Posts Tagged social

Teresa St. Arnauld

When I met Teresa, she had just said “yes” to Dwayne’s marriage proposal, on the first Magic Cruise.  Now, I understand this predisposes them to have been friendly to me (and in fact, I think I had met Dwayne at local Seattle Magic events previously), but even so, they were quite nice and easy to talk to.  Teresa, not being a Magic player herself, and I, not really able to play tournament Magic and looking for cool people to hang out with, ended up chilling together (with Jess, Rachel and Shannon) a bit on the rest of the cruise.

Teresa shares my affinity for corralling/organizing a bunch of gamers to go out together for dinner/etc.  She’s also quite good at it when she puts her mind to it.  Like many of my socialite-type friends, she’s very good at being inclusive in conversations, which I really admire because I feel awful when friends are left out of each other’s space on a full group outing.  Teresa and Dwayne’s wedding was wonderful, and it was Teresa’s idea to have Joe Rick Roll the audience – truly a genius masterstroke, and also hilarious.

Teresa and I aren’t hanging out all the time, but the time we do get to hang out together – Monday night karaokes, after long Magic events, etc. – is definitely much better for her presence.  She even found a sweet Thai place after an event here in Seattle that didn’t spice me to death – big thumbs up!

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Bonnie McGregor

I wasn’t friends with Bonnie exactly; I was friends with Alexis, via draft club and work at Wizards, and met Bonnie through her. As with most significant other situations, I wasn’t the most comfortable with Bonnie at first. However, Bonnie might be the easiest person to get along with that I know – not that she is necessarily the “easiest-going” of people, but she and I click in this great way. She is both an excellent hostess in her home, making everyone feel welcome and ensuring that no one leaves with less than a full stomach or full drunky-meter (if they so desire), and also an excellent friend-pole: a person around which loosely associated friend groups collect. She and Alexis invited me to their Thanksgiving dinner the first year I was in Seattle and I had nowhere else in mind, and I am eternally grateful.

Bonnie and I both enjoy morning coffee, and so we took it upon ourselves to go out and do some Sunday morning dark chocolate mocha runs to chat about life and such. (Well, I got dark chocolate mochas, anyway, they are delicious!) Often I’ll get hung up and be unwilling to talk about my own thoughts even with my friends, but I haven’t had that problem with Bonnie, and I am very thankful for that. It’s great to have an understanding friend to listen when you have nonstop analysis running in your head at all times. :) We both got busy and so the morning meetups stalled, but like all good friendships, it lies in wait for a time when we can both find some time again and then we’ll have it up and running.

Basically, Bonnie is awesome. And one of the coolest Canadians I know, also. Coincidence? (!?)

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Risk/Reward and Interaction

I was pondering two separate games, or ways to play games – Concentration (or Memory), and Winston Draft – and saw a common thread of interest to comment on.  In Concentration, each player takes turns trying to find a match on the board of scrambled tiles.  In Winston Draft, one player has the option to take a pile of cards for their deck or pass, but if they pass, another mystery card is added to that pile for the other player to look at / potentially choose.  In both styles of game, the player has to measure the risk of allowing their opponent additional benefit versus the reward of doing something awesome (matching/getting better cards).

One of the dangerous areas of game design that I realized after playing Dominion is that the amount and nature of interactivity in a multiplayer game has a huge effect on the enjoyment of the players.  When there is very little interaction, the game feels like a shared Solitaire experience and you don’t have any social benefit from playing together.  On the flip side, when there’s a ton of interactivity – like people attacking each other all the time in Small World, for example – players can get upset and frustrated because they are unable to execute their strategy and/or have fun that way.

I really like the way this interaction conundrum is solved in the risk/reward scenario outlined above.  Rather than pit players against each other, make it so that both (or all) players actions contribute toward a “pool” of resources in such a way that each player can ignore the benefit being given to the other if they desire, or they can factor it into their strategy (the less I give to others, the better off I am myself).

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Gamer 2

I wanted to spend this post thinking about “gamer culture,” or more specifically how groups of gamers interact.  I’m hanging out with Sam a bit this week, since he lives in Minnesota and here I am at U.S. Nationals.  One thing that always struck me was a conversation we had about parties.  His opinion was that the best kind of party was one in which everyone was playing games together, and I noted I had friends who would want to participate in basically a “standing party” – where people are just hanging and chatting.  He gave me a look that I think implied that wasn’t his kind of party.

I know a lot of people who game socially, who (more appropriately) get a lot of social value out of playing games with friends.  Games, by their nature, require a bit of a hurdle to jump over before a newcomer can play.  If everyone is learning, and/or everyone is on the same level of learnability when it comes to games, no problem.  But introducing a new player into such an environment can be difficult.

Now we come to the crux of the issue – what about a new person to such a group, who isn’t really keen on being a new player but just wants to socialize?  In this way, I kind of feel like gaming social groups can have trouble letting new people join them.  They are very stable because of this, but not very easy to break into if you are not a gamer yourself.

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Social Stickiness

A very important quality of games, in this Internet/social network age, is that of stickiness – what games do you remember, and what about them do you remember?  The best marketing vehicle is virality – having your audience spread knowledge about your product via word-of-mouth – because people trust the people they are close to.  Hence, one of the best features for a game is that it is memorable.  But memorable in specific ways — the ways in which friends will pitch it to each other.

I harped a little on the forced-replayability factor of Starcraft 2’s single player campaign yesterday, because I think that merely placing value locked away behind the 2nd, 3rd or subsequent plays of a game is a bad way to make your game something that I’m excited to return to.  I think there are three main ways that a game can be sticky and keep players coming back (and talking about it to their friends):

  • Infinite variability.  I feel like most multiplayer games have this aspect to them; also, some procedurally generated games
  • Huge (but finite) crafted content.  I feel like lots of role-playing games have this aspect to them, especially Square’s epic Final Fantasy series.  Clearly you have to toe a fine line here, since as I mentioned, withholding your content overtly from the player is not a recipe for good-will.
  • Social metagame.  Lots of social networking games have this aspect (share *achievement* with your friends!)

Honestly, Farmville is not super compelling as a game – it is lacking in the interesting mechanics department.  But it *is* a super compelling metagame — nuturing instincts for plants and animals, sharing progress with friends, keeping in touch with “neighbors.”  And Farmville is clearly super popular because it sticks in people’s heads so well over time.  This aspect of social stickiness is always of interest to me because it is so powerful and often so elusive for incorporation into one’s game.

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