Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gaming on Facebook - Gaming's Ugliest Manifestation!

Came across an interesting article on Gamespot about the nature of Facebook gaming, and the way it's probably affecting the game industry. It goes so far as to say that Facebook games, designed specifically to be addictive cash grabs, are in fact morally reprehensible. THE WIZAARD AGREES.

Here's the link.

And here's a lil' blurb! Off you go then, lil' blurb:

"My worry is from the player's standpoint. If the research carries over to gameplay as it does in other [fields], it will actually turn people off games in the long run. It emphasizes the shallow, dumb, non-interesting tasks, and it decreases motivation for interesting tasks that might be intrinsically motivated."

Hecker said his hope for games is that they become the preeminent art form of the 21st century in the same way film was for the 20th century. His concern is that the industry is engaging in trends now that will hold it back from achieving that goal in the future.

"The way you become the 'preeminent art form of the 21st century' is not by giving people more achievements and stuff," Hecker said. "It's by making deeper and more compelling games."

Much of the article denounces the popular 'microtransaction model', where you pay real money here and there for in-game benefits that ultimately just help you play the game more effectively until you need to purchase the next benefit. But one enthused developer suggested that it's a more honest way to sell games - thousands of dollars are spent on marketing campaigns designed to sell you a game that you might not like. So the alternative is to give you a free game, and if you like it, you can invest in it yourself. That makes some sense, but the model leads to a troubling gaming experience that is necessarily dependent on fostering an urge to keep you buying, and where the indulgence in that urge is the sole reward for playing. Any compelling or engaging gaming experiences, which I'll argue are dreadfully important in our current culture, are going to take backseat to our ugly consumer drives. Which is decidedly not what we need more of. It's gaming at it's most barefaced business-like, without passion and without enrichment. It's just a casino.

Some say it's training a new generation of gamers that normally would never have touched a video game, since console controllers, even those of the Wii, are scary. But what are these gamers being taught to respond to? At the risk of sounding alarmist, I worry, and suspect that while these gamers can certainly evolve past their Facebook training wheels, the majority will come to find enjoyment only in games that are easily thrown away. The perceived threat is in the model becoming so popular and lucrative that we see a decline in games that actually matter. And yes, some of them do.

Facebook gaming certainly won't demolish the video game industry, but it has created an embarrassing and exploitative trend. It's also succeeded in creating a class of gamer that the rest will mutter and moan about for years to come.

Oh, and it looks like Sid Meier of Civilization fame is developing a Facebook version of Civ. I guess once that hits, you'll never see your friends again, but for messages like "Lame McCrappersmith has built the Parthenon! Join and beat him to the Panama Canal for $4.99!"

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