Monday, December 24, 2007

Bogglific: The most polite yet competitive online game I've played

I've been hitting the pipe again... The Bogglific pipe. I can hardly believe that I was so down on it in comparison to Griddle. I still believe that the initial experience was less than impressive, and that it is missing some polish elements. That said, I have become hooked on the real time competitive play aspect of Bogglific -- possibly in a more powerful way than I was originally hooked on Griddle.

One of the things I've noticed is the level of politeness that I've experienced so far. Much more pleasant than other social matchmaking experiences I've had on "harder core" games like real time strategy games.

In Griddle there is a huge structural impediment to rudeness -- there is no chat functionality. Or, short of sending someone an email, any way of signaling to other players at all during gameplay. This means that someone must go the extra mile to harass other players. On the plus side, this means virtually no in game harassment. On the minus side, people can't even pat each other on the back or joke around with each other in between matches. The environment feels very sterile.

However, in Bogglific, there are real-time opportunities for the social experience to degrade. Specifically, there are chat rooms open both before and after games. However, I've noticed little (if any) chat that occurs pre- or post- random matches. Most likely this is due to the flow of the game -- there is little time for pregame chat as the game starts as soon as the first person signals "ready". And, in the post game chat people can quickly jump to new games at the click of a button. This means that even though chat is supported, it is almost never used except for a quick "gg" or "gga" before people break off and go their own ways.

It's probably also worthwhile to consider reasons other than structural impediments and gameplay flow as to why there is less rudeness in these kinds of Facebook casual games than in other competitive settings:

  • Selection pressures. These are word games played by college students. Maybe they just don't draw flamers, trolls, and griefers.
  • Lots of female players. Many times I'm the only male participant in a game. I've seen this cut both ways in online communities -- sometimes it makes for a politer social experience and sometimes it seems to invite creepy men to show up and act... well... creepy.

I haven't done much research on griefing within Facebook (games or otherwise) and I wonder whether there are other factors at work. That said, I have seen some nasty forum and conversation threads that leads me to believe that this kind of thing does go on.

That said, though lack of griefing makes the game so much more fun to play, it is a shame that there aren't better community features (e.g., "favorite" player lists) that would help these games feel more social.

Future research should try and unpack how community tool feature sets (e.g., chat, favoriting, etc) and gameplay design (e.g., matchmaking techniques, emphasis on free-for-all vs. gladitorial experiences) affect the quality of the shared social experience. Moreover, how does the shared social experience work to improve or degrade the individual experience?

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