Facebook games are kind of like pinball machines, game designer says

Elvis Pinball
Elvis Pinball

Are social gamers more like pinball wizards? UK-based Simple Lifeforms CCO Tadhg Kelly makes exactly that in a recent editorial on Inside Social Games. Rather than his previous analogy of Facebook games to slot machines, Kelly believes that the game mechanics and reward systems behind most social games bear striking resemblance to pinball. The game designer goes into detail, explaining his understanding of the systems within both social games and pinball, but the major takeaway is his thoughts on their similarities.

"Playing a game on Facebook is like standing in an amusement arcade," Kelly writes. "Pinball is primarily available at arcades, and each pinball machine has to fight for its right to be seen and heard by being louder, more visual and more immediately fun than its competitors."

He goes on to size up the instant reward systems of both games as short bursts of enjoyment. More importantly, he touches on the fact that both require players to inevitably pay more quarters or virtual cash to play for long periods of time. Bingo. I think this guy might be onto something here. However, Kelly's chief concern is the importance of environment in game design.

Just as there is no room for an absorbing game like The Legend of Zelda at the arcades, the environment of social games restricts their ability to be deep. What social game makers have realized is that Facebook is so loaded with distraction that deep gameplay is almost impossible to achieve. So the game you are playing has to keep things light, fast and fun because the rest of the player's social graph is only a Notification Request away.

Admittedly, I've never thought of it that way. If Kelly is right, then perhaps there is no hope for the up and coming Facebook MMOs, but no one said anything about 3D.

[Image Credit: BMI Gaming]

If Kelly is right, what do you think this might mean for the future of social games? Is there room for the genre to mature while still respecting the fickleness of Facebook and the web? Speak up in the comments. Add Comment.