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Brian Reynolds On His Social Transition


May 3, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next
 

I think that where a lot of people probably get bogged down is we have a certain type of content or style that we appreciate as gamers, and I think that, typically -- you would, I think, agree with this -- the people who make games are the people who are really into games, primarily. So it's a shift in mindset.

BR: Mm-hmm; it is. I think that most of the people making these games are really into games, and I work with a whole building full of people that are really excited to be making social games. I do think that not only will there always be a place for sort of traditional, hardcore games, but I also think that social elements can make those games stronger.

It's not like you couldn't have a traditional game and strengthen it with social elements, but that doesn't put you at sort of the epicenter of this new space.

I think that's gonna happen; there's going to be more social -- even Bejeweled Blitz is a game that is right on the edge of traditional game and social game kind of linked together with some new stuff.

So you're already kind of seeing that at the casual level, and I think ultimately through things like Facebook Connect you'll see it with the bigger games too; but that's not gonna suddenly make them appeal to this huge crowd of people that like to play FarmVille. It's just a different kind of demographic.

When you talk about the social interaction that these games provide, it's actually generally in the form of like, "I gave you something; you gave me something." We're aware of each other; it's not the same social interaction that you get when you're playing a traditional game together in multiplayer.

BR: It's not, no; it's not. In some ways, it's safer because it's lighter. You have to remember that, with the social games, unlike all the old multiplayer experiences -- so, back in the '90s, you'd go onto Battle.net and you're playing against all the people, but then in the last decade we saw World of Warcraft, and that's this whole new kind of thing; you go online into a world, and you make new friends. But even then, they're completely separate from your real-world friends.

Now that you're interacting in the game with real people that you actually know, you have to remember that there's kind of more skin in the game. There's actual real-world risk and reward at stake in the social interactions, which both makes the games really compelling but also means that part of the appeal of them is to make it safe.

Some of the purposes of these interactions is also partially a tool for players to be able to affect the social relationships. It's also an excuse to have the contact in the first place.

I give the example of, I've, over the last few years, been finding people on Facebook that I went to college with. For me, that's like 20 years ago. So I have the initial set of emails -- like, "Oh, wow! You're on Facebook! What are you doing? Well, I'm doing this!" And that lasts you about two cycles of email, and then you're kind of done. I live on the East coast, and they live in Tennessee; what do you say?

But then, with the social game, it's like, "Oh! I still like you; here's a thing for your mafia." Some of the most valuable ones are not just the game transaction of give-you-the-thing, but then you make a little comment like "Ha ha ha! I bet you need a tommy gun!" and you actually end up, from the player's point-of-view, being able to start a conversation or have a little light interaction with your friend, someone that you want to keep up with or what-have-you.

I mean, there's all these different levels of social interaction that you can have, and these games provide tools for people to have those interactions.

I have to admit that I'm not a big social games player. I feel like, when you're trying to be pulled into a social game, usually the thing is, you know, particularly in FarmVille, a lost duck; then every game has a lost duck. It's just a different skin. It's a power pack, or whatever. I know that it didn't cost that person anything to do it, and it doesn't hurt them to reject it, so that doesn't suck me in.

BR: Well, one of the things that we're working on -- and you're actually seeing gradually the evolution of -- is improvement in the quality of the social interaction.

The social interactions now are a lot better than they were a year ago in terms of the quality of what's going on, and they're getting less and less unwanted and more and more kind of narrow-cast to the people that actually want to see 'em and participate. I think that part of what we're learning in the art form is how to do a better and better job of that.


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