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What would draw me into social games is if they were more concerned with being meaningfully social. If I felt like a social game would be more interesting to me than simply having a conversation with a person, I might play.
BR: Well, I'm going to say that I don't think that there's something in a game that, as a game qua game, is going to be more socially compelling than having a conversation with a live human being, because that's kind of the ultimate goal. But what we're there to do is kind of facilitate getting those things started and carrying them on, and that's where the game comes in.
It's like an icebreaker in some ways. I'd have to think real hard of an excuse to talk to so-and-so... But if we're both playing FarmVille or we're both playing Mafia Wars, then it becomes kind of a fun thing to go back and forth and play the thing together.
It's funny: I kind of got my current job through social networking because I ran into an old friend online playing Scramble. We started playing it together, and we played it for months before we talked about work or anything; but then it turned out he was like a VC for Zynga -- "Oh, you like this game? You want to come...?"
And that's kind of a slightly meta example, but there is, I think, real interesting, useful, human value in these things, is what I'm kind of fascinated with.
Yeah. I think the stumbling block for me is I feel like people overuse the word "friend."
I have 600 "friends" on Facebook, and nothing against anybody, but some of these are people I don't even know; some of these are really acquaintances. I think what you're saying is that it can improve the quality of your interaction with this broad range of people. With my real friends, the people I really consider my true friends, probably FarmVille is not going to be the best way for us to interact.
BR: So, here's what my experience has been. I've got about 400 friends on Facebook, so, yeah, I have my friends from high school, my friends from college, people I've worked with at various jobs, my family, my relatives, distant relatives, people I know from around the industry... There's a big difference in level of closeness and degree between my Mom and somebody that I kind of have a conversation with once or twice a year at a show or something.
But the thing that is in common between all of those relationships even if there's a huge difference in degree is that all of my Facebook friend relationships represent a real-world relationship I do care about in some way.
I do find myself having quality social interaction in the form of the game all the way up and down the scale. My Aunt and I play Mafia Wars; I got a note from her like, "Oh, thanks for the energy packs! I love you, Aunt Judy." It's like, wow, that's kind of cool! My Aunt loves me more because I sent her energy packs!
I mean, it's light, but it's real; and conversations get started about it, and I do that straight up and down the line with the people that -- not everybody likes the games, or some like one game and some like another game. Some like the games I don't like, so I don't end up doing that. But I find it a pretty fun little tool. It's an excuse to say something to somebody and start a conversation.
What I find tough is that typical acquisition tool into a game is you got a lost duck. You say different people like different games, but, short of my deciding to spend a lot more time researching what's on Facebook the way I would what's on Xbox, how do you get people interested?
BR: It's getting better and better. Facebook's making ways that we can kind of give people a little sample of the game before they have to click the allow box and essentially install the app. Again, that's an area that has certainly been a challenge before, but I think it's getting better.