Spot On: Social Anxiety

Designers behind Civilization, Super Meat Boy, Spore, and more weigh in on the Facebook gaming phenomenon and the morality of social gaming mechanics.

by

At the risk of understatement, social gaming is huge. The phenomenon of free-to-play, microtransaction-supported games has grown exponentially in recent years, to the point that the estimated worth of leading social publisher Zynga was pegged at $5.51 billion, overtaking that of traditional publishing giant Electronic Arts earlier this month.

Zynga followed up the hugely successful FarmVille with FrontierVille and CityVille.

Every month, more than 360 million people play Zynga games like FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille through Facebook, MySpace, and iOS devices. To put that number in perspective, that's more than the total number of votes in the last three US presidential elections combined, with more than 1 million to spare.

While social publishers like Zynga, Playdom, and Playfish are presiding over a period of explosive growth in the gaming industry, they are also the cause of much consternation in the development community, partly because of the way the free-to-play business model impacts design choices in these games. The most successful social games to date have used very simple gameplay mechanics, encouraging neither strategy nor dexterity but regular interaction with the game. Although free to play, the games also typically have a microtransaction component, where players can spend real money for in-game items or performance boosts.

Players can also reap some of the same rewards by recruiting their friends to sign up for the game, with each new user giving the developer another potential microtransaction customer. Those transactions aren't always of the "micro" variety, either. In his Game Developers Conference 2009 keynote address, Playfish cofounder Sebastian de Halleux talked about one of Pet Society's more popular items, a sofa shaped like lips that costs players $40 worth of virtual currency.

Addictive or Exploitive?

Although undeniably successful, the existing social game framework has been the subject of much debate among game developers from every corner of the game industry, from the mainstream to the indie community. Some, like Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen, are particularly strident in their assessment.

Microtransactions make Super Meat Boy angry.

"Social games tend to have a really seedy and abusive means of manipulation that they use to rope people in and keep them in," McMillen said. "People are so tricked into that that they'll actually spend real money on something that does absolutely nothing, nothing at all…There's a difference between addicting and compelling, and I think all designers want to push toward compelling. Crack is addicting, but it's not a fun game. It's a bad thing. It feels good when you're doing it, I'm sure, but it's not something you want to brag to your friends about doing. It's the difference between bragging to your friends about being addicted to running and being addicted to crack. It's, 'Man, I just ran a marathon and I'm getting better,' versus, 'Man, I just did crack for a week, and now I want so much more.'"

Sid Meier knows a thing or two about addicting and compelling games. His celebrated Civilization series of turn-based strategy games is notorious for sucking gamers in, so much so that the latest installment was promoted with a series of "CivAnon" video shorts. The clips featured rock-bottom accounts from members of a fictional 12-step program for gamers hooked on the series. Despite the marketing, Meier is hesitant to criticize games--his own or others--for being addictive.

"I think that's just the wrong word," Meier said. "It's fun to play. As game designers, we want to make an experience that you want to continue to play and play again and replay. So I'm hesitant to make that a bad thing: that games that are fun, that games are things you want to do, that you want to keep doing. Because that's our goal: to create a great experience. I just want to be careful that we don't make [it] a negative that games are too good. 'They're too much fun, they're too compelling!' Games should be fun. They should be compelling. They should make you want to play."

That's the goal Meier has for his current project, a Facebook-exclusive version of Civilization. While the developer hasn't detailed exactly how the game will work just yet, chances are it will be a more straight-faced attempt at a social game than the first effort of Ian Bogost, associate professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech and cofounder of Persuasive Games.

Microtransactions, Macro Trepidation

Bogost was so put off by the trend that he created a satirical Facebook game of his own. Cow Clicker is a game that gives players a single cow that they are allowed to click on once every six hours, and it tallies the total number of clicks made. By purchasing the game's "Mooney" with microtransactions, players can click their cows more often or swap them out with premium cows costing as much as $500 worth of in-game currency.

Cow Clicker players can buy new cows for a premium clicking experience.

If players can get their friends to sign up for Cow Clicker as well, they can share clicks and earn rewards more quickly, like a bronze cowbell for the fashion-forward bovine. Bogost said most social game players will never give the developers a dime in microtransactions, which leads to the industry mimicking an uncomfortable business model.

"There are certain industries in which the majority of revenues come from the minority of the customers," Bogost said. "Without citing numbers, it is generally incredibly sinful, morally questionable industries that are like this: alcohol sales, gambling, and tobacco. And we might want to ask ourselves what we think about that. When you have a game that does not have a spending cap and the vast majority of revenue is coming from a minority of players, 10 percent of players generating 90 percent of revenues, how do we feel about that? It's not a simple question, but it is something I think can't simply be brushed under the rug. We can't say, 'Well players will do what they want, and it's none of my business how they spend their free time.' A lot of game developers take that position. I think that's unfortunate."

Bogost also took issue with the way social games treat friends as resources, saying there was "some violence" involved in the process. It's something people do all the time, he admitted, in networking to find a job or getting a message out to a broader audience. But he worries many Facebook games do too little to actually cultivate or strengthen friendships.

"These games seem to consider their friends as mere resources rather than individuals with whom they want to develop sophisticated and expanded relationships," Bogost said. "They rely on compulsion. They prey upon the time we spend away from them. They have this insidious quality of being able to buy out of playing the game entirely through microtransactions. These things bother me, personally, as aesthetics."

Not all the social game concerns are ethical in nature. Chris Hecker, Spore developer and creator of the upcoming SpyParty, sees social games as a potential threat to the long-term health of games. Echoing a presentation he gave at this year's Game Developers Conference, Hecker expressed concern with games that rely on external enticements to keep players engaged. According to Hecker, psychological research suggests that rewarding people for a task like playing games--as with achievements and trophies, or the aforementioned bronze cowbell--can cause them to derive less enjoyment from that task.

Hecker believes social games are getting better (though they're still mostly bad).

"My worry is from the player's standpoint. If the research carries over to gameplay as it does in other [fields], it will actually turn people off games in the long run. It emphasizes the shallow, dumb, non-interesting tasks, and it decreases motivation for interesting tasks that might be intrinsically motivated."

Hecker said his hope for games is that they become the preeminent art form of the 21st century in the same way film was for the 20th century. His concern is that the industry is engaging in trends now that will hold it back from achieving that goal in the future.

"The way you become the 'preeminent art form of the 21st century' is not by giving people more achievements and stuff," Hecker said. "It's by making deeper and more compelling games."

While some might find the social gaming model insidious, other designers find the nascent nature of the genre downright inspirational. One such creator is Spry Fox cofounder and chief creative officer Daniel Cook, whose career has been following an increasingly experimental trajectory since breaking into the industry with Epic Games' 1995 PC shoot-'em-up Tyrian. During a stint with Microsoft, Cook worked on titles like the live game show 1 vs. 100, and for Spry Fox, he has developed the browser-based Steambirds and games for Amazon's Kindle e-reader (Triple Town and Panda Poet).

SteamBirds is a semi-turn-based take on aerial combat.

"I personally adore the microtransactions model," Cook said. "To me, there's always been something fundamentally dishonest about the way retail works. Most games are purchased without reading the reviews. There's a box on the shelf and someone spent an insane amount of marketing dollars to get someone to look at the pretty picture on the box and buy the game. As a game designer, I would much rather have someone try my game for free, and if you like it and find value there, pay a little bit of money. I'm absolutely in love with that model."

Taking Measure of Metrics

Another benefit Cook has spotted in the social gaming model is the abundance of metrics available. It's easy for developers to make minor changes in social games, take them live for a short period of time, and get detailed data on exactly how the player base reacted.

"A lot of game design historically has been designing in the dark," Cook said. "You don't know what people think, and more importantly, you don't know what they're going to do. The metrics give us very up-to-date, rapid information on areas of gameplay that we never would have had insight into previously. It's like someone is turning on a light bulb for the whole design process."

Cook acknowledged the possibility that some designers may rely too heavily on metrics, but he said they were just tools to be used judiciously, like focus groups or a designer's own instincts.

"I've seen intuition create incredibly horrible games, and I've seen metrics create incredibly horrible games," Cook said. "If you use the tools badly, then yes, they will lead you in the wrong direction."

Meier downplayed the impact metrics have on the overall design of his games, saying metrics primarily help with small-scale optimization.

"Most of our design decisions are pretty big and broad," Meier explained. "Take this in, put this out, double that. The idea that we need to add 3 percent to this or make this green instead of blue…those aren't the kind of decisions we focus on to make the game. Our game is based on big ideas, fun concepts, and interesting ways to play a variety of strategies, so metrics are not really at this point a big part of our game design process."

Metrics might tell developers whether to highlight things in red or green, but they won't tell them to go hex-based.

McMillen said Super Meat Boy was designed without the aid of metrics. And while there was one focus testing session for the game, most of the feedback was thrown out. (One tester suggested that having a static loading screen would be preferable to a cutscene that couldn't be skipped for the first few seconds because the level was loading in the background.)

"The funny thing about [metrics] and business in general is the idea that they think they're perfecting something and they're going to be more successful by perfecting it," McMillen said. "When in reality, I guarantee you something will come out in the next few years that will beat out these games, and it will be something nobody knows about, and something nobody knows they wanted, because the thing that people really want is something they don't know exists."

Looking Forward

One common theme expressed to varying degrees by all of the developers above is that the notion of a social game isn't inherently broken and that things could get better.

"I'm sure you can make a responsible, fun, even competitive Facebook game," McMillen said. "Facebook has the ability to become like an Xbox Live system, where if a good game came out and was fun like a Geometry Wars type game and you could compete for high scores, I think that would be just as successful and a more responsible gameplay experience."

Describing himself as naturally optimistic, Hecker focused on how far Facebook games have already come.

"If you look at Facebook before Zynga and Playfish and all these guys, they were selling apps that let you put fake vomit on your friend's wall," Hecker said. "There was no gameplay whatsoever; it was just junk you would spam on your friends' walls. And the game developers basically put all those guys out of business by making just the simplest games. And that gives me some hope because it means that maybe deeper gameplay will steamroller over the current list of really shallow games. It's not a huge step forward, but it seems like it's going in the right direction."

Finally, Meier took a long-range perspective on the issue, like a Civilization player on the first turn, looking at a lone settler unit on barren plains and hoping in time to turn it into the heart of a globe-spanning empire.

"If you're not thrilled with the current crop of games, we're still in the early experimental phase," Meier said. "The first computer games weren't all that awesome, and the first networking games weren't like what we're seeing today. Give us a little time to explore this technology and see what we come up with."

Discussion

281 comments
Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

@SnuffDaddyNZ Speak for yourself man, could anyone imagine a Bioware game without the cutscenes? There are games with cutscenes and games without, thats the cool thing about the industry, you can be creative and do anything you put your mind to. You quote the article in saying that trends will hold back the future of the gaming industry but then go on to say that there should only be one type of game. If you like RE4 so much, then don't play Mass Effect. Don't tell everyone that they should suffer because you dont like watching skippable cutscenes.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

@isasimov: Will Wright is the smart guy, Meier is the history buff ;)

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

"Hecker said his hope for games is that they become the preeminent art form of the 21st century in the same way film was for the 20th century. His concern is that the industry is engaging in trends now that will hold it back from achieving that goal in the future." I would like that to happen - but it will never happen while the game industry continues to make the mistake of trying to make games that mimic films. Games need to get rid of cutscenes completely, all that kind of stuff needs to become fully interactive. Any time you are viewing a cutscene, yes it moves the story along and it is entertaining - but we play games to *play* the game, not to watch a tiny movie that interrupts our PLAY experience. Cinema films never divert from their medium to tell their story. No movie ever stops the film for a few minutes to make you play a game, or paint a picture, or compose a musical or hell even do pottery. The makers of Resident Evil 4 realised this, they tried to make their cutscenes interactive, other games have since follow - but even they still disrupted FULL interactivity for their cutscene. Let PLAYERS tell the story through THEIR actions, don't dictate, don't over script everything and if you are really that obssessed with telling a story - that's what CINEMA is for. You can tell story in game, just remember why the PLAYer is there please.

wasdf111
wasdf111

The reason people play these is because its an easy and fun way to burn 30 minutes. Hardcore gamers play several hours straight and casual social gamers just play 30 minutes while chatting with friends on facebook

bksras17
bksras17

social gaming on facebook sucks the s**t outta u...AND i hate those damn tactics that TRY to get you to pay for stupid little things that you don't really need just so you look better compared to your "welcome to fakebook" "fake-friends" ...only really foolish and inexperienced gamers fall for that bs.....IF I CAN'T HOLD IT, I AIN'T SPENDING A SINGLE DIME!!! and what if those gaming companies just folded up one day?....would you get your money back?? you'd have absolutely NOTHING to show for all that money spent except for a credit card bill (such a waste)...is it really ok to manipulate ppl this way just to make a buck?

isasimov
isasimov

Sid Meier, when did you stop making deep, engaging strategy games, and start making little kiddy games? Really, why do I want to play some simplistic game with horrible graphics when I could buy a real, fun game with good graphics?

Blazember
Blazember

This is blown outta proportions. I mean, it's your own fault if you end up paying real, hard-earned cash for a virtual item in some tiny, simple game that has no value in real life. This is the fault of the people who have no self-control. You can't compare it to alcohol or drugs, those things actually physically have substances, chemicals w/e in them that cause you to be addicted, but these are just GAMES! If you are so easily hooked on things then it's a personality flaw. Nobody, and nothing is forcing you to shell out money for a little sprite, yes, that's right, if you think about all it is, is a little tiny picture you're paying for, but it's 'cause it's actually worth something to people's feeble minds then value is all relative. To get down to the roots... you're paying real money, for binary 1s and 0s. There are people starving in villages who don't even make $5, and we're supposed to have sympathy for people who are too dumb to control their own habits and minds, spending like $40 on a virtual couch of no significance? Just mindless drones, too easily influenced by the 'corrupt industry' etc. that everyone blames things on. Yes, the industry is negative, but business models etc. are never supposed to look out for the people, what are they there for? To make money. This is just exaggerating the 'evilness' of business, but I don't deny corporations and stuff are very bad to society in some ways, but a lot of times people should just know better.

mbelt8080
mbelt8080

I agree with wagner2002, that people who play microgames are people that have little experience in the gaming world. Also, I very much agree with Ian Bogost, with his observation that a minority of players are producing the majority of revenue for these micro-gaming companies which is comparable to the alcohol, tobacco and gambling genre of products that he considers "incredibly sinful and morally questionable..." These monetary micro-transactions are completely ludicrous, immoral and take advantage of those minority of players.

wagner2002
wagner2002

I think that people who enjoy serious gaming would never even consider playing these Farmville-like games (I would surely not). My guess is that these Farmville-like games were actually the very first resourse-management game ever played by many a Facebook member. While they may have marveled over this first-time experience, they completely ignore the real world of gaming that true gamers have been enjoying for decades - Warcraft, Command&Conquer, Age of Empire, Civilization, Sim City, The Sims - to mention just a few.They have gazed at a tiny tip of an iceberg, completely ignoring the solid mass that really define the word GAME.

pphatmat
pphatmat

Farmville? I never understood that game

Shadowyn_Flux
Shadowyn_Flux

Seems like nothing more than a fad to me.. If push comes to shove and these FB games become better funded.. That only rids us of casual gamers.. The industry will prevail, it always does..

adey1986
adey1986

I wouldn't currently call them 'games' but hopefully they will get there soon

Aametherar
Aametherar

Hecker is dead on, players are too busy WORKING to earn the award which gives the very short term enjoyment when earned, when the task itself should be what is enjoying. Players rush for the bigger, the better items so they can PWN and have fun, then when they get to the end they look back and realize it's all the same and none of it was fun. This is in the rare cases where they can get to the end (like Navyfield where everyone rushed to the top ship until they got to the end never enjoying the battles they had). Spot on article, games praying on people through addictive elements dominate, but games that try to be amazing live forever. A mix can be an interesting and deadly formula, take Starcraft, they redid the graphics for the new generation knowing it worked and simlply added medals, rankings, and awards for addictiveness, at the same time the complexity of the game is near non existant compared to current, and even a lot of past RTS's, just look at it's tutorials and think about it...But what can we expect from Blizzard with their current parent company, or any developer really? The industries vision has rapidly changed from art to greed which is a shame cause art made money, greed makes more, but one thing I can say is, greed will never prevail over the ages the way art does. P.S. I don't think i'm alone when I say... "Super Meat Boy? What the heck is that? Nevermind, don't want to know." -Signed, Former Blizzard fanboy, dang how did you guys get so greedy? Edit: Let me just add now that I don't think SC/SCII are bad games, and the singleplayer storyline is great! As for WoW, sorry but it's no different than these facebook "games". WoW is truly one of the largest social networks within a 3d graphical interface. Oh and @nightfend I believe I just did explain WoW.

Rikaelus
Rikaelus

There are two kinds of game developers: those who try to dictate what they feel should be "fun" and those who look to their would-be players to define "fun" then build their games to it. Sid has always made games based on what players like, and he's awesome for it. These other guys? Spore was a joke. The Sims is really a joke. Maxis/EA took what once was a good line of games and turned them into what they thought fun should be. It's no wonder they get all defensive when they see players flock to another vision of "fun". Super Meat Boy? Sorry... never heard of it. To the larger topic, however... there are two sorts of F2P-MT games: cooperative like FarmVille, and competitive like MafiaWars. When judging them with your Morality Hat on, they shouldn't be judged together. Cooperative games are fun and if someone pays real $$$ for items it can only help. Competitive games can cross a line since he who spends $$$ earns an advantage over other players and can do them harm. I find the latter far more questionable than the former.

CattiJack
CattiJack

Crack versus Running when comparing two video games? Interesting reasoning.

Bob194
Bob194

@ELEMENTZERO707 Harvest moon is way better than farmville, but Harvest moon doesn't allow people to post stupid farmville updates all over their walls and share whatever other dumb stuff farmville has to offer. I think this is the only reason facebook games are so popular. People just want to share themselves with all their "friends" regardless of whether or not their friends want to hear about it.

michael39238
michael39238

Gambling law should cover games in which you can directly use money to get ahead in the game. It is sinister and the people forget they are spending real money on absolutely nothing.

RacistMan
RacistMan

farmville is only successful (along with all the other facebook games) because millions of people flock to the site everyday, and see numerous ads for it, only with gifts and gift requests. It is the ultimate advertisement; it makes people subconsciously think about the game. I think comparing it to crack is a bit extreme and also a bit childish to be honest though.

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

lol I am not reading all that.. sorry. I started it but then said to myself " I am spending to much time...on this.. lemi scroll.. AHHHHHHHH down..wow" so yeah I know my mom is adictive to Farmville and other peoples moms and girlfriends/wifes I know I know but hey... don't hate lol says allot about video games now in days indeed.. cant even sit down a play 100% of a console game because I end up so bored I quit it. At least someone is playing something.. but beware of adictions that farmville is no diff from crack.

ELEMENTZERO707
ELEMENTZERO707

Shanks_D_Chop; I make a note to tell every farmville addict about harvest moon. " If you like farmville you should try harvest moon, its like it but better and more fun" But yeah, perhaps we should make some sort of "group" on facebook that spreads the word. :P

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

ELEMENTZERO707; If only there was some way to make all the Farmville gamers aware of Harvest Moon. I had Wonderful Life (I think that's what it was called) and, with no effort at all, had my mum and my sister hooked on it too (my mum didn't get very far in terms of progression but she liked looking after the livestock).

ELEMENTZERO707
ELEMENTZERO707

And as for "hardcore games" I think the achievement and trophy system kind of sucks, simply because you dont get anything for it. If they offered something for your efforts , like video game merchandise (like and xbox hoodie, or a sly cooper keychain) I think it would have more value getting 50k achievement points. The online for call of duty has the right idea, its not much but at-least you get something usable (in game) for your efforts.

ELEMENTZERO707
ELEMENTZERO707

Just throwing this out there, but I think Farmville is a cheap rip-off of Harvest Moon. That totally degrades the concept of a "addictive " game, by taking away any true reward for your efforts, or giving you a reward without any effort. Like the mafia wars type games, where you click a lot, and gotta wait for a cool down till you can click AGAIN! So in short, if these super de-duper casual games had some sort of substance it would be better.Because all your doing is clicking, either mindlessly or repetitively. And you have no real pay off, because your not doing anything worth getting a pay-off for?

midnitereaper
midnitereaper

WOW who wrote this article? Some marketing pewk? 360 million people play. Uhm hello you can create multiple accounts on facebook and myspace. Good trick to get more allies so you can expand your gang or empire. Honestly those apps are fun and entertaining but thats about it. I cant call them games since they have no lvl caps, money caps or any caps what so ever. My crime lord is lvl 158! wooohooo now to get 159. No balance what so ever. My gang of 500 just beat your gang of 3. I'm so bad ass! And last we get the credit card warrior. I spent 50 real US dollars to get the cyber bolter 5000 that automatically makes me win every fight. So I'm on top of the leader boards now with my 50 accounts to help me get allies and build up my gang and used my credit card to buy the best gear out there.

TheVGamer
TheVGamer

@rbourdon The problem is that Zynga uses top psychologists in the world to create the most addicting game. So if they started to pay for it, many people would bankrupt. That and it would create a huge vacuum in gaming industry. So it's not just an innocent game, it's the most brilliant cash-milking machine created, standing beside WoW.

rbourdon
rbourdon

BTW: I don't understand all that fuzz about paying to play. If people have fun playing and want to pay for that, what is the problem? What I'll tell you may be surprising, but some people actually pay to have sex! Can you believe that? So, what is the problem in paying por playing an innocent game?

rbourdon
rbourdon

Tha magic of those games is exactly what most part of gamers think as the worst nightmare: simplicity. One does not have to think much to play those games. Just click some times, take some simple decisions and leave, only to return a few hours later to check the conclusion of what you have done.

TheVGamer
TheVGamer

God I hate Zynga. Too smart for world's good...

Badmutha
Badmutha

I'm definitely one of the odd "hardcore" (hate that term) gamers with an unfortunate Mafia Wars addiction... lvl. 868 and counting yall!

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

@ afsari123 err thnx xD my bad mixed the companies up sorry =3

Sa1isbury
Sa1isbury

I played Farmville for a month or two - you can definitely tell that it's tailored to addiction - the larger your plot becomes, the more necessary it becomes to purchase fuel for a tractor to plow/seed it. What formally was a quick, appealing way to waste a minute or two becomes downright annoying unless you shell out real cash to make the experience simple again. Clever development, but ultimately, a psychological con.

StealthDragon07
StealthDragon07

I cannot believe people payed that much money for such horrible games. Sure their fun for a little while but most of these games are just slightly tweaked to appeal to a diffrent crowd. So really once you play one you've played them all. Obviously the people playing social games continually aren’t hardcore gamers so I don't think the gaming industry has much to worry about.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

Played games on BYond for a while, till I realized how much time I was wasting. I mean, all video games are ULTIMATELY a waste of time but at least they're fun. 'Social' gaming is a misnomer anyway, play L4D with your friends and it's 'social' gaming. This current fad of rubbish, poorly constructed games that don't even merit a place on Newgrounds will hopefully fade away 'cos I think it's hurting the REAL gaming industry. Execs think there's a nice bonus in it for them.

Chaceace100
Chaceace100

I do have to give them one thing though, you can play one of them for like ten minutes at a time, and go do something else in the meantime. It's kinda like Animal Crossing except you can't 'time travel'. So it gives you reason to go back, but I quit playing both because I always forgot to go back to it.

Chaceace100
Chaceace100

I played Farmville, I played Mafia Wars, and some other social games, had fun with them too. But I would NEVER pay for anything in either one of them. EVER. Social games are bad, addicting, but just plain terrible. Yeah I know I played them but I have seen the light now. And I am NEVER going back.

ChangelingJane
ChangelingJane

On another note, Zynga's business ethics are just as terrible as their design ethics. They're the sleazy strip club of the gaming industry. Except their games also draw in women, so technically they're twice as bad.

ChangelingJane
ChangelingJane

Drawing players in is a good thing, but pushing them into unhealthy addiction doesn't do you any favors in the long-term. Games can be restructured to encourage healthier play habits. Most modern games are designed to draw you in for unhealthily long play periods, whether done consciously or not. Although not necessarily a great game in other respects, I liked Nintendogs on the DS for the fact that it was purposefully designed to encourage healthy play limits: activities were limited in how many times a day you could do them, so that it was possible to be "done" for an entire day. I would like to see other games implement this idea of play limits, even if it's handled in completely different ways. For example, even just making quests in open-world RPGs have more obvious "end points" would help. Give the player cues that now would be a good time to take a break, even if you don't use those exact words.

da_chub
da_chub

the only thing wrong with social games is that most of the people who play them are obsessed with them...and they are intimidated by real video games...but if they put as much effort into a real game as a social/pop cap kind, they would love it.. besides, we all get hooked on some mindless social game from time to time

afsari123
afsari123

@GodBladeMegaten Call of Duty franchise is owned by Activision, not EA :/

Ceraby
Ceraby

Facebook exclusive Civ game? ... I don't know whether to be happy or sad.

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

@bigcrusha yeah I know and I agree with you however its just that stuff like farmville topping gamePublishing giant EA's CoD:Black Ops made me go wow, I mean Black Ops is something that you gotta buy and well in farmville theres no need to ever spend a cent and still farmville beats CoD in market revenues hands down! Well fact of the matter is that people or rather producers and developers if you will, tend to aim more at the max profit target, which is quite understandable, and which makes me worry that say a few years from now we'll have stuff like Cows may moo or something rather than devil May Cry or Need for Manure rather than Need For Speed or Call of the Sheep rather than Call of Duty or well....err yeah you got my point. Eh maybe I'm just pissed cause the girl I like ditched me for farmville *sigh* P.S.- There was a news article that a single mom killed her infant child after the baby started crying while the mom was playing farmville. Apparently the baby's crying irritated the mother and she shook the kid up so bad that the poor thing died of shock or something. Google it if you wanna read more.

ilidiandemon
ilidiandemon

I never play these games because they seem plain stupid and uninteresting. These guys will never get a penny from me.

skoypidia
skoypidia

As it often happens in such interviews, nobody risks sounding over-intense, so they avoid the core issue: This kind of games are stupid. That´s ok. But, in the same way as soap operas do, they promote stupidity: They give it justification. Stupid says: "All these players cannot be wrong". They are wrong, actually, all of them. I played Mafia Wars and Farmville for quite some time, I know what I am talking about. The only remedy to such a subtle attack to the human values is the organised ridicule of social games by people who understand their degrading nature.

NiteShadeX
NiteShadeX

To quote Viktor Resnox from that new Call of Duty: "Facebook, Myspace, Twitter...All Must Die!"

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@GodBladeMegaten Oh and don't worry about gaming's future, the major industries still recognize us core gamers as the most profitable on the long run because were the ones who stick around and bother purchasing every sequel on the shelves

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

@GodBladeMegaten Game: An interactive medium which induces entertainment to an individual or a mass group, insulting? Yes I agree, but they are games, Truth is playing a more complex game doesn't give us superiority over another indevidual because in the end they all serve the same purpose and nothing more; ENTERTAINMENT. Zynga games are a disease and an insult to hard working game developers out there but I do credit them for their success, Zynga took advantage of an important market; the casual gamer, those who see gaming as a useless waist of time unless bored can be so easily absorbed by something simplistic and not very time consuming. Yes we core gamers don't settle for this simplistic garbage but remember that the casual market GREATLY outnumbers core gamers. In the end its not worth hating over because were all after the same thing " to be entertained"

Tymme
Tymme

I hate these games for the "social" aspect and the fact you have to plaster two million things to your wall and half a million to evryone else's (some are a lot worse than Zynga's)... but I also abhor paid DLC just as much, and the 'real gaming' industry is all over that and willing to dump the same amounts of money into "map packs" and "avatar clothes" and other crap just as quickly as the social gamers. As far as "they're pointless"... does blowing someone's head off in Black Ops really have that much more 'value' than someone playing on their farm in Farmville? Does playing CoD magically get you a job as a military sniper, where FV just gets you a chance to sit at home? Or is it the fact other people can have 'fun' in ways other than competition getting everyone's panties in a bunch?

ggregd
ggregd

Games need to expand beyond blowing things up and crushing zerg to appeal to a wider audience. It's not a fluke that lots of women and older people play Farmville. Hopefully it will lead to more interest in better games, "real" games, if you prefer. The video games industry is entirely focused on young men now. It's as if the film industry made nothing but action movies. It's NOT good for the future of gaming any more than focusing on dumb social games is.

ggregd
ggregd

The compulsion in social games is lots of little rewards, over and over, interspersed with bigger rewards. The goal is to increase your level and expand your farm, restauraunt fish tank, whatever. They actually have a lot in common with MMO's. The article is right that it's more of a compulsion than fun right now. And there's no competition other than who has the biggest farm. Those things will change soon and there will be a game even bigger than any in existence now.

derren123
derren123

from my personal point of view, i feel that gaming, no matter social or those "real" games, are up to a person's choice. some may like social games, some others may like games produced by bigger companies out there. hence, i am on a neutral standpoint here, whereby i disagree with those saying that "social games suck" and those who say that "games produced by big companies suck". there is no right or wrong answer here at all. this is an unjustifiable topic, since there is no true answer, and will subsequently lead to tons of flaming since everyone has their different views. however, on a personal note, i do not play social games since clicking on animals, pets, plants, buttons aint my thing. i wanna click on something which shoots bullets and/or blow someone up.