Thursday, July 13, 2006

Eye Contact

There is a gaming spectrum:
  • Mainstream board games - The games don't really matter, it's the social experience.
  • Eurogames - The games matter, and the social experience matters.
  • Electronic games (video/computer) - The game matters, the social experience doesn't.
Is this a generalization? Yes, it is, but a fair one, I think.

In mainstream games, the game can facilitate or hinder the social experience by being fluid or boring. Good party games or roll-and-move games with fun themes can make good conversation starters. But no one over the age of ten cares who wins these games, or thinks that trying to excel in the game represents any sort of valuable effort.

And in MMO games, the social experience is not always completely absent. People do "meet" and interact virtually, albeit usually in a negative way, but sometimes not. Even so, the vast majority of any social interaction that happens during one of these games is going to happen only so long as it doesn't interfere with the game experience. And of course, the vast majority of electronic gaming isn't interactive with another human, at all.

That leaves the games in the happy middle. Although I labeled it Eurogames in the above chart, the happy middle also includes classic strategy games, such as Chess, and Go, and so on. Essentially, any game where people come together and the game itself also matters.

In this day and age, there are other options for coming together to engage in activities that aren't simply an excuse to get together. You could meet to work for a benefit, jam music together, garden, and so on. How nice it is to also be able to do that over something as delightful as gaming; where the games themselves are healthy for your brain, too.

It's so much nicer than seeing people playing a game where the game is nothing more than a distraction from the point. Or from seeing someone break eye contact and turn away towards the faceless, glowing screen.



Harold said...

Where would multi-player video gaming where you're all in the same room fit in? I remember years ago ending our board game sessions with a rousing game of four player Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. We would sometimes play cooperative games, or all on our own games, and we'd have an absolute blast. It was fun, social and very interactive.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

No eye-contact, but interaction. The pace of play, the rules, and the roles are set by the computer, not the people playing.

So somewhere in between the middle and the right, I would guess.


Gerald McD said...

Nice summary, Yehuda.