I’ve had a lot of free time recently. While waiting for a gameday to open for my TF2 map, and having some serious writer’s block on my League of Legends champion, I thought I’d play a slow paced social game that can take up hours and hours of my time without needing me to be ridiculously focussed. This is opposed to the often constant stress (and abuse) of League of Legends.
But no, I’m not returning to CityVille.
It’s generally a common opinion that social games are not social. Originally it was a small number of detractors who noticed it, but nowadays even the common man understands that social games are rather anti-social. This is interesting because the friends list and social graph mechanics from Facebook’s gaming ‘platform’ are often cited as the major reasons for why social games have become successful.
Personally, I don’t think social games are successful because of the need to socialize. I think they’re mainly popular because they’re high quality casual flash games that don’t require people to go to a ‘gaming’ site like Kongregate or Armor Games. Those sites are made by gamers and for gamers. Social games are essentially the same thing but made for a more casual and broader audience, yet are integrated into a website that people already use in their daily lives. Friends are a nice addition, but I don’t think they’ve ever been incorporated into a game for the benefit of the player. Friend systems are never fun, they’re just free advertising and some people are getting pissed off by that.
I believe that the best social game ever made is World of Warcraft. Yes, it was not the first but it’s definitely the best. The theme is universally loved across all sexes, lifestyles and races (cartoony style fantasy as opposed to typical dark fantasy clichés aimed at D&D fans). It is the Farmville of MMORPGs in that respect. It is a game that consumes people’s lives, including my own for a 4 year period. It’s been about 5 years since I last played WoW and I’m thinking of returning…
This time, I intend not to be consumed, but I will be playing loads over the next 10 days (free trial woo!) and I want to really analyze all the features that make WoW so popular, addictive and rewarding. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on this blog and possibly it will give some insights into why social games are so popular and how developers can use WoW’s success story to push Facebook games into the future.