I’m a social gamer. This doesn’t mean that I play what are commonly called “social games”, because generally, they aren’t actually social, and while they might be compelling to some – particularly to those whose experience with electronic entertainment is a bit limited – they’re not generally a lot of actual fun.
No, I’m a social gamer. I like to communicate about games. I like to talk about them. I like to write about them. I like to have enjoyable cooperative gaming experiences with my friends and family – in the same room, if at all possible. I also like to just play them.
That’s the sort of social gamer I am.
Now, here’s the sort of social gamer that I am not…
I’m not the sort of gamer who gets any incentive out of hats (you listening, there, Valve?). I don’t think that a preorder incentive (or platform incentive) that involves me getting a unique, game-identifying hat to wear in (eg) Team Fortress 2 is actually any kind of an incentive.
What is it, exactly? It’s a virtual item my character in one game can display to show that I spent money on another game.
The incentive, then, is the thrill of my being able to advertise one game that you sell in another game you also sell, and where nobody cares.
Whee! Can it get much better than this?
Why yes! Yes it can! I can get a special outfit for a tiny avatar that I can almost not see at maximum zoom; for a single-player game, where nobody else can see me dressed up as (eg) a masked wrestler. Heck, I can’t even really see it myself.
Now that’s got to be a huge drawcard right there?
Maybe it is, but not to me.
Then there’s the various other “social features” fitted into platforms like Steam. Unless I want to lock my profile down into complete uselessness (and there are just a very few advantages in not doing so), others can see where you’re spending your time. What games you’re playing, how long you spend with each, and with achievements, what sort of things you’re doing within those games.
Thanks, but no thanks.
As the sort of social gamer that I am, I like to talk about games that I liked (and a few that I didn’t) and why. I like to communicate information about the games that I play, and I like to choose exactly when and how this happens.
The way it is currently done feels like:
@bobfromaccounting: Is using Microsoft Office to edit resume.doc
@bobfromaccounting: Is using Outlook to write an email titled “Why I hate my boss”
Yes, there’s a little hyperbole added there, but not that much. Maybe my guilty secret is railroad simulators, or maybe that I spent a hundred hours on Trine and can’t get through the first ten minutes of the game; or maybe I’m really not enjoying a particular game, but like a round of burned toast, I’m methodically crunching my way through it to teach me a valuable lesson about where and how I spend my limited games budget and hoping to get enough out of it to at least recoup some entertainment value out of the foolish expense.
Or maybe – just maybe, possibly, perhaps – I just don’t want my software communicating with others on my behalf, thank you very much.
Fact is, that, plus the toast metaphor is all the reason I need to shun most of the increasingly-common social features in games and in their digital delivery systems.
If I could, I’d have complete granularity about what achievements and games and game-time are shown to others, never showing any individual item without my prior, explicit, manual approval.
And while we’re in Cloud Cuckoo Land, I’d also like publishers and distributors to find out what sort of things I would find to be incentives, rather than inundating me with hats and outfits that I’m never going to use.
As if that’s going to happen, right? Hatters gonna hat.