People crave community
People crave community. We are social creatures. Today, we are social networking creatures. We do loads of things communally. We edit content communally on Wikipedia and we play multiplayer online role-playing games with a global community of “friends”.
One of the most fascinating talks I attended last winter was at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (read prior FanTrust blog coverage here) — on the topic of How Wikipedia is Like a Multiplayer Game: it is addictive to its core community, has its own system of guilds and includes a crazy cast of real-life editors who identify as vandal fighters, wikignomes (don’t want status), sock puppets (operate with different identities) and moths (who are drawn to conflicts). On the flip-side, game companies can apply lessons and strategies from the Wikipedia model to build loyalty and community action.
Now, there is nothing “accidental” about some online communities.
World of Warcraft players build strong relationships with other gamers, through conference call-type voice chat systems like TeamSpeak, forum postings and instant messaging.
Developer Blizzard Entertainment structured the game to encourage these fans. Nothing can be accomplished in higher game levels without at least 40 fellow gamers playing simultaneously. Gamers on opposing teams cannot speak with one another. These very real social connections may be just as crucial to engaging gamers as great gameplay, graphics or story lines.
And the Alternate Reality Game for the series Lost takes new storylines introduced in gameplay and embeds them into on-air episodes. The game was also used between seasons to tide fans over, a bonus during the recent writer’s strike.
Mainstream TV shows like American Idol are also influencing game trends and game audiences. Nexon’s Audition, a dance competition that you play with others online, sounds more like the TV sensation “So You Think You Can Dance?” than your standard MMO. And while it is now possible to watch hardcore gamers battle it out on television in video game championships, skills of alliance-building and other gamesmanship are standard fare on shows like Survivor, which after all is essentially a game.