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Current Social Games Aren't Fun, Says MUD Co-Creator 111

Speaking at Gamerlab 2011 in Barcelona, MUD1 developer Richard Bartle had harsh words for the current state of social gaming: "The big thing about social games that they don't like to tell you, is they're not actually social. Games played on social network sites is what we mean by social games ... These games are categorized more by the platform than that they are social themselves. The way they engage their players is not through interesting gameplay, it's done through extrinsic rewards — basically bribes. ... The difference is, social games rely on the extrinsic rewards so as to be compelling. People keep playing the game because it keeps giving them things — rewards. This has led to gamification. In the hands of designers, this has a great deal of potential, but unfortunately it's not in the hands of designers, it's in the hands of marketers."
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Current Social Games Aren't Fun, Says MUD Co-Creator

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  • He's right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Friday July 01, 2011 @07:04AM (#36631920)

    I completely agree. There's nothing in modern social games that draws me. I used to love MUDs, and especially the more social ones: MUSHes and the like. Playing together and establishing some kind of community inside the game is awesome. Having a community outside the game see your achievements in some lame grind game is not so exciting.

    Yet I do think it should be possible to do something much more interesting with social networks and games. For example, nearly my entire RPG group is now on Google+, and with its circles, you could have some online game and play it with that circle, without all your other contacts getting annoying messages about it. That's certainly something we intend to explore.

  • by Veetox ( 931340 ) on Friday July 01, 2011 @07:10AM (#36631938)

    In the hands of designers, this has a great deal of potential, but unfortunately it's not in the hands of designers, it's in the hands of marketers.

    Bartle is probably a little biased, but he is definitely right... about more than just gaming. The marketing department tends to be in control of to much. Marketing has a simple goal: make products more desirable to the target consumer. This is supposed to involve pre-design data, and post-design constructive criticism.

    However, many companies let the marketing department control the entire design process. The accountants tend to have their way with the product as well. In the end, the consumers only get choices between poor-quality products with a shiny vernier. I have no data for the following statement, but personal observation is that this process has made a few people dumber as well...

    Designers are important, not only because they aim to produce a creative and unique product, but because they find ways to challenge customers in one way or another. Believe it or not, surmounting challenges are what keep us coming back for more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @08:53AM (#36632476)

    Are these the kind of games that appeal to a console gamer or someone who's playing Starcraft, or is savvy enough to even know what a MUD is? Absolutely not, and guess what, you're not the target demographic. I know, its crazy, you're a gamer so all games certainly must be made with you in mind right? No.
    The demographic of games like Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz (Bejeweled surprisingly moreso) is absolutely dominated by the 30-50 female crowd. Stay at home moms, empty nesters, whichever, but a demographic with tastes unlike anything the "mainstream" market has ever tried to cater to. And you know what? They like to spend their money on pretty ponies and five extra seconds of game time. Seriously. They love it.
    Zynga is making 1.8B in revenue, Popcap is selling for 1B+ and these are not accidents, they are just DIFFERENT. Whats fun to you is, and this shouldn't even be a stretch for you to realize, NOT fun to the 30-50 female crowd. You don't have to understand it, they're fully aware that even if it WAS pokemon, you're not going to pay 2 facebook credits for the Snorlax that comes with curse already. But these ladies will and you better get used to it. Supply and demand.
    Are the achievements and all these little carrots on sticks superficial money making machines? Absolutely! But they're also filling the psychological needs of an apparently massive demographic that gamers have never even considered. On top of that, they do it in 5-15 minute chunks per DAY, because thats what their audience wants.

    I know its weird that the most popular new genre of games right now doesn't make sense to the crowd you think are "gamers" but that doesn't make them any less valid, nor the "fun" that its player base has less valid.

  • by sabt-pestnu ( 967671 ) on Friday July 01, 2011 @01:19PM (#36635418)

    Perhaps you missed the history behind some of these things on slashdot.

    Achievements were an April Fools joke that got left in place.

    Moderation has the utility of allowing filtering. And you can use elements like "friends", "tags", etc for further filtering, increasing/decreasing effective score - and thus what is displayed to you.

    Don't like how people moderate? Suggest a better method. Don't like moderation as a concept? Ignore it.

    Friend of a foe? er, what? I can't speak for others, but I barely use the "friend" or "foe" features of Slashdot at all.

    Political articles get lots of comments and attention largely because there IS room for comment about them. Science articles? By definition, there aren't going to be a lot of people able to provide informed commentary on breaking science news. Would you rather more uninformed comments?

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