纵观社交游戏的突发性发展及行业、新闻媒体随后投以的关注，可以说游戏兜了个圈又回到原点。多年来，游戏本身都具有社交性，通常都是和朋友共同体验。随后电脑开始诞生，通过它们，玩家20多年来大多是独自在昏暗的卧室里玩游戏，直到网络被广泛采用才改变这一趋势。网络令游戏开发者能够向玩家提供同匿名真人对手对抗的机会，虽然同好友共同体验依然需要复杂的操作，例如输入Xbox Live游戏标签，或任天堂的专门Friend Code。最后，社交网络给予游戏融入“社交图谱”的机会，这再现真实熟识玩家，以此突出基于合作和互惠的游戏机制，而非进行直接竞争。
Opinion: Playing with strangers
Giordano Contestabile charts the way we’ve moved from playing videogames alone to playing together.
Looking at the explosion of social gaming and consequent attention devoted to it by industry and press, it would be easy to say that games have come full circle. For thousands of years, games were inherently social, and played with friends. Then computers came along, and with them two decades of mostly lonesome play in darkened bedrooms, until broad adoption of the Internet reversed this trend. The Internet gave game developers the opportunity to pit players against faceless and unnamed human adversaries, although playing with friends still required complex operations such as inputting Xbox Live gamertags or Nintendo’s ad hoc Friend Codes. Finally, social networks provided games with access to the “social graph”, a representation of real-life acquaintances of players, and used this to champion game mechanics based on co-operation and mutual back-scratching, rather than on direct competition (the fact that those mechanics are often a thinly disguised front for increasing game virality could be the subject of a separate article).
A simplistic view of this evolution, then, could support the notion that playing games solo and with strangers were only phases in the evolution of games, and that technology finally brought gaming back to where it belonged: a social activity best experienced with friends. The reality, however, is more complex, and mobile gaming is where this is most evident.
Mobile gaming has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing segments of the industry, thanks primarily to the combined might of iOS and Android, with a userbase of around 500 million potential players, most of whom are new to our favorite pastime. At the same time, while the early years of mobile games were principally singleplayer experiences, the “always-on” nature of smartphones has allowed a transition into social, connected entertainment. This combination of factors – and the predominance of Facebook as the provider of choice for players’ social graph, at least in Western markets – means that the most natural approach for mobile social gaming is that it’s connected to Facebook.
But while Facebook’s surely a very important component of the space, it’s by no means the whole story because it turns out that many players are choosing not to divulge their real identity when playing, and choosing not to connect with friends. They might be worried about their privacy, or they might want to avoid their friends knowing that they are playing games all day; in any case, a different approach is needed for those players, an approach that becomes evident when looking at the history of gaming.
Before the “social graph”, there was the “interest graph” – a fancy way to say that because people find playing games with or against each other fun, that alone constitutes a common interest on which an extremely compelling game experience can be built. In short: Player 1 wants to play a game; Player 2 wants to play the same game; Player 1 and Player 2 don’t know each other personally, but share the same interest in playing and possess roughly equivalent skills. There you are: a match made in Heaven. Or at least a match made daily, millions of times, in online FPS or other competitive games.
What we are witnessing, and what the wealth of games available on smartphone platforms exemplifies, is a gaming ecosystem that’s growing to accommodate the three primary forms of gaming: playing alone, playing with friends, and playing with strangers. Naturally, different game genres and platforms might be better matches for each of those experiences, as demonstrated by the contrast of hardcore web strategy games, which are usually played against strangers, and Facebook social games, which are played with friends.
Where it gets interesting, however, is where the social graph and the interest graph collide, giving birth to interesting and innovative game experiences. On Facebook, for example, a new breed of games are relying on the social graph to drive gameplay and virality, but are introducing features that allow players to interact with users they don’t know personally. Monster Galaxy (pictured) has a Pokémon-like structure and allows players to fight against other players’ monsters in a PvP arena, for instance. And Idle Worship, recently launched on Facebook, introduces interaction with people you don’t know before putting you in touch with your friends. These games have their players developing in-game relationships with strangers, often eventually adding them to a “friend list” which is game-specific and separate from their real-life social graph.
This hybridisation will result in games that implement what can be called an “augmented social graph”, meaning that the game relies primarily on the interaction with friends for gameplay, but complements it with the opportunity to interact with strangers. And vice versa, other games will rely on an “augmented interest graph”, making competition with strangers the core of their game experience, but allowing players to introduce their social graph in the mix. Play against strangers and get friends to help you? Play with friends and make new ones? Meet friends of friends through play? All of those options are and will be available, often mimicking the way in which relationships are formed outside of gaming.
We’ll be still playing alone, but less so. We’ll be playing with friends, increasingly. And we’ll be playing with strangers, some of whom will become friends as a result of the experience. Coexistence and cross-pollination of those experiences, rather than prevalence of one over the others, will make gaming more interesting, varied and, in a sense, much more like real life.（Source：edge-online）