分析游戏玩家社交化的6个程度

作者:Oscar Clark

爱玩是人类不可或缺的天性,而我们发现其核心总与社交活动有关。甚至在我们将计算机连接在一起之前,电子游戏就已经具有社交元素。这可以是小时候在本地的游戏厅中看好友玩《太空入侵者》,或是聚在彼此的卧室中玩《Elite》。游戏是一种交互媒体,是交流的触发器。它是我们的社交粘剂,我相信如果没有共同的热情,我们就不会从玩游戏中获得如此多乐趣。

鉴于在游戏社区中混迹15年的经历,我自认为已经掌握了一两点令社交玩法生效的技巧。这里我并不单是针对所谓的社交游戏(即《FarmVille》或《Candy Crush Saga》这类在玩法中绑定Facebook功能的游戏)。我在自己的职业生涯中还花了大量时间去理解在线多人游戏,以及虚拟世界等概念。

我发现人们对社交玩法的内涵,以及我们该如何将其整合到我们的体验中存在一个基本的误区。为便于我们理解其运行原理,让我们考虑不同阶段的社交互动,或者说社交化程度。它们分别代表不同的联络程度,以及不同的投入和粘性程度。没错,要认识到每种关系都涉及到投入精力和奖励之间的平衡,如果奖励不足,那么我们当然就会离开这段关系。实际上,这种说法并不完全正确。当我们研究关系时,我们发现相互依存论表明这并不仅仅涉及你在当前关系中的满意度如何,你还应该从中获得比在其他地方更多的价值。

相互依存论是关于我们的个人关系,我调皮地将其扩展到了社会群体中。但是,根据我从游戏服务中看到的情况,我相信这种类比十分恰当。我相信这能够助我想出更好地支持社交游戏社区的服务。

分析游戏玩家社交化的6个程度

6 degrees of socialisation(from gamesbrief)

第一程度–“我看到你在玩”

当玩家首次下载你的游戏时,他们通常会专注于最大化自己的购买价值,或者进入与F2P相关的脆弱“学习”阶段。玩家此时通常还没确定自己是否真的想融入游戏,也不知道游戏是否会让他们看起来很糟糕(例如,我的技能是不是很差?)

即使在《魔兽世界》这种游戏中,也只有34.2%的玩家认为交朋友是游戏最重要的层面,但却有60%的玩家更喜欢独自玩游戏。为什么呢?实际上,社交化需要玩家投入精力,并且会有遭遇尴尬的风险,你可能会遇到一个道不同不相为谋的家伙。但,在社交化情境中玩游戏仍然具有价值。看到其他人也在玩同你一样的游戏,这也具有相当的价值,毕竟你并不像被视为唯一喜欢这款游戏的人。

这个社交化阶段是被动的,几乎是窥探式的,但仍然有助于克服我们通常刚开启学习曲线的初始幻灭感。在游戏中看到其他人还有助于预示游戏未来将提供什么好处,而这一点正是教程或 开发者导向的流程所无法实现的。

第二程度–“看我玩游戏”

当玩家适应游戏的初始体验,并开始感觉到社交社区的诱惑时,他们通常会变得更乐于同他人和好友分享自己的体验。玩家玩游戏的动机当然各有不同,但找到志同道合着与现实好友同样重要。玩家以广播形式同他们交流与参与“真正”互动的情况并不罕见。例如,玩家虚拟角色可能会身穿昂贵的行头或者“赞”过游戏的其他层面,甚至是下载一个玩法视频(只要游戏能够让这一内容同日常玩法SDK无缝兼容)。通常在这个阶段,我们并不指望甚至是不想展开一段对话。

当然,所有的这些都需要玩家投入比匿名状态下更多的精力和资源,对某些人来将自己暴露在大庭广众之下这有点冒险。但是,其回报就是有其他人会发现我的机智或优秀之处,无论他们有没有真正看到我。这促成了我在游戏中的行动,也让我的购买行为更有意义。它增加了社交资本。有趣的是,在我玩Playstation Mobile以及木瓜移动平台上的游戏时,我们看到能否在游戏中看到他人的能力,对于玩家是否愿意在游戏中掏钱产生了不容小觑的影响(主要是装饰性道具),也往往是决定玩家之后能否在一个月内消费超过100美元的主要触发器。有趣的是,极少“鲸鱼”(高消费)玩家会持续购买装饰性道具,他们中的多数人专注于提升自己在游戏中的表现。但遗憾的是,在此我们并没有足够的样本数据来确认这一点。

第三程度–“我打败了你的分数”

第三程度就涉及到简单的沟通。在这一点上玩家可能已经真正融入游戏,并接受它成为自己消遣时间和常规生活的一部分这一现实。他们目前有两种沟通方式,仍然相对简单。例如,同现实世界的好友比较分数和成就,或者从其他玩家那里获取建议。他们的相对进展开始变得很重要,即使仅有一小部分玩家真的关注直接的竞争。但是,这其中通常涉及一些关于高分和升级的吹牛元素,不过这更像是玩家让自己重返游戏,以及持续同游戏中的他人互动的理由。MMO中的经典例子就是当你升级时,就向你所在位置的其他玩家大喊“Ding!”这是你同他人分享自己游戏进程的一种方式,即使你与他们素不相识,也经常会收到来自许多人的祝贺。

第四程度–“让我们合作吧”

我们开始形成了对游戏的粘性,增加了在游戏中的信心,创造了我们开始更愿意融入其中的社区。没错,有些游戏很早就这么干了。融入一个“联盟”或“部落”甚至会成为教程中的一个关键环节,这不但是因为它能够让玩家快速获得其他人的帮助和建议,还因为它能够迅速创建粘性。

这就会让我们尝试更深形式的合作,我们甚至开始期待来自其他玩家的回报。在某些游戏中,这相当简单,例如访问好友的农场,或者在FPS游戏中玩同一个地图。玩家之间可能有一些竞争,但这并不是关键。在这个阶段,我们开始更多依赖他人的参与,以便获得游戏中的乐趣。但这里有一个我们必须警惕的设计困境。如果我们过早引进社交互动,就有可能令玩家生厌,但如果我们不呈现转向社交玩法的价值,也许就有许多玩家根本就不会展开社交互动,我们也会丧失社交机制的益处。这需要更高程度的合作投入,这需要玩家(以及游戏开发者)培养好这些关系。否则这些社区很快就会崩溃。

第五程度–“贴身近战”

到目前为止,我们多数讨论的还是简单的交流,以及实际上的异步互动。但是,随着我们步入第五阶段,玩家的虚拟存在这一理念的重要性开始增强,与此同时我们经常看到其重心如果没有转向同步性,那就会更偏向于直接的竞争性。想想《使命召唤》中资深玩家在游戏中,甚至是带领其他玩家所需投入的精力。与此相似,如果你想加入《魔兽世界》中的公会,其他玩家也会希望你能够发挥自己的作用。这与你同现实中的人一起玩游戏具有极大的区别,因为在线游戏玩家有一个在线模式,而其离线体验与在线模式并无多大关联。大量用户实际上是为了维持这种体验,这也不可避免地会将你的用户基础导向同种玩家类型。我们不能忽略用户类型,还应该尝试理解我们如何尽量帮助更多玩家融入游戏中的这种社交层次。有太多游戏忽视了玩家所需投入的精力,以及其中的社交风险,这会危及它们的市场潜力。

这方面可以看看Supercell游戏如何创造学习曲线,在向粉丝展示玩法之前培养玩家技能以及用户粘性。

第六程度–“我们是公会”

最后一个阶段的社交化就是比游戏本身更重要的社交体验,游戏开始变成一种沟通渠道。在这个阶段玩家会同时管理和安排自己的体验。他们与自己的部族或公会成员进行现实世界的联系,可以获得极高的回报,但维持这种关系的所需投入的精力也相当高。由于公会成员一起玩游戏而产生的联系所导致的离婚、结婚和艳遇等现象并不鲜见。只有最具投入性的玩家群体能够维持联系,他们同时也将成为你最棒的资产。如果你给予他们合适的游戏内部工具,忠实玩家会创造你维持其他玩家的兴趣所需要的社交“粘剂”。

这是一个旅程而非终点

这是我通过自己的观察和一些数据所创造的模式,但这只能作为一种思考而非一种原则。其目标是鼓励设计师将社交互动视为一系列阶段,就像玩家生命周期一样,社交投入是一种旅程而非终点。记住相互依存理念,我们在考虑哪些维持或破坏我们社交玩法群体的力量时,就会做出正确的决策。支持一个社区需要投入精力,正如平衡一个倒金字塔一样。忠实玩家越多,游戏的其他方面就越可能失衡。他们是最忠实的玩家,但你不可能因此认为他们就永远不会离开,你也不能只是因为这一群体需欢独处而以此设计游戏,如果没有不同社交程度的玩家,你就永远无法维持游戏的平衡。

但如果我们操作得当,就能解琐玩家的力量,帮助其他玩家融入游戏,让我们的游戏体验更有意义。这并不是因为我们在游戏中所创造的内容,而是因为我们赋予玩家通过游戏进行沟通的功能。这正是社交化发挥魔力的时候。(本文为/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:

Six degrees of socialisation

By Oscar Clark

This is a guest post from Oscar Clark (@athanateus) Everyplay Evangelist and Author of Games As A Service: How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games (launching soon)diagram_2

Being playful is an essential part of being human and at its heart we find it’s always been a social activity. Even before we linked Computers together the Video Game had social elements. As a kid whether it was meeting my friends at the local chipshop to play Space Invaders or crashing round each others’ bedrooms to play Elite didn’t matter.  The games were a medium for interaction and the trigger of conversation. This was our social glue and I’m sure none of us would have gained as much from playing them without our shared passion.

After working with games communities for 15 years I like to think that I’ve learnt a trick of two about the nature of how social play works. I don’t just mean what we have come to call Social Games; like the long gone Farmville or the still rampant Candy Crush Saga both of which integrated Facebook into the flow of the gameplay. I’ve also spent a lot of my professional life time trying to understand Online Multiplayer games and, as Home Architect of Playstation®Home, virtual worlds.

What I’ve learned is that there is a fundamental misconception of what social play is about and how we can incorporate it into our experiences. To help us understand how this works, let’s consider social interaction in different stages, or Degrees of Socialization. Each of them represents different levels of connection and along with them there are different levels of effort and engagement involved. Yes I said effort.  It’s important to realize that every relationship has a balance between effort and reward and if the reward isn’t enough then of course we will leave that relationship. Actually, that turns out not to be quite true.  When we study relationships we find that Interdependence Theory shows that it’s more than how satisfied you are in the current relationship, you also have to get more out of an experience than you expect that you could get elsewhere.

Here’s where I have to own up. Interdependence theory is really about our personal relationships and its slightly naughty of me to extrapolate this to social groups. However, from what I have seen from games services I believe the analogy holds remarkably well. More than that I believe this helps us come up with strategies so we can build services which better support social games communities.

The First Degree “I See You Play”:

When a player downloads your game for the first time they will tend to either be focused on maximizing the value of the purchase they have just made or instead be in that vulnerable ‘Learning’ stage which is associated with FreeToPlay. Players often have yet to decide whether they really want to associate themselves with the game and where the game might make them look bad (e.g. am I skilled enough to play) there may be some caution about shouting about it.

Even in a game like WOW where 34.2% (http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000192.php) say Making Friends is the most important aspect of the game its seems that around  60% of players prefer to play Solo. Why is this? I Actual socialization requires effort and risks embarrassment; and you might end up talking to an idiot. But, it’s still valuable to play in a socialized context. There is also considerable value seeing that other people are enjoying the same game as you; after all you don’t want to be seen as being alone liking it.

This stage of Socialization is passive, almost voyeuristic, but this it’s still invaluable to help overcome any initial disillusionment which often comes when we start the learning curve. Seeing others also helps foreshadow the future benefits which the game has to offer in a way that no tutorial or developer-led process can.

The Second Degree “See Me Play”:

Once Players become comfortable with their initial experience of the game and start to feel the allure of the social community they will often become more open to sharing their experience with other players as well as their friends.  The motivations vary of course and it’s often interesting to see how finding like-minded people can be just as important than locating real-life friends. It’s not unusual for players to communicate in a broadcasting style than involving any ‘real’ interaction. For example it might be having an avatar that wears an expensive outfit or ‘Liking’ some particular aspect of the game; perhaps even uploading a gameplay video (as long as the game makes this frictionless like with the Everyplay SDK). Generally at this stage we don’t expect or even perhaps want to open up a dialog.

Of course all of this still requires a little more effort on the part of the player than when they were anonymous and for some this feels risky; by putting yourself out there. However, the payoff is the knowledge that someone else might see how clever or good I am, whether they actually see me or not. That makes my actions in the game and importantly the purchases I make feel more important to me.  It adds a level of social capital.  Interestingly during my time at Playstation Mobile and (perhaps more directly) Papaya mobile we saw that the ability to be seen in a game had a noticeable effect on the willingness of players to spend money in a game (often initially on cosmetic items) and more often than not seems to have been the initial trigger for Players who would later spend more than $100/month. Curiously few Whales continued buying cosmetic items and largely seemed to focus on goods to improve their performance in the game, however to be honest there wasn’t enough of a sample size to know if this was statistically significant.

The Third Degree “I Beat Your Score”:

We move towards simple communication as we enter the Third Degree. By this point players have probably become truly engaged with the game and accepted it as part of how they spend their free time and play regularly; perhaps even paying already. Whilst their communication is now generally two way, it may still be fairly simple.  For example comparing highscores and achievement with their real-life friends or getting advice from other players.  Their relative progress starts to become important even if only a minority of player are really focused on direct competition. However, there is often some kind of bragging element to this (imagine that) from high scores to leveling up, however this is more about players giving themselves a reason to keep returning, playing and tentatively interacting with other players in-game. The classic one in the MMO was the shout out ‘Ding!’ to other players in your location when you leveled up. It was a way to share your progress with others even if you didn’t know them and it was usually rewarded with a number of people sending their congratulations; perhaps leading to grouping up. I remember playing a more recent MMO, perhaps SWTOR, and people were still saying ‘Ding!’ despite the audio cue being a fanfare.

The Fourth Degree “Lets Collaborate”:

As we build out engagement and reinforce our confidence in the game and the community we start being more willing to get involved. Indeed some games set this into motion early on.  Getting involved with an ‘Alliance’ or ‘Faction’ can even become an essential part of the Tutorial not least because it is usually rapidly rewarding with help and advice from real humans it can build engagement very rapidly.

This leads us to try deeper forms of collaboration and we even start to expect a level of reciprocation from other players. In some games this is fairly simple, such as visiting a friends Farm or playing the same map of an FPS game.  There may well be some competition between players but that’s not really the point. At this Degree we are increasingly relying on the involvement of others to get the enjoyment out of the game.  There is a design dilemma we should be aware of however. If we introduce social interaction too early we risk putting off some players; but if we don’t demonstrate the value of transitioning to social play, perhaps even forcing the issue, many players will simply not do it and we will lose out of the benefits of social engagement. It requires a much greater level of effort to engage in collaborative play and this requires that players (and the game developer) nurture those relationships. Otherwise these communities can quickly collapse.

The Fifth Degree   “Go Head-to-Head”:

Until now we have largely been talking about simple communications and essentially asynchronous interactions. However, as we enter the Fifth degree the idea of a player’s virtual presence starts to become an increasingly important aspect and at the same time we often see the focus being more directly competitive; if not necessarily synchronous. Think about the level of commitment to a game, and even training, it takes to take on a group of expert players in Call of Duty. Similarly if you want to participate in a Raid in WOW other players will expect you to be able to play your part and know what to do. There is a vast difference in terms of experience when you play real people and players of games which have an offline mode will often discover that their offline experience is essentially irrelevant online.  A critical mass of users is essential to sustain an experience like this and this will inevitably skew your user-base toward players already pre-disposed to the game (and genre). We can’t ignore who are audience is, but we should also try to understand how we help as many players as possible engage with the game at this social level. Too many games ignore the effort needed and the social risks involved and this damages their market potential.

Look at how games like SuperCell have been careful to craft the learning curve, building up players skills as well as their engagement before exposing players to the Superfan gameplay.

The Sixth Degree   “We Are Guild”:

The last stage of socialization takes us to the point where the social experience becomes more important than the game itself; the game becomes merely the chosen method of communication. At this stage players use manage and schedule their experiences together. The real-world connections they make through their clan or guild can be highly rewarding, but the effort needed to sustain them is equally high.  It’s probably not a surprise that many a divorce, marriage and affair have happened as a result of people connection through playing with guilds. Only the most dedicated of player groups will sustain them, but these are the same groups who’ll be your greatest asset, if you let them. Given the right in-game tools, loyal players will provide the social “glue” you need to sustain interest from less committed players.

It’s the Journey; Not the Destination

The model is something I’ve built through observation and some data, but it’s a way of thinking rather than a formula. What it sets out to do it to encourage designers to think of Social interactions as a series of stages, just like the Player Lifecycle, social engagement is a journey not a destination. By remembering Interdependence Theory we hopefully have the right mindset when we consider the forces which sustain or break our social playing groups.  It takes effort to sustain a community, like trying to balance an upside-down pyramid on its point. The weight of the more committed users risks overbalancing everything else. They are the most loyal, but you can’t assume they will be around forever and you can’t design the game just for those players needs alone; without taking players with you through the different degrees you will never sustain the critical balance.

But if we get this right we unlock the power of our players to welcome and help engage other players and to make our experience even more meaningful. Not because of what we created as a game; but because we empowered our players to be able to communicate through our game.  That’s when Socialisation becomes magical.( gamesbrief