Life With Alacrity

A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.

Socialization in Online Games


Shannon Appelcline's "Trials, Triumphs & Trivialities" column in the Skotos Articles section recently featured a trilogy of articles about stretching the bounds of socialization in online games:

Social Gaming Interactions, Part One: A History of Form

The first article outlines the problem by looking out how social interaction has traditionally been handled in online games, and by considering how limiting these interactions typically have been. It also outlines how to expand traditional social interactions by describing three main categories of social interaction: competition, cooperation, and freeform.

That the majority of MMORPGs, MUDs, and other multiplayer games ultimately support achiever players over socializers, or even killers, I think begins to outline how poorly we understand--and support--true social interactions in today's multiplayer games.
Social Gaming, Part Two: Competition

The second article expands upon the competitive category of social interaction. Besides touching upon traditional direct competition, it also considers resource competition, economic competition, and the role of bluffing in competition. A number of examples are drawn from tabletop board games.

In looking at competitive interaction I intend to first consider some forms of competitive interaction that we've sort of covered--direct competition and resource competition--but will show how even in these "well known" interactions we've just scratched the surface. Afterward we'll get into some less explored possibilities: economic competition and bluffing. The end result? More variability in competition, more viability and for the players, ultimately, more fun.
Social Gaming Interactions, Part Three: Cooperation & Freeform

The third and final article expands upon the other two categories of social interaction: cooperation and freeform. Within cooperative interaction we find a spectrum of possibilities varied by the immediacy of the cooperators. Freeform interaction is given a more generalized overview, covering some of the reasons it appears and how to encourage it.

In Richard Bartle's categorization of multiplayer gamers, he very broadly touches upon "socializers"--players who are there because they want to interact not just with the game system, but also with other people. I actually believe there's a lot more granularity to the category of socializers than just its simple name. The biggest subset of socializers is, I believe, the cooperative players--those who are working together within the game system toward a specific goal. A few different MMORPGs have tried to appeal to this group, but as with competitive gamers there's also more we can learn from the word of tabletop games.
My personal belief is that the so-called "socializer MMPORGs" -- Sims Online, There, Second Life, etc. -- have missed the boat by not really understanding the socializer, or treating them like they are achievers. If someone can figure out how to break out of that trap, there may be a new hugely successful MMPORG game opportunity available.


I've always enjoyed playing online games but I haven't ever thought of what I get from it except fun. Thanks for pointing out to me its other benefits.


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