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Siegel: Facebook Games as Flat, Shallow or Deep

January 14, 2008

If you’re following my fascination with Facebook game design, Scott John Siegel’s article Game Design for Facebook is a Very Different Beast is a must read. In his article, he defines Facebook games as flat, shallow or deep, and his analysis is spot on.

If you’re not following the whole series, I encourage you to. Gaming is innately a social activity, and what we’re seeing right now is the emergence of a new genre, I suspect. For game designers and the tragically geeky in general (and that’s a compliment), times like this are somewhat magical. It’s hip to be there when it happens and actually watch as developers attempt to figure out what works and what doesn’t in the new space.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2008 11:03 am

    I actually disagree with the assertion (from both you and Siegel) that this is completely new. The so-called “Door games” back in the days of the BBS (before this whole intarweb thing caught on) are practically identical in their structure and social nature to Facebook, and I’m surprised that more FB developers haven’t looked at Yankee Trader, Trade Wars, Food Fight and the like as models for gameplay on FB apps.

    Here’s a few mechanics from the old days that would fit right in to FB:

    * Ability to fight against enemy NPCs (computer-controlled) to increase your experience or gold or whatnot. Fighting other players in your network has higher risks and rewards. I never really wanted to be a zombie/werewolf/vampire/pirate, so these games may allow this; if not, it’s a pretty obvious addition.

    * Ability to cooperate with those in your social network. Instead of attacking your friends, ally with them (presumably you’re limited in whom you can ally with, to prevent people with lots of friends from breaking the game). When either of you is attacked in-game, the other sends assistance.

    * Empire growth. Instead of just getting “money” or “points”, have resources that increase your power in different ways (offensive, defensive, money production, special abilities, etc.). You get increases by spending money or successfully attacking others. Ideally, you get diminishing returns on spending money to increase your stats, so that the game starts out relatively peaceful and becomes more and more aggressive as the players get more powerful.

    * Inter-network attacks. Fighting amongst your friends is one thing, but how about having ALL of your friends contribute resources to a large pool of force that is then launched at another social network, so it becomes an “all of us versus all of them” thing?

  2. January 14, 2008 1:56 pm

    Absolutely, there are similarities in the game mechanics, but that could be said about a whole lot of games. There are also similarities with play-by-mail games and any other games which really work well in a turn-based medium.

    What is different about facebook games is threefold, however –

    * The audience is composed of casual players, casual gamers. Back then, we were all willing to go through torture to be able to play the games that existed.
    * The method of propagation is different than it was in the bbs door game days. While it was still word of mouth, it was exactly that. In Facebook, the games really leverage that network to report stuff to everyone in your friends’ list without your permission (newfeed)
    * And there was a third that will come to me eventually… 🙂

    The dynamics of play are changed as a result.

  3. January 15, 2008 6:40 am

    Your second point actually brings up two interesting questions:
    1) Why the hell doesn’t Facebook offer RSS options for news feeds, status updates, etc?

    2) Why hasn’t the ever-growing role of been discussed with relation to game design? Or, if it has, can you provide me the link?

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