A report on building relationships in games has been released detailing a series of things that lead and help build friendships within a game.
The group consisted of:
- Daniel Cook, Spry Fox
- Yuri Bialoskursky, Electronic Arts
- Bill Fulton, Microsoft
- Michael Fitch, Betterrealities.com
- Joel Gonzales, Wargaming.net
In many online multiplayer games, players enter as strangers and remain
strangers. Due to a variety of unquestioned logistics, economic and
social signalling choices, other human beings end up being treated as
interchangeable, disposable or abusable. We can do better.
Let’s instead design games that help strangers form positive pro-social relationships. New tools
There’s a mature body of research going back to the 1950s concerning how
to create systems and situations that facilitate positive relationship
building between strangers. Given the right context, people will
naturally will become acquaintances. And a smaller number will become
We can’t force two people to become friends, nor should we want to. But
we are in a unique position to build systems that create fertile ground
for friendships to blossom. And by carefully nurturing positive
relationships, we can simultaneously avoid naively birthing poisonous
cesspools that actively fosters hate.
This paper cover a simple design checklist
based off well supported models of friendship formation. Put it into practice and you will create games that build stronger player relationships
and stronger communities
. In addition to making the world a better place, your games will likely have better retention
and improved monetization
because you are creating value for your players that speaks to their deeply human psychological needs.
To build friendships, your game should facilitate four key factors. When these are present, friendships tend to form.
What types of games can use this friendship model?
- Proximity: Put players in serendipitous situations where they
regularly encounter other players. Allow them to recognize one another
across multiple play sessions.
- Similarity: Create shared identities, values, contexts, and goals that ease alignment and connection.
- Reciprocity: Enable exchanges (not necessarily material) that
are bi-directional with benefits to both parties. With repetition, this
- Disclosure: Further grow trust in the relationship through disclosing vulnerability, testing boundaries, etc.
For the purposes of this paper, we are interested in a specific domain:
- Online: Players are not in the same physical space.
- Mediated: A computer mediates all interactions between the
players. Rich in person channel of communication like one might find in a
board game or sport are not available.
- Synchronous: Players are interacting in real time via keyboard, mouse, mic, controller, voice, emote, etc.
We believe two things when we discuss friendships:
- The facilitation of meaningful relationships between other human beings is a noble design goal.
- Games are uniquely suited to facilitating relationships.
To make friends, you need multiple people, a reason to bring them
together and some form of repeated mutually beneficial interaction.
Multiplayer games have all these elements. Every piece of a game can be
designed to remove walls and build social connections. What an
- We can design our matchmaking and logistics system to encourage proximity
- We can design our social signaling, characters and tribes to generate perceived similarity
- We can design the economics of reciprocation loops at all stages of friendship formation
- We can incrementally enable safe disclosure based off idle friendship formation pacing.
Often we think of computer games as a single player medium for
storytelling or some other evocative experience We put games in the same
category as books, movies, comics, etc. However, it is also interesting
to think of games as intentional human processes; rule-based machines
composed of living, breathing, growing people. They operate on the same
scale as sports, religions and governments. Such engineered human
processes can help players thrive in designed virtual spaces and
ultimately in their real lives.
As game designers, this is one of our great powers and responsibilities.
We design these machines. We are responsible for growth and nurturing
of the machine’s players and communities that they form. The human
process of friendship formation is an essential game design tool. Wield
Read the full detailed report here: http://www.lostgarden.com/2017/01/game-design-patterns-for-building.html