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The Social Gamer Paradox. Do Hardcore Gamers Play Social Games?

The Social Gamer Paradox. Do Hardcore Gamers Play Social Games?

I have played Mafia Wars, Farmville, Cityville, and Cartown. I don’t think I would describe myself as a social gamer, but in some respect I think I always have been. I am now rethinking my gaming habits. Like most of you in the gaming community, I have a set genre of games that I prefer playing. To be honest, I am a first-person shooter type gamer. I haven’t taken the leap into MMO’s as a type of social gaming, but as I have stated before I think I have always been a social gamer. I enjoy racing friends on my Xbox 360, as well as fighting off bands of zombies. But mostly, I enjoy doing it with my friends. But as we “hardcore” gamers move into the new world of gaming, are we really doing something we haven’t been doing for years? Yes. But, not because it is social. Rather, it is because of the types of games we play.

About four years ago I was walking the massive aisles at E3 when it donned on me, I am willing to play just about any game as long as it is fun. I have been drawn to the more realistic shooters and adventure games because of the way they look, the complexity of the games, and the stories. But is that what makes me a gamer? I don’t always need to play complex games that are rendered with some artistic beauty that stuns even the novice gamer. No, I need to play something fun.

Gamer statement #1: Gamers need advanced games to maintain interest in the industry.

As if each gamer forgets the technical superiority of the last greatest hit game, every year we look for that one game that will make us step back in awe. But if that’s the case than how does a game like Cityville rule the day? Its simple: Cityville is addicting and fun. But therein lies the problem, how are we now to discover the great games that will provide hours of entertainment? From our (the consumer) point of view, we have no way of judging the great titles from the really bad ones. We used to have the ability to see the game, somewhat, before we purchased it. We read the reviews from the gaming publications and heard stories from the events (E3, GDC, etc.) prior to the launch of the game. With the onslaught of social and mobile games there has been a paradigm shift in our discovery and ultimately the anticipation and eventual enjoyment of the new titles released. Even if we are to subscribe to the discovery issue, a course has been set to change the way traditional gamers are thinking about the new genre of games taking the industry. Clearly Cityville does not set the standard for 3D graphics or even complex, analytical gameplay. So what is changing that “gamers” are finding their way to these social games? As I said earlier, I am happy to play any game as long as it is fun. I maintain my preferences, but understand the basic pr.inciples of what guides me in gaming.

Gamer statement #2: Hardcore gamers don’t play “social” games.

Zynga launched Farmville on Facebook in June of 2009, and now stands at the top of the social game evolution. More alarming is that around 50% of Facebook users play games on Facebook. But if that many people are playing, it stands to reason that hardcore gamers are in the mix. Yet there is one more statistic that’s missing here: Nearly 70% of social gamers on Facebook are women. That is not the norm in hardcore gaming circles. That is not to say there are not a fair number of the fairest sex playing games, but in reality, they comprise a smaller percentage of the “traditional” gamer. In fact around 30% of all gamers are female. But that’s not the problem. Somewhere buried in these statistics we should find hardcore gamers, whether they are male or female, are playing social games. I am one of them. I can play COD and then tend to my city all in the same day! In fact, I know several gamers, game producers, and designers that are playing social games.  Former professional gamers, considered that hardest of the hardcore gamers, playing Cityville nightly.

Gamer Statement #3:  Am I a casual gamer?

The argument erupted in 2004, when few in the industry wanted to distinguish what player types were consuming games. They argued that the 5-minute time waster was a casual game, thus the people that play them were of a different breed than those who were consuming Medal of Honor and Halo. Fast forward to 2011, social gamers and casual gamers are blurred lines, but still in a different breed than hardcore gamers. You see most social gamers don’t even view themselves as gamers, much less hardcore gamers. That is reserved for the people who spend hours a week in front of their computer or console, defending earth or attacking the enemies. But what if, like so many that play games, do both? I am the social gamer, mobile gamer, casual gamer and hardcore gamer. Do I get my own category? In reality many gamers play many things. I have spent 5 hours playing COD and an equal amount of time playing Wii Party (a series of mini-games that are classified as casual).

At the end of the day, the lines and perceptions of what a gamer is have become blurred. We are no longer in a class by itself and we are comprised of hundreds of millions of players. I could be considered a rare gamer in the larger picture of things, but I suspect that most are social gamers and  hardcore gamers.

About the Author

Justin Radeka Justin Radeka, served as former Head of Fishlabs Entertainment U.S where he worked driving mobile game development and business development in the US, Justin also served as Technology Evangelist for ARM Inc., where he worked closely with mobile game developers around the world in driving 3D graphics and games into the market. Prior to joining ARM, He served as Vice President of Developer Relations for Falanx Microsystems where he helped introduce one of the first fully programmable mobile GPU’s into the smart phone market. He has also served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of EVGA, a PC graphics board manufacturer, and as head of the gaming group at Hewlett Packard where he launched one of HP’s first gaming PC’s. He works closely with standards organizations to drive 3D mobile gaming. Mr. Radeka has spoken at events such as Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Games Developer Conference (GDC), Austin Games Conference (now GDC Online), London Mobile Games Forum, and SIGGRAPH. He has published articles on the state of the mobile game industry. He holds a BA from the University of California.

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