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cdgraves

Creating a multiplayer game with a "Third Place"

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Brand new here, so let me know if I break any rules!

I stumbled across Ray Oldenburg's suggestions of the different "places" in our modern lives whilst (in an unrelated manner) creating a PBBG, and it got me thinking of all of the other games I've played that served as my Third Place for a time. These were places where I felt attached to, like the people who showed up every day were going to be people I could get to know and carry on a relationship with (psychological definition of relationship, not dating). It was compelling enough to be able to define it so well that I want to try and replicate the experience in my up-coming game.

I've been stabbing in the dark without having to be able even playtest it (although will be shortly available), but I feel that there could be some serious thought put toward designing a game to fill in that Third Place for our players. However, trying to fill in the criteria of the aforementioned wikipedia article, I figure that having open access to a chat room for everyone is essential. As well, not allowing external factors to change how people can access the chat (like a perk for in-game purchases).

So, my questions are: should we even bother designing with something like that in mind? Or is it more something that grows organically and cannot be predestined? Surely there are facilitation that the developer can implement, but is it be a waste of time?

Similarly, what about actively preventing negative social influences that can damage or destroy a community?

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Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are third places for a lot of the population.  And yes, some games are third places. For a while, Farmville 2 was a third place for me. For a friend of mine, Words With Friends is a third place.  For a lot of people I know, their MMO (Overwatch, LoL, etc.) is a third place.

Your first question is, is it worthwhile to make games social - to design it so that a community can develop in the game. I say two things about that: "probably," and "it depends on the game genre and its audience."

Your second question is whether it'll happen without you having to do anything. I say "probably - on Reddit." You won't be in control of what goes on there!

As to your third question: no, I don't think it's a waste of time for you to spend some of your design time thinking about that as you plan your game. Adding it after the fact probably won't work so well.

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12 hours ago, Tom Sloper said:

Your first question is, is it worthwhile to make games social - to design it so that a community can develop in the game. I say two things about that: "probably," and "it depends on the game genre and its audience."

Can you expound on the "probably"? I'm developing a Persistent Browser-Based Game that is a team PvP idler (imagine Overwatch but with numbers, idle mechanics, and less graphics).

Are there any design aspects have you seen that really accelerate (or positively impact) the social space of a game? There's dozens of systems (reputation, titles, etc) that can influence a social space, but I feel that the territory is a little unpaved still. Toxic social environments can destroy a game that is inherently social, and active prevention can lead to the same thing.

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3 hours ago, cdgraves said:

Can you expound on the "probably"?

"Probably" is just a lead-in to "it depends on the game genre and its audience."  If you are making a Klondike Solitaire game, you don't need a social space for that. Since you are making a persistent PvP game, a social space is highly recommended.

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It strikes me that there's a lot of overlap between this idea of a "third place" and designing "cozy games", and "designing for friendships".

I think it can absolutely be worth designing with these things in mind, and there are some great ideas for that in the linked articles.  A "cozy" game which makes allowances for friendships is probably a very good candidate to become people's "third place", and a game being people's third place is probably very good for retention. :)

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