I’ve realized that I add questions as titles to my posts very often. Maybe because I am not sure exactly what I am saying is like what everyone else is saying, perhaps because I want this blog to be more of a dialog. A social interaction…
This is what has occurred to me lately: game developers want their gaming experiences to be social ones. More and more you see game website like MiniClip, one of my favorites, creating social networks around their already fun products.
What does adding social networking features around games offer? Well, first of all, it is my belief and some of my findings that the Net Generation (yes I have been reading a lot about this subject lately) … well, the Net Generation is a generation that enjoys social interaction, doing things in groups. So, adding features that let them network with friends and play with people they know allows them to “share the joy” of playing the game, challenging their friends. Yahoo, for instance, has been offering online multiplayer games for a long time on their games pages (I love the pool game, by the way). The difference here is that many developers are improving the networking capabilities, allowing the players to, for example, have customized avatars, email friends, challenge friends to certain games, share those games on Facebook, embed them on blogs, etc., all from the main website once they log in.
Something intriguing is that having “amazing” graphics doesn’t really matter that much because players enjoy the games and the social interaction. It is an era in which people value more the social the the actual “lone wolf” immersion of the first generations Playstation games.
The interesting thing is that this idea of social gaming is spreading to game consoles too. The Nintendo Wii is a great example of that. Players can add their friends’ Wiis to their and actual email addresses to their address books and message them from the Wii console itself (no need for a CD or anything, this is built into the Console itself). Users can share their Wii numbers and Miis (Wii avatars) with people they know and play games together. They can also share their Wii information with people they don’t know through an unnofficial website called ShareMiis (this exemplifies how much people want to connect with one another). Players can also play “guessing” the most popular answers to polls on the “Everyone Votes” channel (players can also submit their own ideas for questions to be asked on a regional or world level).
Why am I going on and on about social games? Because this trend has to tell us something about learning also. Knowing how people want to interact should also tell us a lot about how people want to learn. In the end, learning is a game (with scores, motivation, outcomes, rules, and all those items Marc Prensky always mentions as defining a game), the difference is how fun and motivating we want to make that game.
People want to socialize, they want to interact. That is how learning should be. We (educators, instructional designers) have a lot to learn from the gaming industry… a lot to learn.
“Social games are not just multiplayer games. In social games, existing social relationships add context and motivation to the gameplay. Social games are more fun to play with people you know than with anonymous strangers. Examples of social games include Friends for Sale*, where you had better buy your girlfriend back from that guy who has been hitting on her at the gym,(fluff) Friends, where if your BFF feeds your pet, you are compelled to reciprocate, and Power Challenge, where you can’t let your team’s loss to your fraternity brother’s team go unavenged.
Even single player games can become social when the right infrastructure for community and social interaction are built around them, including high score leaderboards, achievement badges, challenges and simple message boards, as Kongregate, Addicting Games, MiniClip andMindJolt are demonstrating.”
Update: Come2Play released for white label casual gaming networks.