因为游戏本身对用户日常生活带来了正面影响，各个平台上的社交游戏和新平台上的在线社区正在健康成长。推动在线社交游戏不断发展的原因有很多，但是最为突出的要数苹果在全球范围内的普及和苹果App Store的诞生。苹果App Store里有很多主流休闲游戏，同时用户通过使用iPone，iPad和iPod都能够在该应用商店中购买到这些游戏和数十万种应用。用户每天都会使用这些应用，换句话说，在线休闲游戏已经渗透进玩家的日常生活中了。除此之外，应用商店的普及也带动了在线社区的发展。在游戏社区中，玩家能够对一些特别的游戏或应用做出评价，提供建议给其他玩家，帮助他们决定该应用或游戏是否值得购买。
The positive effects of Social Online Games and Online Communities on the social behavior of their users
Over the past decade the Internet and the World Wide Web in particular have evolved at an astronomical level with its influence having affected almost all forms of our everyday life. The Web is now central to the way in which individuals go about listening to music, watching movies and videos and talking and communicating with friends; people are using the Internet all the time. Like many of these activities, gaming has been significantly enhanced with help from the Internet and has continuously made inroads into the everyday lives of many. The introduction of the internet as a key and integral part of gaming today has also led to a number of online communities being created and has allowed for strong social connections both within and outside of games. This article will argue that social online gaming and social communities such as Farmville and World of Warcraft have had a positive effect on the everyday lives of their users, by looking at the social implications of online social games. I will be displaying my case using a number of scholarly articles and journals that will backup and reinforce the points that I have made, I will also share comment with known experts in the field to get a proper insight and to show as much factual evidence to support my findings. Both Farmville and World of Warcraft are some of the more popular online games today, and both have a large community and user base and are perfect examples of social online games that have a large community based aspect to the overall gameplay.
Gaming and a social life?
The recent rise in online social gaming via a variety of platforms and the creation of online communities with these new platforms can be attributed to the positive effects that gaming has had on the everyday life of its users. There have been many contributors to the rise of social online gaming in particular the worldwide popularity of Apple and the creation of the Apple App Store. The App store has been able to bring casual games into the mainstream and to many people through the iPhone, iPad and iPod products which all utilize the app store and it 200,000+ Applications. Apple’s advertising website claims that “The apple audience has downloaded more than 6.5 billion applications, spends on average, 30 minutes per day using their apps and sets trends and shares with family and friends” (iAd, 2010). Just the sheer number of users of these products and the fact that people that own these products are using them everyday means that online casual games are being brought into the everyday life of consumers. Another thing that has come with the popularity of the app store has been the creation of an online community within it, which allows for users to comment and rate particular games and applications so that other users are able to determine whether it is worth spending money on or not.
This is just one form of an online community, Social Networking websites such as Facebook have also been an important factor in how gaming has continued to work its way into the everyday lives of many. Social networking websites are used by millions of people around the world (Nielsen, 2010) and much like the numerous number of Apple products mentioned, websites like Facebook are used by people every day and therefore provide a perfect host and opportunity to distribute casual games. With Facebook already providing such a strong online community already, it also provides a perfect infrastructure for an online gaming community.
Saul Rivers addresses the negative stigma associated with gaming in one of his articles “One of the most ancient and common claims against online gaming was directed towards its anti social nature. Internet opponents saw online gaming as the community enemy, which causes people to prefer the solitary act of playing internet games over taking part in more traditional types of social activities such as playing sports games, visiting the local bingo hall, etc” (Rivers, 2007) From this excerpt we can see that generally the negative opinion on gamers is based on gaming effecting peoples social lives negatively, that there is no social side to games and that instead of playing games they could be out socializing with others in the ‘real world’. However, this is not the case, this opinion is generally held by people with insignificant knowledge on the subject and have no real insight into the gaming world.
I believe and agree with a number of new media experts that believe that social gaming can be beneficial to the everyday lives of its users. The creation of the number of new social online games paired with the creation of a number of online gaming communities has allowed for the formally non-existent social elements to games come to light. Another new media expert Bill Pratt says “The world of online gaming is basically all about community. Gaming has gained such popularity that it could now be considered as practically mandatory. Being great and skilled at playing these video games gives individuals several social benefits. Gaming communities have proven to be powerful, profitable, and at the same time, very fragile. Based on studies and research conducted, gaming has become one of fastest growing in the entertainment sector. It has surpassed the achievements of full-length feature films, revenue-wise. Gaming is truly a social activity and the mere act of playing games has been directly linked in the establishment of relationships as well as social hierarchies throughout history” (Pratt, 2008). As Pratt says games are now one of the most important social tools in the world, they currently make more revenue than any other media form, and will continue to do so in the near future.
Examples of social online games and communities:
One game in particular that demonstrates the social aspect to gaming is FarmVille. As Chris Kohler of Wired.com states “Zynga’s FarmVille, the biggest FaceBook game of all, pulls in more than 75 million players who log in each month to plant, tend and harvest virtual crops, over and over. The attraction is less about the game itself, say players and designers, and more about the social experience: Fields adjacent to your farm belong to family members and friends pulled from your FaceBook profile. You can visit their acreage; help them complete farm chores and exchange gifts of in-game items.” (Kohler, C. 2010) As is pointed out by Kohler, FarmVille utilises the social connections that you have already made through Facebook and allows you to use these social connections to help you during the game. The social interaction that is shown in this game is pretty much the perfect example of how people can strengthen and improve their friendships with others, as well as find new friends. Farmville however is not the first or the only game to use social interaction as a focal point to gameplay design, other games such as RTS and MMORPG such as World of Warcraft also hold social interaction of the highest regard.
MMOs and MMORPGs are also an integral part of how gaming has become part of everyday life in the lives of many. The introduction of MMORPGs the most famous being World of Warcraft have been able to be really successful in drawing in consumers and enthralling them to keep playing and renew their subscription, because it is a paid service this generally makes users try and use it as much as possible and therefore it becomes part of their everyday life. According to Michael Gray of Jostiq.com World of Warcraft now has over 11 million subscribers which proves that people are still subscribing and keeping it alive after 6 years. Like Farmville, World of Warcraft invokes this online community and co-operation atmosphere into its gameplay as well.
Players are able to help each other out to complete quests and other goals within the game, it is sometimes a requirement for players to team up with others due to the different classes and character types within the game. The social interaction within the game also branches out, as players are able to connect with each other through both text and voice messages. Much like in Farmville this allows for new connections with others to be made, and because of the game being online you are able to make new friends with people all over the world, you could be playing in Australia and make friends with someone on the other side of the world in the U.S. This is what many people are missing, believing that there are not any games with these social elements and that most games are purely an individual experience.
Gaming has real life repercussions?
The purpose of gaming has also been brought into question, people that haven’t previously been understand what purpose gaming can possibly have on a person’s everyday life, one of these reasons is the amount of money that can be made through casual gaming. Now that casual games and gamers are more prominent people are now able to realise that real money can be made through casual gaming, a great example is the many add-ons and virtual items contained within game applications which charge to your credit card or iTunes account. The interesting thing about this is that the majority of people that utilise these services are casual gamers not hardcore. Before continuing it would be ideal to explain what exactly the difference is between casual and hardcore gamers Thanate Tan explains it well “Casual gamers: They do not spend much time on playing games and prefer to play simple game rather than complex ones. Hardcore gamers: They spend most of their leisure time on game and are quite dedicated to the cult of video gaming. They are usually quite proficient.” (Tan, 2009). For example in Farmville players are able to pay money to have the computer ‘farm’ for them so that they don’t have to spend hours doing it themselves. Paying for things that can be later found or collected later in a game is also an option in World of Warcraft to give an in-experienced player a faster route or a leg-up so that they can progress faster. What does this have to do with social lives of these gamers you may be asking, by paying these relatively small amounts of money and bypassing playing the game for an extended period, it makes the game both attractive to more casual gamers especially when looking at games that may look daunting to a casual gamer such as your World of Warcraft. It also allows for gamers to spend significantly less time playing the game itself and more time socializing in the ‘real world’ which makes it an attractive option for the narrow minded parent who may not want their child playing games for hours and hours but can understand that by paying a small fee they are able to keep their child happy with the game that they love. This in some ways is the idea of gamification. Gamification is “…about making an activity more fun and engaging. By adding game mechanics to a website or marketing campaign consumers become more invested in a service or product and keep them coming back again and again.”
(Brodie, 2011) in relation to what I was discussing earlier, schools are trying to integrate games with the regular curriculum again as Zicherman describes “Gamification has been used to improve education for sometime now. Schools are integrating more gamified learning structures while some specialty schools have an entire curriculum centered around it.” (Brodie, 2011) with gaming growing into previously narrow-minded school systems we could continue to see gamification carry over into other areas.
We must also look at the leader in the field for casual games that we touched on earlier being the Apple App store, the games that are featured within it are generally only small games that are meant to be played for only small periods of time. However the number of downloads that many of the popular games get is astronomical and despite the small prices for these games they are making the creators a lot of money. iTunes is an online community itself, however like the social games I have already mentioned nearly all games from the app store allow for some online head to head play or co-op, where players are playing against each other in these small casual games over a mobile network.
To conclude we have looked at and argued as to why social casual games and online communities have had a positive effect on the social lives of gamers. We have seen through the introduction of this new form of gaming, that gamers and games in general have become a far more social experience, which have introduced a new form of gaming to the everyday lives of many. We have seen how this has been done by making games cool once again, through the Apple app store and also through games other games such as Farmville and World of Warcraft which have all incorporated social elements and interaction into their gameplay. We have also seen that the incorporation of social interaction into these games has been made an integral part of the game, where some parts of the games require social interaction with other players to continue. It was also seen that through a number of paid services, players are able to get ahead in their games without going through hours of gameplay. To conclude there are a number of social games and online communities that have been created and have incorporated social interaction, but do they offset what many choose to believe about gaming being a purely independent experience that has a negative impact on an individual’s social ability, I believe with the significant evidence that I have shown throughout this article I have proven that social online gaming does allow for sufficient social interaction, the ability to make new friends and strengthen and increase current ‘real world’ friendships.（source:networkconference）