Asocial games?

"To make friends, you need games!"

“To make friends, you need games!” Sorry, Yozora, but it is not quite that simple.

For some months now I have been playing browser games, sometimes called “Facebook games” since that is where these got their breakthrough. (I play them on Google+ though, since it has a separate games stream so people don’t need to see them if they don’t participate in such games.) Another name for these I have seen is “social games”. I would contest that.

Admittedly my experience is only with two of these games, City of Wonder and Cityville. These two fall into the “builder” genre and should in theory appeal to the more constructive player, although CoW does have a tiny element of combat (which is optional, not animated, and causes no permanent damage to the loser). The interaction with Google+ friends is entirely positive, consisting in giving gifts and helping out. So far, so good.

The first thing I notice is that most players only stay a few days. This could simply be because the games are not that exciting. But there may also be another reason why the appeal fades quickly: The other players. With extremely few exceptions, everyone is focused only on receiving, not on giving. In that regard it is a reflection of the real world, I guess. But the result is that the games stream is a long row of requests which are largely ignored, since people only check on their own posts. There are at any time a small proportion that are reciprocal.

I am mildly amused that people really think this will work. You’d think most had grown up in a family of more than one person (at least most people have a mother or someone who fulfills that role) and would have learned that you are likely to achieve more by cooperating than by begging from people whom you otherwise ignore. (For the sake of the discussion, I will assume that the players are more than 10 years old. I guess before that, you may actually get away with that kind of behavior at home, if nowhere else.)

It may be that this is different if your fellow players are people you hang out with in real life. One would seriously hope so. But in that case, I am not sure what the social aspect is, since you could be more social with the same people elsewhere…

By the way, here’s a website for Google+ City of Wonder players where you can help random people with their wonders 30 times a day (the maximum the game allows) even if you have no friends in the game. All you need is the free Google+ account and a free CoW account, and you can make 30 random self-absorbed clueless people slightly happier at the cost of a few minutes of your precious lifetime. Just make sure you don’t get sucked into the game and become like them. ^_^


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