Social Madness and Joy

Last month I started doing something I haven’t done in a very, very long time.

What did I do? I played a single-player game, one of those real ones that you play on a console or your PC, not a short little browser game. No other people controlled avatars in that space, no one fought against me or chatted in game to me.  It was just me and Alice (and a bunch of scary creatures).

But it was social.

Alice: Madness Returns

Playing Alice  was social for a few reasons:

1) Most of the game I played while voice chatting with a friend who also had  just bought the game. We started together, and although we progressed at slightly different rates, we chatted throughout pretty much the entire game experience. We cursed and complained and questioned and ooh’d and ahh’d and wow’d as we moved from amazing level to amazing level. We shared the experience of playing the game together, and it made every far, far more fun than it would have otherwise been.

2) My daughter and husband periodically would sit with me in my study, looking over my shoulder as I played and help me out.  “Go there, mommie!” my daughter (7) would say, and I’d find an extra goodie or a secret passage (she’s good, that one). My husband cheered me on, commiserated when I kept failing that one almost impossible jump.

3) I raved about the game to friends, encouraging them to buy the game for themselves. Those that did chatted and ooh’d and ahh’d with me, too.

Social gaming is perhaps a bit more complicated than WoW, SL, or those Facebook games that get all the press. Playing Alice like that was amazingly fun and reminded me why I fell in love with games in the first place.

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5 responses to “Social Madness and Joy

  1. So many single player games are actually played like you mentioned, as player+spectator(s) and even sometimes as player+player.

    When I was a child, we had a demo version of Wolfenstein 3D and me and my friends would play the game together with one of us controlling the movement and the other the shooting.
    Much screaming and flapping happened during those play sessions as one of us was yelling “shoot shoot” and the other “Turn him around”. I found the game too intense and hated playing it alone. These days there are tons of games, especially fps’ that I enjoy watching, but would hate playing. So often if there’s a new game everyone is talking about within fps and horror genres, I’ll try and get an audience deal, it suits me the best in most cases.

  2. It is amazing how the particular context adds to and shapes the experience of play.

  3. @ironyca: that’s exactly how I feel about SO many games! I just don’t have the pew pew prowess to have fun after the first few levels, but I love watching other people play them.
    @goodonsalad: totally agree. what i think is “fun” or “difficult” or even “scary” changes depending on how i see the context.

  4. This is pretty much my plan for the elder scrolls 5. Having had it pre-ordered for over a month already i am more than a bit excited for it, and am seriously looking forward to talking to a bunch of friends over skype whilst i punch down a dragon! In fact, Oblivion is the most social single player game i ever played, and the prospect of a whole huge new world to play in, is made all the better by the infinite bragging rights each adventure will bring….

  5. @Alastair ooooh! I will have to add that one to the list. Morrowwind was pretty much one of my most fav games ever. I’m sure a little Elder Scrolls action, I think.

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