes.
  • by Penguin ( 4919 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @07:43AM (#28480083) Homepage

    The end of level monster is pretty hard.

  • A pretty addictive little social game that my wife got me playing this week. On a business trip and I have nothing better to do most of the time then farm haha. But the progamming of it is bad, really bad. It's like the developers have no common sense for a lot of the ways they do things in it. Games like that that let you create and socialize with friends and make new ones are the wave of the future for Facebook and Myspace.
  • by S77IM ( 1371931 )

    Remember MUDs? Early MMOs? (Pre-EQ, non-UO -- yes, there were a few.) A lot of those games sucked, as games. Yet they drew crowds, and hardcore players ("addicts") because of the social element. The mantra for MMOs has always been, "people come for the game, and stay for the community."

    So it makes a ton of sense that sites that already specialize in building a community would start incorporating games. The game is just a medium for hanging out with your friends, which is how the social networking peep

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein