Social gaming – “it’s our responsibility… to demand more honest and fulfilling fun from our entertainment.”

Social gaming – “it’s our responsibility… to demand more honest and fulfilling fun from our entertainment.” :

I love (and sort of hate, I guess) finding articles that say exactly the things I think about.

I’ve always found psychology to be a very interesting and practical field of work. Though it may be hard to quantify and measure behaviors in humans, it is not impossible – that is why psychological research is helping people to an ever growing extent in modern times – be it through proper medication for mental conditions, behavioral therapy or simply tips regarding cognitive functions that are making many people’s live’s better every day.

All the application of psychology I listed above contribute to people’s well being, and while not all methods are as precise or effective, they are helping people change their behavior according to their will. For example – helping a person with “ticks” overcome his obsessive behavior. But as they say, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. 

Even when ignoring problematic experiments and psychological torture, there are still many ways to misuse even the best theraputic practices. If we put asside drug abuse, the main concern that comes to mind, and rightly so, is behavioral modification. The same methods that can help overcome bad habits and teach us to act in more positive ways can be used, if applied correctly, to coerce us into an activity, which we might rationalize as entertaining but wouldn’t have neccesairily engaged in williningly having seen it’s outcome. This article raises a flag on one example – the social gaming industry – whose buisness model relies heavily on influencing players to dedicate time, and eventually, money, with their games.

Even if we put aside the debate regarding the merits of playing a game (described in the article as “‘easy’ vs. ‘hard’ fun”), the major concern, in my idea, is the weak but effective coersion techniques used to getting players involved in the games. If that seems to harsh of a judgement, read this. People payed to click cows… COWS… and now that they’re gone, there are still people playing… So what if their moo sounds are cute!

Despite the above rant, the point I’m trying to make has nothing to do with the games – while I despise them and find them problematic, my main issue is with the idea that this is a working, effective buisness, based on “clicking nothing” games. I can’t imagine working and supporting such an endavor – coming to work to develop games that lure people into a psychological experiment, for which they have to pay (THAT would actually be illegal in modern standards). It’s not about good or bad, but rather about the human hours wasted by both users and company on “clicking nothing”. I feel the way Luis Von Ahn fealt about the captchas.

I try to fill this blog with ideas that make our lives more fulfilling – doing something because it contributes to something else – not just for that something’s sake. I do it because I think that be it through crowdsourced efforts or individual developments, we are building, block by block, a better tommorow through todays technologies, when we try to look at them practicly rather than as a buisness or something cool. I want to eventually pitch and develop an idea that will take part in this trend.

Zynga is the exact opposite of this vision – it bases its success solely on the effectivness of its buisness model, which isn’t a great feat considering how virality and reinforcement are easy to achieve these days. The fact that the internet is so widely based on these economically oriented buisness models (AKA heavy advertising, paid subscription, etc’) is both outdated an a missed opportunity in my opinion – why waste people’s time? There are many examples of successful projects that garnered interest because of their value, not their buisness potential. I wish with all my heart more buisnesses would look into generating a valuble service or by-product as a way to get funded, rather than the methods listed above. 

Returning to social games, and more specifically, the gamers – it’s time to set up higher standards for what we do in our spare time, even in games. Look at the many options today – games that are smartly designed, thought games, games with a social message, or full fledged GWAPs (games with a purpose) – we have enough variety to chose critically on what to invest our time in. In the end, any time we spend on any activity should be valuable to us, and is in fact valuable for the companies (time is easily to capitalise. Therefore, I believe a true shift in gamers interest could, if direct enough, force a shift in buisness strategies as well. The question remains – how to engage a large enough crowd?

via tumblr at January 25, 2012 at 01:09AM. Originally posted on


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