Diversity through Facebook: USA Network's Social Circle promotes acceptance in gaming

Social Circle
Have you made with friends of all shapes, sizes and colors? USA Network wants to test that in its most recent Facebook game, Social Circle. Just one facet of the cable TV network's efforts to promote diversity and tolerance through its Characters Unite program, Social Circle aims to measure how diverse you are by asking you questions about your friends to see if you really know them. The idea behind Social Circle is simple: to hit home the message that diversity is important in our modern society and since we're only becoming more integrated, it's time we think about diversity differently.

According to USA Networks vice president of digital Jesse Redniss, "[Social Circle] is more of a thought catalyst, which is a little bit of a different approach to gaming. In gaming traditionally you're faced with a challenge, you complete the challenge and you get rewarded for it through points or virtual items." Redniss believes this game is more about using game mechanics to cause self-reflection and perspective on their diversity.

Find out more about USA's next Facebook game behind the break.

Social Circle Gameplay
In a way, Social Circle is like a slot machine for your Facebook friends, but with an interesting twist. The game begins with eight slots rolling through your litany of Facebook friends. It will eventually choose eight lucky friends (after a few more spins) who might carry some interesting facts about their ethnicity, culture or even orientation. To match those eight friends are eight extremely specific questions--your job is to figure out who owns which defining trait or background.

The more questions you match up with the correct friends (and one friend per question, folks), the higher your diversity percentage will rise. It's this number that you'll be showing off to your friends through post sharing and might inspire other friends to join in. This might sound like a good time, but I wouldn't take your diversity percentage as direct evidence or allow it to complete boil down to a number or an achievement. Redniss wants much more than that to come of Social Circle.

"I think the goal here is to raise more awareness," Redniss says. "[Social Circle] is really part of the bigger Characters Unite initiative in which we're looking to get everyone around the world to think about how they can push the boundaries of fighting against racism, sexism or really any other 'isms' out there. Rather than just pushing a PSA down their throat, we're utilizing the Facebook platform to attach a gaming element to this initiative."

Social Circle Diversity Score
While games for social change or those designed to inspire critical thought aren't uncommon, they are on Facebook's games platform. There are several places for users to gather and discuss issues over Facebook, but it's rarely been done in Facebook games. Considering this, it's understandable to doubt social games as a potential source for change, but here we are.

"When you think about gaming in general, it really all goes back to storytelling--they have great characters," Redniss says. "What we're looking to do is utilize your friends and their diversity to tell a story of who you are and how diverse you are. And it's on the Facebook platform so [this story] will easily, virally spread."

While Social Circle might not be your run-of-the-mill Facebook game, it's refreshing to see a game that literally tests your friendships rather than equate them to more free gifts. Perhaps if more social games included gameplay elements that helped players to foster their friendships rather than use them as a tool for success, we'd see more connection in the various social game fan pages other than the rabble of "Add me!" posts.

Play Social Circle on Facebook Now >

What do you think about social games' potential to inspire critical thought? Has a social game out there today ever changed your perspective on an issue? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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