Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Farmville as the way forward

The gaming industry is in the midst of a fairly heated debate about Facebook games such as Farmville. If you're interested, there's a good summary of the debate in this Terra Nova post. One of the most insightful contributions to the discussion comes from Raph Koster. In an extensive post about virtual worlds, social games and where Farmville fits in the spectrum, he makes a couple of observations that I think are very insightful in a broader perspective.

The first is that we are moving away from pseudonyms on the internet. Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn require real identities and Twitter is moving in that direction as well. Not only are we moving away from pseudonyms towards real identities, as a consequence we are also moving towards singular identities. I am personally starting to see more and more of an overlap between my LinkedIn connections and my Facebook friends, although I still show two distinct aspects of my identity on the two networks. I use Twitter solely as a professional microblog, but who knows, perhaps I'm being old-fashioned. I see others around me struggling with the same issues or sometimes just accepting that everything is converging and it's no use anymore to separate private and professional online identities.

The second trend that Raph points to is the move from real-time interaction to asynchronicity. Much of the interaction that takes place on Facebook, Twitter and through text messages is asynchronous (not to mention very brief). Asynchonicity is the norm, real-time interaction an occasional bonus. We have moved away from the ideal of real-time interactions with high media richness and 3D environments, which seemed to be what the industry was chasing the past two decades.

I welcome these developments. This embrace of the limitations of these types of technologies makes them more powerful and gives them a better place in relation to talking on the phone or meeting in person. Because of course, trying to imitate face-to-face interactions by means of technology has always been, and always will be, a dead-end road.

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