Can Social Games Act As A Form Of Psychotherapy?
Social gaming has a unique appeal that’s taken the traditional industry by storm. One can now go on slideshare.net and find an influx of presentations on what features social games should include, but there’s not much availability of literature, asides from works from Nicole Lazarro, that invigorates the intellectual mind about the appeal of social gaming to average consumers in a comprehensive manner. A new white paper released by Clubv3 details the emotional experience players look for in a social game. The advice for developers is to provide: recognition, low perceived effort, reduced barriers to play, and a sense of community.
Emotion is key to social games and the reason many traditional game developers suffer in embracing the social gaming paradigm which is less about the arms race to better looking games and more about engaging and subtly rewarding the players who want to connect with their friends and play for short periods of time.
The first theme discussed in the white paper is the importance of recognition. Having recognizable content allows audiences to better identify what it is that they are engaging with. One important piece of advice mentioned in this section is for mass market games to appeal to as many audience members as possible by letting them know symbolically that they do not need to be a subject matter expert to enjoy a particular game.
The second section delves into the idea of keeping game play accessible and easy for starters. Mitigation of lag and loading time can spell the difference between success and failure as players will flock to better performing games from those that don’t operate smoothly. Taking players from game launch to pleasure should be the goal of any developer and the tutorial can help new users get into the game seamlessly as long as they don’t clutter the process of doing so.
The white paper stresses the importance of a sense of community, especially because the mass of the casual gaming player base consists of women. Viral actions also provide an avenue for players to deepen their sense of belonging to a group. An important point to note is that players like being ‘alone together’, a notion that depicts an online player wanting to be distant from other users yet still feeling inclusive to a community. A proper communication ecosystem is important in community-driven games (which make up most games) as they allow players to reinforce their membership and connection through gifting, provides a channel for bragging rights and creates a sense of a persistent world with evolving content that players don’t want to miss out on once engaged.
The desire to progress and receive feedback drives much of players’ actions and compels them to return to games time and time again. Developers can leverage this mechanic by making it easy for new players to level up as soon as they join a game. Another critical facet of creating connections with players is to implement customizable features through which identity can be formed. Caution should be taken, however, when dealing with choice as to not overwhelm players with too many options but not to underwhelm them either with minuscule selections. Lastly, social gaming is about control and players want to harness their powers of controlling. Whether its kicking out an NPC in Nightclub City or rotating their buildings around, the illusion of control, at a minimum, is essential so players feel like they are in control and able to affect the outcomes of the games, in an inconsequential manner of course.
Challenges and more cooperative play will alter the social gaming ecosystem as the industry matures towards edgy and innovative game play away from the safe haven of familiar themes. Players will also want a sense of escapism, which social games endow them with albeit it for a few minutes only, at work or elsewhere in short bursts. Players are in control of how they spend their time and money and will lean towards emotionally gratifying experiences. How will you position your game for the next frontier in social gaming? (Source: Social Times)