Great coverage: Social Gaming Summit

The Social Gaming Summit was quite a success on Friday. Over 400 attendees seemed to enjoy the sessions based on the high proportion of people in sessions (vs in the lobby) and the fact that even the last session, that ended at 6pm on Friday evening, was very well attended.

Notes, video and commentary on the Social Gaming Summit « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog

Particularly check out the MMO/Immersive world conversations.  I really wish I had the time to go to these things.  Perhaps next year when Our (6DG) VW is rockin’ the market.  w00t and then some. 

Anyway, I totally agree w the idea of investment (I’m about to ramble away on my own tangent here, so bear with me).  People WANT escapism, and they want a quality environment to invest in – they want the depth – but as a choice.  Contrary-ism, the option has to be there. 

I spent the weekend playing Wizard101.  They have VERY structured quests – like “main point of game” quests, and the contrary “individual” in me shakes her fist and says “You can’t make me quest!”  And you know what?  I don’t have to.  I can go play casual games, explore the school, try and make people communicate with me (the communication is a bit hard to follow as you need to be facing someone to have a conversation otherwise you’ll miss it completely, not to mention, the crowd isn’t that chatty).

But even then (and I have mentioned how much I love Wizard101), I still yearn for a bit more community.  A bit more emphasis on social interactions, and less on NPCs (I am not an NPC fan… I will put up with Jack Sparrow in Pirates Online, because I love Johnny… but overall – NPC’s make me remember that the world is made up of machine’s trying to force me into certain play patterns, and not specialized human touch… then again, I am a community person, so that kind of makes sense). 

And really – that’s when asking for so much becomes a large question mark.  If I got what I wanted would I be happy?  Can a virtual world/MMO be run on individualism & community-strength alone?  Hmm.  Too much of a good idea = work.

Back in the day – and by “in the day” I mean 2000 – I tried to build a virtual school on TalkCity for Hogwarts.  I played Dumbledore, and McGonagall, as well as my original “Professor Izzy” who happened to be dating Charlie Weasley (I know, I know… I have issues).  TONS of people signed up for school – of all ages.  Mostly they wanted to be sorted into houses, but a few wanted to be actual professors.  So, yay! I didn’t have to create a load of dummy-professor Alts to keep all personality-types engaged. 

But as it turned out – everyone wanted to be the pinnacle of the story.  And often – being the pinnacle, or the “special one” or the hero… that takes a lot of forced attention from the rest of the community.  You can’t be a minor teacher and still save the day, or be everyone’s favorite, or be part of all storylines created within a fictional school.  Filch is great, but he doesn’t really do much or have too many storylines that interact across the story arc, ya know?  And when people don’t get that emotional/social “pay off” that they’re looking for, they’re gone.  Bye, bye.  Ciao, Bella.  They’ll find another place out there where they can get all that they want.

So it became this fight to balance – and that’s what I see happening in virtual worlds that are creating organizations from within – and why (even tho i hate it) such entities as NPC’s make valuable additions.  We can’t all be the “Rhoda” (thank you Romy and Michelle). 

Basically, it’s all about investment AND balance.  How do you offer the world while secretly running a rat’s labyrinth… not just so that people get what you’re offering (easy anti-marketing peeps, bear with me, doves), but so the intended audience can experience everything WITHOUT feeling a lull or misdirection or strain/stress of keeping a thriving world thriving.  Letting people down is exactly OPPOSITE of general entertainment, ya know? 

So games are great, communication is key, respect is expected, purpose is necessary, aesthetics are inviting, and thriving is a must: put all those ingredients in a well balanced soup, and you’ll have a busy, well-loved restaurant.  Oh, and it helps to have a chef that is clever enough to have an HONEST clue about truth: truth from/for costumers (both), truth from/for business, truth from/for strengths and weaknesses, truth from/for truth.

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