Social Gaming - No Thanks

Why forced social interaction is destroying the quiet pleasures of gaming
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Why forced social interaction is destroying the quiet pleasures of gaming

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Wouldn’t it be fantastic if reading could be loads more social? Because nobody wants to read a book all on their own. Where’s the fun in that?

Imagine how great it would be – you’d be reading your book and then the page would ping you with updates about what all your daft mates are reading. Then you would get real-time messages from shouty people who’ve already read your book and think it’s rubbish.

And when you finished a chapter, it would send out an update to all your different social media accounts, just to make sure everybody knows that you’ve read that chapter. Wouldn’t this be totally brilliant?

Well, no. It would be awful. It would be a great way to destroy the quiet pleasures of losing yourself in a book. But this kind of madness is currently being imposed on the world of gaming. It’s a deranged obsession that we’re all desperate for everything to be social.

It means that single player gaming is increasingly treated as an afterthought, something to reluctantly bolt onto the multiplayer. Last year, the president of EA even boasted about how his company was no longer interested in making standalone single player games.

So you have the weird situation where an old classic single player game like Sim City has now turned into a multiplayer social media beast which won’t let you play unless you’re online.

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It’s the direction the entire industry seems to be heading judging by the buzz words at the recent PS4 launch: ‘interactivity’, ‘connectivity’, ‘sharing’, ‘social buy-in’ and all that stuff.

And we’re all supposed to think this is just tickety boo – this is what we all want. But it’s not so welcome if you’re one of the many people who’ve never treated gaming as a shared experience.

People who aren’t into bantering with Garth from accounts every time they play a game, or being told how many new bow-ties Ellie734 has just collected for her virtual kitten.

For some people gaming provides a way to escape from all this – the same as reading a book. It lets you go into another world for a few hours and take a break from the complexities of the real one.

And that’s not to say that the ability to share and connect with other gamers hasn’t generally been a massive step forward for gaming. It just ticks a different set of boxes to a single player experience.

So being bombarded with these demands to be social feels like being dragged from the safety of the kitchen at a rubbish party and forced to dance to Flo Rida.