Social culture in the game industry

On: October 3, 2011
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About Renoud Netjes
After graduated from both mediadesign and interactive media, I was trained to see the virtual as a place with huge advertising opportunities. Now I no longer try to see the virtual world only from this marketing perspective. Interested in innovation, the promises of new media and what they are or could mean in modern society.


Video games have changed dramatically over the last decades. There is obviously a big gap between 1958’s Tennis For Two and the games we play now on our consoles or PC. Of course, the rapid evolution of new technology is one of the most important factors for today’s variety of games. Another wave of opportunities came when the Internet made its entrance in the gaming industry, giving light to a wide range of multiplayer games.

Games become social platforms
Today’s social and real-time online culture also has its consequences for the gaming industry. Not only in a direct example of social games build in a social networks, like Farmville on Facebook, but also in another way. A way in which games become the basis for new social activities, creating new possible forms of gameplay.
Let’s look at some cases. In console gaming, the market leaders Playstation and Xbox both have not only build their own game plaform, but also a network or virtual community around it. Xbox has its Xbox Live Community, Playstation its Playstation Network.

Gamers can add friends to their list and become aware of their gaming activity, what kind of games they are playing, and in some way their scores and experience points.

PC games also follow the same trajectory. PC Game platforms like Steam or EA’s Origin are rising and both have similar social components.

Now, I don’t want to go much in depth on the platforms themselves. The social components are still pretty shallow and used in a different way as for example facebook. Facebook which can be integrated with some of the game platforms.

Changing gameplay?
It might be more interesting to look at it from the perspective of the games itself. How does the Internet, and in particular social networks affect gameplay? Obviously there are a lot of examples of virtual communities that are at the core level of gameplay. For example in MMORPGs. The principle of ‘playing together’ is added to some games. Gameplay facilitates social activity and is being backed up by the integrated social network. What does this mean for gameplay? And how does this change social networks?

Fifa 12, the newest addition to the popular football game series, is a good example of the integration of social features in a game. Football games, like most sport games, are a pretty stable genre. Each year they advance on graphics and controls to gain more realism, and somehow it is always comparable to the previous year. However, when you compare Fifa 2012 to the version of ten years before, Fifa 2002, we will immediately notice that a lot has been added.
A vast social aspect has been added to Fifa 12. It’s not only about you playing the game, but about you playing in a bigger social context. For example there are various leagues you can play in, which allow you to meet up against better skilled opponents. You play against your friends in an ongoing competition. It is possible to play the game so that each online player is fixed to one player on the field. You post replays of your best goals online, too share them.

The list of social aspects goes on and on. In fact the facilitating of social activity could be one of the more important things in game development right now.We can then ask ourselves the question how ‘social’ these games really are. But there is definitely more going on then replacing the computer opponent based on algorithms for a human being. It is also about things like status and identity of your opponent. It might even matter if your opponent is a friend or not, or perhaps will be.

An answer to piracy?
In the end, we can also look at this issue from another perspective. In terms of control. In terms of the gaming industry suffering from piracy. The rise of gaming through online and social platforms gave the industry instruments for control.

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