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Friday, February 11, 2011


Are Social Games really Games?

As a game designer, I've been approached by many companies that want to make "Social Games." You must admit that the whole genre of "Social Games" is still relatively new. So even though I've been making games for decades, not much of that time can be applied to  designing product specifically for this new medium.

But as much as I love to play games, I had been resisting these new social games. I was afraid that they would take up so much of my time that my day would be gone and I'd have nothing to show for it. Nevertheless, I felt I needed to educate myself about this hot new medium. So I took the plunge and played a few games.

I learned a couple of things. First of all, I discovered that a lot of these games use a similar template. With patience, some investment (often requiring real money) and more than a little begging, you can take something small and make it big. Which is all fine and dandy, but where's the challenge? Who are you competing against? What risks are you taking? What is the strategy? How do you win?

As I see it, these aren't games - these are just digital toys, like the Sims. You can do what ever you want. But there's no indication that one course of action is going to have any different impact on the course of the "game" than any other - it's all just personal preference. It's a digital version of playing with paper dolls - and if you play long enough, you'll get more to play with.

And I guess that's what annoys me the most about these "games." There's no goal - no challenge. What it is is just an opportunity to annoy your friends with endless updates, requests, begging, etc. Which appears to be very profitable for the publishers of these products. But I want more. I want something that challenges my mind.

And believe it or not, I think I know how to do that within the network that exists. And if anyone wants to do that, you know where I am.

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