Creating A Glitch In the Industry
December 17, 2010 Page 5 of 6
I think that certain philosophy like I just described is again sort of predicated on the retaining the lowest common denominator as your audience, right?
Ultimately, all the metrics in the world don't tell you why people quit. All the split-testing in the world don't tell you why people chose A or B. It just tells you that they did, right?
And that's where metrics fail and where it's sort of creatively galling as a working methodology. Maybe people quit doing the tutorial because they got halfway through their tutorial and they're like, "This game is bullshit," not because your tutorial didn't effectively tutorialize them.
SB: There's a lot of obvious criticisms of what Zynga is doing. Like GDC this year was basically...
A Zynga hate-fest?
SB: Yeah. Essays were written about it and stuff like that. I don't know. I just read another one last night. At the same time, they're doing something right.
SB: And I feel like we owe them something just for expanding the number of people who considered that they could play a game.
SB: And that will be tremendously helpful for us, you know? And I think of the 80 million people or whoever the fuck played FarmVille, there's gotta be 10 percent of them, still 8 million people, who, for them, they weren't gamers before, they like this experience, and they want something deeper, more engaging.
And the numbers are just so huge that if it is 10 percent, that's great for us. And if it's as high as 25 percent, I'm just going to rent all the helicopters and just fly them around. I'll buy carbon offsets, whatever. That's fine. We can do tricks.
You'll have Facebook Connect, but you guys made a deliberate decision to get away from being a Facebook game, which is, I would say, not precisely conventional wisdom at the moment.
SB: I'm trying to remember where it was. Some site, one of the comments was like, "This game looks really cool, and I hope they succeed, but I think they're doomed because you have to be on Facebook now. Facebook is such a juggernaut, blah blah blah."
Which seems crazy like me. I mean, just Angry Birds. Red Dead Redemption. I mean, there's a billion things that are going on that connect, that aren't on Facebook. Maybe it will be more difficult to be on the web and be successful than on Facebook. I don't think so.
That's what people think. They think it's very hard to get people to come to something that isn't Facebook, because they're already there.
SB: Yeah. Yeah. But there's 500 million people using Facebook, and Facebook is a quarter of all U.S. internet traffic. It doesn't account for three quarters of all U.S. internet traffic. There's plenty of time that people spend on the web that isn't on Facebook. That maybe isn't true for everyone. Maybe some people...
For some people, it's like they go to Facebook, they go to ESPN, and they go to Hotmail, whatever, I'm just making it up, and those are the only websites that they'll ever go to. They're probably not going to be people who are going to like this game anyway.
We get asked all the time about demographics, and I can't answer. I did answer once, and it blew back in my face, in Rock Paper Shotgun. I said "people in their 20s and 30s, above average intelligence," or something like that. And then all the people who were commenting on the blog were in their 20s and 30s and probably above average intelligence, and no one likes being marketed to.
No one likes feeling like they're a demographic, but it's not like we had that in mind. We didn't think like, "Let's set out to design a game for this particular..." We just want to do something that we think is awesome, and hopefully there will be enough people who will also think it's awesome.
People who come from a web background who end up doing games sort of look at gameplay mechanics as sort of a scalpel to remove people from their money, right? They don't look at gameplay mechanics as an intrinsically valuable. Of course, that's starting to change.
SB: Right. I do not look at them that way. When we started at Game Neverending eight years ago, the inspiration was Homo Ludens, and the whole idea of the value of play as an element of our culture in the broadest sense. I mean, in the broadest sense like flirting, or witty banter.
I don't play golf -- maybe I'm down on golf players sometimes. I can imagine that it's really nice to go for a walk with three friends in a wooded area with the pretext of a game to keep you structured to it. Poker, playing music.
I remember, I was giving a talk on player creativity in 2003 or something like that, and on the way to the place where I was giving the talk, I was walking past the elementary school, and the recess bell rings, and all the kids pour out of the school and immediately start with something, right.
Like they're playing cops and robbers or they're playing like a structured game like four square, tetherball, or something. Or they're just chasing each other, to see how fast they can run. They're playing like I'll be mommy, you be daddy, playing with identity roles. For kids, I think, most learning comes from play, most really learning who they are. They play at the edge of their physical ability, their sexuality, their relationship with other people and how you're supposed to interact with them.
The most satisfying parts of my life as an adult are usually about play in some form, and that's what game mechanics are for. Because if people like the game a lot, they will pay us money. Some percentage of them will subscribe, some percentage of them will buy virtual items, some percentage of them won't pay us anything, but they'll enjoy the game and ideally be good players so that the game is funner for other people that are playing.
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