Are social games simply social or evil?

21 Feb

I recently came across a very interesting interview by an award winning games developer, Jonathon Blow, who has been accused of “blowing” things out of proportion when he made the very bold statement that social games are not social but actually evil. His argument is that games such as the ones on mobile phones and facebook, eg. Farmville have the effect of “transforming friends into resources and not encouraging real friendship”- the purpose of the games being to use your friends to progress further into the game, and the element of sociality is removed further as you are never playing at the same time as those friends. He goes onto reiterate that the games embedded in social networks teach you to take advantage and exploit those you already know as opposed to forging new friendships that you would in first person shooters such as counter strike in which you create “teams” or “guilds”.

It seems to me that Blow has alluded himself into thinking that the social networking games have a very powerful detrimental effect which warrants them the arguably biblical term “evil”- a term that has many strong connotations. His argument for such an allegation is that “designers create games that ‘tease’ players by not giving them everything they want, consequently forcing them to play more and “invade the player’s free time away from the game”.

I would also argue that the games supposed “addictive” properties are down to the personality and attributes of the end user. If someone has an addictive personality, then he/she may well become addicted to anything they contribute their time to, so blaming the social networking games then seems an absurd and unrealistic thing to do.

If you believe social games like Farmville are evil or not, there is no denying they are frighteningly profitable and successful. Recent news (18 FEB 2011) reveals that Zynga, the company behind Cityville and Farmville are in talks with a company in a deal worth $500 million, that will value the company at a staggering $10 Billion.

So what do you think? Are these games social or evil?

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