A quick update, and some opinions on social gamingApril 14, 2010
Hey everyone! Wow, it’s been a while since I had some time to write for myself! I’ve been busy busy busy with all of my stuff at Massively, so it’s good to be able to take a small breather for a second and write something up for you guys.
As some of you have noticed, I’m not posting as much on Massively.com anymore. No, it’s not because I’m not working as much — it’s because I got promoted! I went from Contributing Editor to Full Time Editor which means I’m in a management position now, working under Mr. Editor-In-Chief Shawn Schuster.
I’m still going to be doing The Tattered Notebook and Anti-Aliased every week, but most of my influence will be behind the scenes, working with PR people, getting word of Massively out to social networks, speaking with our commenters, and helping to guide our content to fit our user base via opinion gathering and surveys. If that sounds like a community manager, it’s because I’m effectively a community manager. However, I edit the articles on the site as well, so I’m an Editing Community Manager! ^_^
Anyway, so that’s my small little update. Let’s move onwards to the heart of this post — social gaming.
Social gaming has been popping up on a few websites that I love. Common Sense Gamer, Cuppy’s site, and Spinksville have all recently weighed in on the whole “are social games really games” argument. It’s a really interesting dialogue so far, but one that I think comes down to one statement.
I don’t think current social games exploit the power of the platform.
Farmville and a few of the more popular games aside, many social games are extremely shoddy pieces of creativity. In fact, they aren’t exactly creative — more like wishing to cash in on a big boom. I personally equate the “Rise of Social Gaming” with the Great Video Game Crash of 1983. There’s an abundance of low-quality product being produced in a short amount of time, making it hard to see the true gems in the market.
This, of course, leads to gamers looking at social games in general and being generally unhappy with what this type of gaming has to offer. If only 1 title out of 30 is a good game, then that means you’re getting 29 pissed off gamers who are quick to make stereotypes about the market as a whole.
Even Farmville, the “holy grail” of the social gaming scene right now, does not really push the genre or demonstrate what it could be capable of. Farmville is the lowest common denominator of gaming — it will offer you a diversion and little else. While I can easily say that a game like Echo Bazaar actually does the same thing as Farmville, Echo Bazaar presents more options, intuitive design that builds upon itself, and the writing is simply fantastic enough to warrant a play. Echo Bazaar offers an interactive story while Farmville offers a fleeting diversion. If I could offer one more metaphor, Farmville is the “one armed bandit” (slot machine) of gaming. It’s only tangentially a game. It’s more of a “pay for enjoyment” rather than “I enjoy so I feel like I want to pay.”
And that’s really the idea that I’d like to see all developers, social or not, get away from. I want to pick up a game because it’s fun, not feel that I need to pay in order to have fun. With social games, I want to sit down and enjoy myself with some fun strategy or farm building or whatever I’m doing. (And don’t say farming isn’t fun, because I think all of us have been addicted to either SimFarm or Harvest Moon at one point or another.) I don’t want to make two idiotic, not fun moves (like plant beans) and then be assaulted by all forms of “pay now to do more crap!” No, that’s not fun. Bad game developers. Bad. *gets out spray bottle*
Hopefully we’ll see more inventive uses of social gaming coming to the scene soon. I have hopes for this style of game play (especially when I see an app like the iPhone’s MyTown, where you buy local properties and basically play monopoly in your own city as you walk around) so I’m going to certainly keep my eye on it.