Hatters gonna hat

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.

11 thoughts on “Hatters gonna hat”

  1. There’s a difference between social [network] gaming and gaming socially.

    Games that’re apt for socialisation are multiplayer. “Social [network] games” are just single-player fare with [explicit VGCats reference] hats.

    For people that aren’t into Team Fortress 2, the rather forceful advertising for “exclusive” tie-in hats is a bit annoying. It’s doubly annoying if you take into account that the “exclusive” items typically get added to the loot tables for random drops & craftables/purchasables- the only difference being that the item has a different coloured label, forcing an arbitrary higher value on an item in trades with a single bit of data and inflating the size of one’s epeen.

  2. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with spending time with train simulators. Even if the fusible plugs in the firebox blow out every time you get into Patcham Tunnel.

  3. LOL Tat, the comment about “hat” incentives is so true. 😀

    Portal and Portal 2… two of the best games ever written. But seriously… on the competitive version of Portal 2, two Robots getting hats or little flags to wear? That’s an “incentive”?

    I played the games… more than once. As with many people, I just love Portal. I have a Portal Museum on Inworldz ElvenSong region, that’s how much it impressed me. But… hats?

    Most. Lame. Incentive. Ever.

  4. I *so* agree. And something like trophies/achievements leave me entirely cold, and I just shake my head in disbelief when how easily a game provides a certain trophy level becomes a selling point.
    Every now and then, I see a “good” trophy, though. That is when I decide to do something slightly tangential to the main game, setting myself the goal of doing something in a particularly stylish or convoluted way, and, when pulling off off, getting an unexpected trophy for it. That comes across as a little nod from the developers that yes, they did think about this, and thought it was pretty neat, too, even if not really a part of the “official” gameplay.

  5. For me, it’s the “assumption” the game makes that I want to communicate with others. Providing the feature that allows such announcements is fine, but please don’t just assume everyone wants to share that info.

    @Wolf – A penny in the fuse box works wonders on getting you all the way through the tunnel .. and sometimes makes a great light show too. *grin*

  6. Sadly, It happens in the real world as well.
    Radio-Spares and Element 14 in particular keep sending me emails about the wonderful gifts (unwanted trash) I can get by spending a certain amount in my next order.
    I would love the opportunity to scream in some marketing guy’s face “I don’t want your stupid ‘gifts’, I want lower prices”.

    That’s one hat, now for another.

    Also, Steam seems predicated on people wanting to play multi-player games and I don’t want to generally.
    Nor I suspect do a great many people, possibly the majority, but the intrinsically vocal social game-players naturally made THEIR preferences known loudly, so games companies think that’s what everybody wants.
    But there are all these people who want single-player games, so what do they do in this situation?
    The answer, as I see it, is they play casual games from Big-Fish etc. As yet they aren’t very sophisticated adventures etc’ but they are pretty much all single-player games, and they are getting better.
    If the triple-A titles games-makers don’t realise where half their market has gone soon, they will have to fight hard to get them back, if they can.

  7. @taterunino It’s not my fault you find my existence dull and meaningless. Isn’t hate just love with no where to go and word the industry standard for a resume?

  8. After the 5th bork-install, I searched the web, and luckily several people had a hack around this annoyance and the game finally installed. Needless to say, Steam is now firewalled (since I don’t need it to play the game) and I don’t like it’s annoying popups and repeated jabs to “join the Steam community” so they can keep broadcasting my useage, progress, badges or whatever crap they are pushing to get my metrics.
    I will never buy another game that requires me to do this or to connect to a third party when I have legally purchased the game and can see the entire install on the dvd. If this means I play only indie games or old games, so be it. That’s a loss of future sales from someone who spent more on games than on music or films for the last 15 years. I can still play nethack or Elite quite happily for their amazingly-open game structure.

Comments are closed.