Being social in social gaming

I’ve been playing mobage’s Fantasica for quite some time, and now Marvel: War of Heroes.  In many ways, these “games” aren’t nothing more than a glorified card-collecting and databasing engine, but they are touted as social games as well.

At first, I thought the “social” term was a marketing ploy that merely meant, “you can friend and trade with other players”.  The game even “forces” you to send friend/team requests to other players to overcome challenges.  Your teammates and friends aren’t ever there real time to help, but their accounts are.  The most socializing I did was writing comments to my “friend’s” wall, but to reap the in-game benefits of sending the message in the first place.

Over time, as I get more and more involved with the game, I also am getting involved with the community.  Now this isn’t something specific to the mobile “social gaming” genre, but I think it is unique.  The biggest fuel for socializing is trading.  Without trading, I believe socializing would not exist, especially for a game like Marvel: War of Heroes.  Fantasica can be enjoyed without ever saying a word to another player, but you really need a friend to offload extra cards or trade up for cards and resources.  Without trading, the game feels more like a tap-tap-tap progress-quest (Defenders of Texel falls into this category).

Marvel: War of Heroes feels like a browser-based “game”.  Everything is a button or link you press to get anywhere, with cheesy animations.  There is no sound even!  The motivation to play is mainly collecting, or profiting from those who play to collect.  Being based on Marvel comics, there already is an impetus for collecting these memorable characters.  Then the player wants to strengthen their pool of cards in order to compete and win exclusive cards.

I, myself, installed a real-time chat client called kik Messenger, in order to more easily conduct my trading.  Funny thing is that I sometimes find myself chatting with my trade partners about strategy (for that little bit that exists in these “games”), or even talking about gaming and non-gaming drama.  One of my trade partners was sharing his story about trying to clear his name of being a swindler.  Another just complained about their classes preventing them from actively participating in events.  These are short conversations, that end when the trade is complete.  It’s sort of like Tyler Durden’s “single-serving friend” concept from the movie, “Fight Club”.  Regardless, I’m surprised at myself that these conversations even take place in these games.  Marvel’s 2-week waiting period before trading can take place sometimes creates lengthier conversations.

In Marvel, teams are more important because there are team prizes to be earned during their weekly events.  Players strive to do their best to earn these event exclusives for their own collection.  Others do it to give themselves trade fuel or to profit with real cash (which is against mobage’s TOS).  Generally, these cards are also really strong, so they enable players to place better in future events.

I’m playing this game because of my friend, Scott.  We text, phone each other or meet up during lunch to discuss our tactics and strategy to place well in events – to earn exclusives.  From what I’ve learned, the higher ranking teams that don’t have the “local” luxury that Scott and I have, instead use chat clients such as kik and Line.  From what I can tell, friendships are made, but so are enemies and drama.  I’m on the forums looking to trade and I can see the drama spill outside the team chats into the forums.  A recent “tell all” from a female player in a top alliance also opened my eyes, detailing the sexual harassment, trade abuses, exploiting of new players and worse of all, exploiting of game bugs, effecting trade economy.  Link to post.  mobage has taken action recently against the #1 team in the most recent event.  For the record, our alliance, ANTIPATTERN, ranked #3,311!

Anyways, I’m just pointing out that chatting about cooking, classes, backstabbing, lying, sexual harassment make a “social” game, social.

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