I can’t think of a time in my life when I wasn’t competitive about something. In elementary school, it was how many Pokemon I had collected. In middle and high school, it was how high my GPA was. And in college, my main competitive force is video games. But I’m not the only one; mankind as a race has been competitive since the beginning. At first we needed to compete for resources to survive, and now that that era has passed, the residue of that nature remains and spurs us on to activities like sports and gaming, to show off our physical or mental prowess. Or whatever kind of prowess makes us better at shooting aliens and terrorists.
And gaming companies are beginning to catch on to this competitive trend and taking advantage of it. Companies like Valve and Microsoft have already implemented social gaming networks like Steam and Xbox Live, which track achievements and scores in games, and often include ranked lists so that players can view their scores versus their friends. Most likely due to the success of these two, other companies have begun their own networks as well; Blizzard recently launched Battle.net, and Ubisoft has been in the beta stages of a network called Uplay. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to flex my e-peen on yet ANOTHER site. But now that my friends can all see what league I’m in on Starcraft II, and what level I am on World of Warcraft, I have to play more and get better!
This is the exact mentality that several game companies are capitalizing upon. And as embarrassing as it might be, I’m even feeling the competitive itch with casual games, like Robot Unicorn Attack. While it is quite an addicting game, I wouldn’t be nearly as compelled to play game after game of Robot Unicorn Attack if it weren’t for the integration with Facebook, so that now as I play, I see a ranked list of my friends’ scores, reminding me that I’m still not the best.
All in all, these social networks are a successful way to get players to keep playing, whether it be a pay-to-play MMO, or a free game that could lead to a potential sale of optional paid content. And I know the results may vary from player to player, but the success so far of Xbox Live and Steam shows that there are at least enough other gamers like me out there to carry on the success of social gaming networks for many years to come.