Braid Creator Calls Social Games "Evil"

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He addressed exactly why I hate playing social games. I like avidly playing whatever games I pick up and I hate nagging my friends for help in order to get farther along in the game. My sister talked me into playing Cityville, and it was amusing, but I can't raise my population without harassing my friends. I hate it. At least Ubisoft had the kindness to not involve that in Project Legacy, the only game I play on my Facebook.

Logan Westbrook:

It's impossible (to) deny that social games are designed to make money out of their players - Zynga's recent multi-billion dollar is a testament to how effective that design is - but to call them evil seems a little excessive. Blow might might not like social games, but to say that they degrade the people who play them is verging on hyperbole.

Careful with your proofread there. :P

bahumat42:
I have to say im always surprised how successful theses "games" are considering iv never spoken to anyone who has plunked down real money on them

Few people do. But those people that do usually spend a LOT of money. That's why "free" games and MMOs are so profitable. You go from taking a monthly fee from everyone to taking fortunes from a few. People who play casually don't care enough to lay down money. But the people who want to be competitive for pvp, raids, or what have you. They normally have to lay down large amounts of money, regularly, for each character.

Hah! JB is using evil in a sense that was described in the tabletop gaming article a few weeks back about alignment. I couldn't agree more with his description too. It doesn't enrich anything, and it doesn't add any new social aspects. "Treating your friends as a resource" is about the summary of the entire game.

Moronic, really, to catalogue a game that is intended for a public that is not interested in forging new relationships as blatantly machiavellian because they seek to fulfill a different need.

Games lie FarmVille are incredibly well designed; they do not seek to offer a strong narrative or introduce incredibly intricate mechanics, but just offer a very approachable product that one the is not trying to dedicate a lot of time to can penetrate very easily, and play for 15 minutes a day. They don't actually diminish the artistic potential of games, because they aren't encroaching the territory of "Hardcore" games. If anything, I know a lot of people who started playing Farmville, then eventually moved on to other more intricate games.

"Social" games are a completely different branch off the games we play, and there's nothing to fear about them.

Most of them force you to add hundreds of strangers to your friend list that you will never meet or talk to in game. I can't stand that.

Well, he sure has arguments to back up his claim, although some might take it too literally. Only hope that fanboys don't jump at his throat for it now :P

gonna have to agree with him, completely evil.

ciortas1:

Taawus:
And he's right.

Second that notion.

As far as Facebook games go, they have absolutely no redeeming values, and the friend exploiting mechanic that ranges from pretentious to cruel (depending on the amount of friends you have) is just icing on the cake.

Thirded.

It's hard to argue with his logic. Casual games usually don't add any experiences to the player and they suck money out of said player.

"[The title] "social game" is actually something of a misnomer, because players usually couldn't meet anyone new. Blow said that games like World of Warcraft or Counter Strike were actually much more socially orientated, as players could forge new relationships with the members of their clan or guild and then work as a team. He thought that social games largely just exploited the friends list you already had, and were more about using your friends as resources, rather than working together."

This is very true.

I don´t know anything about social games, but i do know it is at least as evil to flood the market with overprized crappy artsy fartsy indie games and the 800´th incanation of some tower defence game.
If i want art i go to a museum, if i want to game i turn on the PS3 or Xbox. I don´t need them to be the same.
And that brings me to what i really dislike indie dev´s for. Thinking they are better than everyone else. Smells like envy.

Yes, because social interaction isn't part of the human experience!

Wait, what?

The monetary system is intrinsically exploitative. Anything created to make money is intrinsically exploitative.

true story.

PhiMed:
I love how people are saying the games aren't evil because "some people have fun playing them." People having fun playing the games doesn't automatically make his claim that they are evil invalid. Evil can be fun. If it weren't fun, it wouldn't exist.

These games, though, are completely mindless entertainment. They tell no story, develop no skills, encourage no growth, and thus have no redeeming value. They are a mind-melting time waster, like twiddling your thumbs or masturbation.

And if someone you knew spent as much time masturbating as most of these people spend playing social games, you'd probably be concerned, wouldn't you?

So he's right. These companies have created a socially acceptable way for people to mentally masturbate, for several hours a day, in public. Rather than do something constructive, informative, or at least actually pleasurable, they're doing this. Productivity decreases, and stupidity expands.

Both the player and the human race are worse off, all because someone figured out how to use psychology to make a game that would make people continue to play, and continue to pay, because damn it, they can almost reach that carrot.

Evil.

Meh there's good games and bad games. Many people here like Echo Bazaar, which is actually a pretty good social game.

Right first time. Evil. They take friendship and pervert it to another resource to be mined. If you don't count all the sock-puppets that help.

Or they CAN be...

Farmville: Evil. Any game that rewards you due to how many "friends" you have? Evil.

Anything that lets you play with friends and doesn't judge/waylay you. Good.

See Valentine's Day, Xmas and other "SOCIAL" festivals.

Zyphonee:

Games lie FarmVille are incredibly well designed;

By people other than the ones actually making money from them now.

Danish rage:

If i want art i go to a museum, if i want to game i turn on the PS3 or Xbox. I don´t need them to be the same.

If i want art i go to a museum, if i want to listen to music i turn on my CC player.

If i want art i go to a museum, if i want to see a movie i pop in a DVD.

I hope you see where I'm going here

Evil? Very problematic word right there.

I wouldn't go as far as saying that "social games" are evil, but it is very correct to say that they don't improve the social contact and the connections between people. But then again, i would say they're just a replica of modern society.
So yeah, they're not ethical, but they sure as hell make a lot of money.

Anyway, i'm more inclined to agree with Mr. Blow.

Jesus fucking Christ.

So things are only social now if you can use them to meet new people? Even as crazy one-sentence definitions of words like "social" go, that's pretty goddamn absurd. I would hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of social situations people find themselves in involve established friends and few, if any, strangers.

But don't worry guys, even though you're idiots with no idea what's being done to you, this brilliant "auteur" is here to help you out of your dark and ignorant ways.

AND HORROR OF HORRORS IT TURNS OUT THE GAMES ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE MONEY. Because auteur developers always scorn money and real games should be commercial failures. And wanting to make money could never lead developers to make a good game because making good games is never something that crosses their minds as a way to make a commercially successful game.

TL;DR: Jonathan Blow remains an amazing designer with all of the pretentious bullshit that seems to go along with that quality.

He ain't wrong though is he? They do just make you use friends as resources to further your tiny greedy little farms.

wow, thats exactly what i think

seriously, the damn things are too stupid to be considered anything other than money grabing scams, i mean, i have being playing City Ville and whilst its not really challenging, i like the way i can make my city grow more and more given enough time, i can move around the city and stuff, and with the help of my friends i can grow faster

(so on so forth)

but i also know that whenever i want, if i am tired of waiting to lvl up to unlock something in my inventory, i can buy it with real money

AND THEY MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THIS, everytime you run out of coins "would you like to buy more coins?" energy "would you like to buy more energy" stuff like that, its a scam, i know it.

have you guys played it? it takes you 30 min before you run out of energy / money / materials / watever, in the end its just a 30 min commercial for things you dont really need in a game you shouldnt really care.

but... if you dont want to buy anything, then dont!

ciortas1:

Verlander:
snip

It's also about having standards. You can have fun watching the latest Cliche Derivative Romantic Comedy No.2391, doesn't mean it's not exploiting people who don't know any better.

And have you read what the guy said? It's bad because it's an effortless money grab. It's bad because it's exploitive. It's bad because it appeals to the wrong human, how shall I say, attributes. It's bad because it doesn't add anything.

Hell, you can have fun with anything, enough of this bloody apologetic nonsense.

Everything in business is exploitive to a certain extent-that's the point. People get out what they put in. "Social" games require little investment, either intellectually or monetarily. Just because some people prefer them, only means that that they have exposed and filled a gap in the market. Nothing more.

Argue all you want about how much better films like The Godfather or Citizen Kane are then the latest installment of Jennifer Aniston's flailing career, there are people out there who will prefer to watch the latter than the "classics" because that is their honest, personal opinion. That's not over-exploitation, that's good business sense. Jonathon Blow overestimates how important his media is

Iglock:
All true. Although I wouldn't exactly say social games are "evil"- that suggests they can make moral choices.

In related news...

"Hey there having fun playing farmville?"
look man i dont like farmville
wow i actually..."LOVE IT"
FUC.."FONDLY"

that probably makes no sense

Mornelithe:

ciortas1:

Taawus:
And he's right.

Second that notion.

As far as Facebook games go, they have absolutely no redeeming values, and the friend exploiting mechanic that ranges from pretentious to cruel (depending on the amount of friends you have) is just icing on the cake.

Thirded.

Fourthed :) Calling the design evil isn't an overstatement. Does anybody else see capitalism? lol

You get all these people bashing social games for this, and that, and the next thing. Someone finally hit the nail on the head. EVIL might not be the best word, but everything else he says is undeniable

It's impossible to deny that social games are designed to make money out of their players - Zynga's recent multi-billion dollar is a testament to how effective that design is - but to call them evil seems a little excessive. Blow might not like social games, but to say that they degrade the people who play them is verging on hyperbole.

No, he is exactly right.

What else do you call games where the developers hired a psychologist to assist them in playing off peoples compulsions so that they are as addictive and predatory as humanly possible?

Jaime_Wolf:
Jesus fucking Christ.

So things are only social now if you can use them to meet new people? Even as crazy one-sentence definitions of words like "social" go, that's pretty goddamn absurd. I would hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of social situations people find themselves in involve established friends and few, if any, strangers.

Social pretty much is defined by interpersonal interaction, if something does not involve interpersonal interaction, then it can't be described as social. Your point has nothing to do with his argument. Two people who know each other playing Resident Evil 5 (online or not) are engaged in a social behavior, thusly the game they are playing can be described as a social game, because it IS a social activity. Playing farmville by yourself is not social, it is an asocial activity because you are not interacting with other players. Ergo, it is a misnomer to call it a social game.

If it had you playing and interacting with another player, either cooperatively, or competitively, then it would be a social activity, and therefore, it is a social game. That's his point. And the more possibility of those interactions, the more social a game is. Hense, CoD(multiplayer) and WoW. Both of those necessitate interaction with other players, and therefore can be described as social games... it's an inherent part of what they are at their core.

Farmville just looks for invites into farmville. This is not a social interaction on your part.

But don't worry guys, even though you're idiots with no idea what's being done to you, this brilliant "auteur" is here to help you out of your dark and ignorant ways.

This also has nothing to do with his points.

AND HORROR OF HORRORS IT TURNS OUT THE GAMES ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE MONEY. Because auteur developers always scorn money and real games should be commercial failures. And wanting to make money could never lead developers to make a good game because making good games is never something that crosses their minds as a way to make a commercially successful game.

He never claimed that making money was the problem. He said that making money as a game design goal rather than improving people's lives as a game design goal is what is bad.

He's not against them making games to make money. He's against designing games with the intent of being a cash cow, rather than designing games to be good games.

Take Magic: The Gathering. Is it a cash cow? Yes. Does it require investment of time and money to become proficient at it? Yes. Is it a well designed game, and is that quality of design as a game the central focus of the game? Yes.

FarmVille, and most games of that stripe, are not designed to be good games. They are designed to be good revenue engines, with the game design itself of secondary importance. Look at games like most of those on Facebook, and yes, even Echo Bazaar. They are simply 'push button to get xp/key items to get a different button to push'. They're not actually deep games. The only difference between Echo Bazaar and the others is Echo Bazaar has differently named buttons and differently named key items and differently named progress bars. Well named progress bars. Other than the -names- of things, its no different than Bitefight, or that game 'Outland' that was so pervasive years ago before there was a facebook.

TL;DR: Jonathan Blow remains an amazing designer with all of the pretentious bullshit that seems to go along with that quality.

'Pretentious' means that they put on an air that is different than who they really are. In this case, he makes some very valid points that you've chosen to ignore to make an 'anti-elitist' statement towards someone who doesn't even have the pretense of being an elitist.

If you're going to criticize someone's views, make sure you actually understand what they are saying first. You clearly have not.

I could write a whole essay about social gaming and the problem of dehumanizing and objectifying your friends as well as the idea of "possessing and having friends", with influences by Erich Fromm and Meister Eckhart.

Instead, I am just going to ask: Well, who didn't think they're evil?

Logan Westbrook:
It's impossible to deny that social games are designed to make money out of their players - Zynga's recent multi-billion dollar is a testament to how effective that design is - but to call them evil seems a little excessive. Blow might not like social games, but to say that they degrade the people who play them is verging on hyperbole.

So does calling someone evil who openly admits to "DOING EVERY HORRIBLE THING IN THE BOOK" just to make quick revenue seem excessive too? What about a company that tells their employees things like "I don't fucking want innovation" and "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers"? Would you consider calling that evil a "little excessive" as well? Do you want me to actually go dig up all the videos, stories etc outlining what kind of horrible company Zynga is?

I get that The Escapist as a whole is comprised of largely Zynga apologists. However, the fact of the matter is Mark Pincus and his company are responsible for doing absolutely reprehensible things all for a quick buck and this company is the flagship for social gaming. So it's not a hard leap to say that social gaming as a whole is evil when the company leading the way for them is lead by scum like Pincus. If you can't see this you are either in denial or soft in the head.

LMAO I agree, they are sickly addictive... THATS evil >v< thanks god I havnt facebook O.<

First Braid, and now this. The guy just keeps coming out with brilliant things.

Xanthious:
(cut for length)

You're aware that your argument makes no sense at all, right? It's like saying that FPS games are evil because you don't like the way that Activision handles the Call of Duty series. The fact that Zynga is provably unscrupulous - a fact that you seem to have assumed I think is untrue - does not mean that social gaming as a whole is evil.

PhiMed:
I love how people are saying the games aren't evil because "some people have fun playing them." People having fun playing the games doesn't automatically make his claim that they are evil invalid. Evil can be fun. If it weren't fun, it wouldn't exist.

These games, though, are completely mindless entertainment. They tell no story, develop no skills, encourage no growth, and thus have no redeeming value. They are a mind-melting time waster, like twiddling your thumbs or masturbation.

And if someone you knew spent as much time masturbating as most of these people spend playing social games, you'd probably be concerned, wouldn't you?

So he's right. These companies have created a socially acceptable way for people to mentally masturbate, for several hours a day, in public. Rather than do something constructive, informative, or at least actually pleasurable, they're doing this. Productivity decreases, and stupidity expands.

Both the player and the human race are worse off, all because someone figured out how to use psychology to make a game that would make people continue to play, and continue to pay, because damn it, they can almost reach that carrot.

Evil.

You realize some people say things almost exactly like that about video games in general, don't you? "They bring no value to society". These things are subjective, and it'd be a good idea to check on your prejudices.

Lemme just sum this all up:

Advertising a game as having been designed primarily for your enjoyment,
and then offering a game that has IN FACT been designed primarily to subtly addict and exploit you, for the purposes of profit,
is not morally right,

by my own definition -- and, it would seem, by the definitions of Mr. Blow and the majority of people commenting in this thread. It's a deceptive, predatory use of both game design and human psychology.

If it is 'evil', it is no more or less so than a film which purports to offer an entertaining piece of narrative art, but which actually offers carefully-crafted propaganda.

I myself would consider such to constitute an artistically-based 'evil', depending on the scope and severity. Others might settle for 'wrong', 'bad', or simply 'misguided'.

I repeat again that most of the addictive methods employed by these games (WoW requiring ten-hour timesinks for farming, TCGs and freeware MMOs offering better 'equipment' for paying players) would typically be considered terrible design in and of themselves. Inserting them into an otherwise well-designed and addictive framework, and then linking them to monetary imperative, is pretty fucking shady.

Xanthious:
So it's not a hard leap to say that social gaming as a whole is evil when the company leading the way for them is lead by scum like Pincus.

Anybody - ANYBODY - who says that social gaming is "evil" has no idea what evil is.

Shady, scummy, sleazy, greasy - sure. But evil? Come on.

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