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Mark Pincus, Boredom, and Game Personalities

by Ted Brown on 10/04/13 08:42:00 pm   Expert Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
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Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, was recently asked what games he was excited about. His response, famously, was that he is "bored of games." It's easy to use that confirm beliefs he has no business running an industry titan, and given the fact its life bar is down to the last few hearts, many people did so. But I held back. I remembered had uttered that very statement in the past. And it was when I was a contract designer and writer at Zynga. Was there a connection? Turns out there was.

Before Zynga, I primarily worked on console titles. When I needed to unwind after long hours of crunching, I'd escape into epic, solitary experiences like Mass Effect, Fallout 3, and Grand Theft Auto IV. After Zynga, working on my indie title Chess Heroes, I've enjoyed other indies like Waking Mars, Fez, and Mercenary Kings. But during my eighteen months at Zynga? The mind goes blank. Nothing felt "good enough" to earn my time. Even Skyrim, in all its frosty glory, piqued my anger with its clumsy, primitive combat system.

I'm an introvert. Social interactions drain me, even enjoyable ones. But the energy drain is exponentially higher at social functions with no "purpose" other than surface-level chats and bouncing between conversations in a crowded room. I'm like a pachinko ball. Incredibly entertaining for a while, then I disappear into a hole, because I'm tired of interactions in general and need to rest.

But I married an extrovert, and I know the exact same situations boost her energy levels. She and people like her can go for hours, chatting amiably and bouncing between conversations, having fun even if the discussion is not deep or meaningful. Yet if a party goes on too long, they start looking for the exit. Any stimulus response will go numb, given enough repetitions.

Now replace "social interaction" with "game interaction." There's the connection.

Zynga's "social" games are extroverts: they are a series of fun but often meaningless interactions. Introverts like myself grow weary interacting with them, and need breaks to recharge. This is why I believe I was "bored of games" while at Zynga: working on social games non-stop drained me of any desire to have more interactions. Extroverts, like Mark Pincus and the millions who play Zynga games, enjoyed the party for a much longer period of time.

But the social game party has gone on too long. The extroverts are looking for an exit, because even they need to recharge. And that's why I believe Mark is bored of games right now.

Shocking as it was, his statement helped me realize that games have personalities, much like people do. We have "relationships" with them: giving them what they want (time, energy) to get what we want (entertainment, meaning). And it might be smart for game makers to start brushing up on their psychology and sociology if we want to keep attracting players, because the overlap been "social" and "game" interactions has never been so apparent.


Ted Brown is an independent game developer at Oreganik LLC. His current project is Chess Heroes, which is now on Steam Greenlight. Please give it a look, and your vote!

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