Digital Chocolate's lead social designer asks, 'Is social broken?'

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YoVille's chat featureAki Järvinen, lead social designer for MMA Pro Fighter creator Digital Chocolate, questions whether the social aspect of social games is broken in a guest post on Gamasutra. While this question isn't exactly a new one, Järvinen deeply explores several modes of social experience in Facebook games and stakes claim to the idea that, "Social games mainly work as distractions rather than playful social interactions."

He explains that because social games aren't played with others immediately in real time that their social qualities are constrained, which is why the most social thing about Facebook games are the the opportunities to share information via News Feed posts. But isn't that exactly what Facebook has been suppressing for months?

If social games are to truly embrace their name, Järvinen suggests that somehow more immediate bonding experiences are introduced into the genre without taking away from what these are all about: the quick fix. This seems to be exactly what games like YoVille and Happy Pets hope to accomplish with their live chat features. Järvinen also nods to FrontierVille for inching closer towards this goal through giving us players serious incentive (think of your Reputation Level) to visit friends and collaborate on Goals.

In his dissertation, Järvinen comes to the conclusion that we might actually be satisfied with the somewhat artificial level of social interaction in our Facebook games, saying, "it might very well be that when we scratch the surface of social in social games we will, and we should find, more surface."

What do you think about the level of social interaction in social games? Do you look for deeper social connections in your Facebook games or are you just looking for some fun with friends? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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