Lord of the Dots- Social (network) Utility and Casual Games

During my senior year in high school, there was a craze that swept through my grade. During maths, during lunch, and all into the evenings everyone would obsessively play the game Chain Rxn (reaction), comparing scores and trying SO hard to beat everyone else. The greatest part about the whole thing was that Chain Rxn is a ridiculously simple game: you click anywhere on the screen and just sit back and wait for the little floating balls to collide into the ball you placed and the screen would erupt in a chain reaction of satisfying clicks. There is basically no skill needed to play the game; just pure luck. This addictive, stupidly simple game created this whole new way I interacted with my classmates, and even other people who I would not talk to in any other capacity. The easy mechanics of the game made it accessible and enjoyable for everyone; it wasn’t like those computer room lessons where this group of boys would just play Halo and ignore everyone else. It was all-encompassing, and while most of our interactions were passive and through technology, it was still an interaction we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise and thus, no less important.

I’ve thought a lot about Chain Rxn when designing my game. The mechanics and ability to connect your Facebook profile to the game is something that I wanted to emulate in my own plans. While the game and mechanics aren’t complicated, the addition of the social network aspect will hopefully provide the challenge players need to keep coming back to the game. Without this challenge, according to Trefry (2010, pg. 44), the game will be little more than an exercise with a few idiosyncratic constraints.

Casual games and social networks are increasingly becoming more important to each other (Trefry, 2010, and Serge, 2015). Social networks work by acting as both marketing for games, and sometimes as the actual platform said games are played on, according to Serge. What’s more, games are “inherently social”—they take shape and exist in the space between players (Trefry, 2010, pg. 215). To my classmates and I, a simple, stress-busting game became very serious, with scores climbing higher and higher everyday. Respect was won and lost on the Rxn board, and when someone found an app version of the game for their iPhone 3, they were King. This game completely changed power dynamics among us kids, opening up opportunities for interactions that were never thought of before. Casual games have this ability, as does social networking. Games are defined by interaction between individual players, and it only makes sense that casual games move into the ‘new’ sphere on social networking.

 

references:

Serge, D 2015, “Why is Social Media Important to the Gaming Industry”, Doz.com, http://www.doz.com/social-media/social-media-gaming-industry, accessed 18th May 2016

Trefry, G 2010, Casual Game Design, Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers

 

5 thoughts on “Lord of the Dots- Social (network) Utility and Casual Games

  1. This is awesome. Youve totally captured the concept of games connecting children in ways nothing else can.
    I never played the game you discuss in your post however I have the same experience during primary school with another game, Marble Blast. A simple computer game where you acted as a marble and just had to get through rounds and reach the end, sometimes collecting things along the way. Just dont fall off the edge, that was it. It was simple, addicting and HUGE amongst the kids. We all talked about it, versing each other and seeing who had the top score on the few computers we had in the library. It brought us together, and allowed us to just have fun and talk literally because of this one, simple game.
    This is a huge and almost underrated social utility. I think that some people dont see the important of these games, how they connect people. It made primary school such an amazing experience. It takes away negativity, drama, rumours and all the usual bad aspects of school and allowed to just be happy, silly, and talkative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. exactly! It was such a good experience. I was a pretty quiet kid so this made socialising so much easier haha. Then there was that time I got and UNO game on my little nokia and I was the BOSS for like, two whole days it was amazing

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  2. Hey Nicole,
    The idea you’ve focused on in this post is fantastic. It just about sums up all of my best gaming experiences. Many of my best memories of games don’t actually come from the game itself. The best parts were the interactions with the people I played with. At my school there was a USB drive full of flash games, no one knew who the drive actually belonged to, but it achieved legendary status as it was passed to almost everyone in the school. As everyone sat in english class, every laptop screen would be displaying the same crappy dirt bike game, every student hell-bent on getting the highest score.
    This is a fundamental social utility for all aspects of gaming and it’s so prevalent that we can subconsciously overlook it. Great blog post!

    Like

  3. It’s interesting that some people can’t see how games are amazing tools to help build interaction with others. Your post says it all as friends compete with one another and challenging each other are great social utilities. Games also teaches others how to respect others if they manage to beat a really difficult level of the game. I ply league of legends and I have also met and befriend with other players because their skills are just amazing and they were amazing people. Social interaction is changing now. Gaming is the new way to connect. Very interesting post!

    Like

  4. It’s a really interesting dynamic to think about – that social media and interaction has kind of become like casual gaming (and even vice versa). These days games are a really great way to get to know people, and that slight competitive addiction is a pretty powerful way to bring people together. Very well put together and thought provoking blog, keen to see how it all ends up when integrated fully into your design. Keep up the rad work!

    Like

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