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Marioland avatar 5:36 PM on 01.31.2011  (server time)
Social gaming and why it isn't social

Socialization: It's something we do right from the beginning of our lives. It's a complex proceedure of getting involved with the ones around us. learning the rules of interpersonal interactions with other people. Almost everything in our lives are basically socialization. attitude, formality, smiling at someone, loving someone, giving something to someone, sharing something with someone... It's a whole complicated emotional network that takes "me" and transforms it into "us".

Basically the term "Social Network" doesn't even mean electronic friend services. A social network can be an extended area full of people who interact with each other. It's the friends of your friends you don't know about and it's your friends that your friends haven't been informed yet. Everybody is practically a nod of several social networks and when two people meet and become friends, they create a link between all those networks.

I know. It's quite complicated.

Electronic social networks such as Facebook and Myspace are tools of sharing stuff with other people of our choice, electronically. Mostly because they either are away or it's akward to share otherwise. For example, if I like a Youtube Video, it's highly inconvenient to make a huge recipient list on and share it away using e-mail. This also applies to links, pictures, animations etc. Even the short status updates are serving a purpose of socializing. It's like you are in a cafe with a bunch of friends and inform them that you are hungry or your goldfish died. They are the tools of doing socialization without the actual presence of people but broadcasting to them your emotions and ideas. So, a normally one should expect a Facebook newstream/wall to be full of messages, videos, ideas, emotions... A colorful and diverse stream of stuff to like, comment and interact with.

Thus, in such terms, "social gaming" isn't really social. I've been playing FarmVille for quite a while and I found out that it's a lonely-lonely game, that happens to tell everybody in preset messages when something special happens. The interaction with other players is being kept at minimum too. You can fertilize someone's crops and send them presents. Nothing out of a restricted path. The other player's farm can easily be some randomly generated farms with AI's deciding at random times to send you presents and/or fertilize your crops. That's far from social interaction as I know it.

Furthermore, the messages that are sent from such games, spoil the function of social network services. If Facebook's newstream gets full of messages about brown chickens, need of jewels and highscore announcements, the said service won't be a social network anymore. It'll to become Crapville. A platform for games that spams your wall and your newstream with repetitive messages from repetitive single player games. They don't carry socializing material in them. It's just the same repetitive messages over and over again.

So, social gaming as it is now, it's far from social. They're just some slow games that time manage their players and they are using their integration with a social network as a gimicky incentive to keep them hooked.

To conclude, social gaming needs to keep on, it has to become truely social. I don't know how this will be done and I'm currently out of ideas on the realization of it. But when someone talks about the "future" of social gaming, I know that it's crap promotion talking until someone actively finds the way.

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