Sam We Am – a “community game” concept
How can we make social games more social?
It’s an odd question to ask since what we are essentially calling for is more of what already exists. According to Wikipedia, the word social refers to:
…the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.
Seems kind of dry, utilitarian, and emotionless. Maybe we should ask a different question:
How do we create more meaningful interactions in social games?
Creating an environment where a community can develop and thrive might be the way to go.
In a seminal 1986 study, McMillan and Chavis identify four elements of “sense of community”: 1) membership, 2) influence, 3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and 4) shared emotional connection.
I’d like to be a part of that! So, how would one go about designing a community game? In this post I’ll pitch a wacky (or borderline crazy) concept that will attempt to satisfy the requirements of a community game experience.
SAM WE AM
Stranger Than Fiction Opening Sequence
In our fictitious game titled “SAM WE AM” the player does not start on their own plot of land to develop, or an inanimate space to fill. There is no avatar to customize or a house you can call your own. Our player, like the rest of the participants of the game, exist in a character named Sam. The UI is contextual, based solely on the simulation around this character/universe. The goal of the game is to exert influence on the story of Sam’s life and determine how this character/universe simulation evolves.
Players get to choose a side and determine their long term membership. You can choose to be a member of the “The Federal Bureau of Inspiration” or “Mischief Corp, LLC”. The path you choose will determine what influence options you will have over the character. One will attempt to guide Sam into situations that will increase the chance of good things happening to the character/universe while the other will try to get introduce some degree of chaos into the simulation. “Majority Rules” determines the amount of influence one side exerts over the simulation. Each side will want to maintain a strong presence at any given moment of the game. Milestone moments (Sam’s first kiss, Sam’s first job interview, etc.) will present players of both sides with opportunities to exert life-changing influence over Sam.
Good vs Evil Online by sassatattoo
Eventually the collective influence of one side will have an effect on Sam’s behavior and outward appearance. From the clothes that Sam wears to odd quirks picked up along the way, the character/universe becomes a living (as far as game sims go) leaderboard. All of this feeds back into the simulation as Sam becomes either an angel or an asshole. This creates an emotional attachment between players and the character/universe they occupy as collective actions have visibly clear repercussions that affect the simulation.
Social games feel more like play dates. You share in an activity together and engage in bartering and negotiation to keep your individual activities interesting over time. This is the “Me” game experience, it is all about the individual player. In a “We” game players engage in meaningful decisions with others for the benefit of the whole experience.