While watching the Playstation 4 (hereafter PS4) event on February 20, I noticed that there was a heavy emphasis on the social capabilities of the PS4. The PS4 has the ability to share game-play footage and screenshots with very little difficulty, and can even allow the player to take control of another player’s game in order to aid that player. The PS4 even has a dedicated “share” button on the PS4 controller, implying the importance of social interaction in the PS4.
Now, all this talk of “sharing” in the PS4 seems to imply the overall importance that social interaction will have in the future of video games. Social interactions are already an important aspect of most people’s lives due to the Internet and smart-phones such as the iPhone, so it would make sense that more social capabilities will come to video games. But to be honest, I am having difficulty in accepting the fact that video games are going to be more social orientated.
One of the reasons I have difficulty in accepting video games as a social media is because I tend to play mostly single player video games such as Skyrim and Bioshock. These single-player video games are in my opinion some of the best games that anyone can play, mostly because they focus on giving the player the most interactive and immersive game they can, which is usually accomplished by having either a great story, great game play or even both.
And that’s where most of my difficulty of accepting video games as a social media lies in. How can developers make a single-player game social? Now, I know developers won’t (I hope) go the route of every time, lets say, you kill a dragon, it gets ‘shared’ with your friends. I already find the constant Facebook updates that occur every time I get a trophy on my PS3 annoying and I believe most of my friends do as well. A possible route developers could take would be to make those same single-player games more like an optional co-op game. Imagine how cool it would be in Mass effect, if you could enlist the help of some of your online buddies to help tackle a story mission. You would be given the option to have them in your game or not such as in Borderlands, where it does not matter if you beat the game with friends or not.
Now of course there are problems with the route I gave because adding more players doesn’t make the game more immersive. In fact, it could make the game even less immersive. It would break the illusion that you, the player, are the only one that really matters in the story because another one of you exists. Would Mass Effect’s story really be the same if there were more Shepards? Most games instead add the other players as generic characters with no real importance in the story. This kills the immersion for those players because now they know they aren’t really important and sometimes the story altogether ignores those players and treats them as though they do not even exist at all.
I feel as though some games won’t be able to have that same grand story that we have come to expect from single-players if they try to be more ‘social’. Yes, you would be able to take screenshots or upload game footage of your conquest of that really hard boss and you can call that social interaction. But shouldn’t social interactions for video games be different? Video games themselves are a much different beast than films and books. Video games rely on you, the player, being immersed and interacting in the game, in order to experience what the developers want you to experience. Single-player video games just wouldn’t be the same if they were even a little bit more ‘social’.
And that’s where multiplayer oriented games come into play. These games such as FIFA and Call of Duty are where the social interactions for video games should primarily be in. These multiplayer games are made for social interactions, while single-player games are made for just the player to experience. Now, I am not against adding more social features in video games, I am just against adding them in just for the sake of saying your game is ‘social’.
Single player games can be ‘social’ if it is done correctly. Mass Effect is a perfect example for this because it has two parts to it. One part is the single player experience and the other is the multiplayer experience, which allows players to play with each other in the Mass Effect universe. This is the path that single-player games should take if they wish to be ‘social’ because it allows them to still have that grand story, and it would be a shame if in the future those stories were lessened for the sake of social interaction.
But that’s my fear for the future of video games. I fear that single player games will sacrifice grand stories for more social capabilities or even worse simply not exist anymore. Video games are products no matter how we look at them, and the need for developer/publisher to recoup their losses and make a profit are becoming greater every year. And the easiest way to sell a product is to appeal to the masses, which sadly single-player games are having trouble with when compared to multiplayer games such as Call of Duty, which are breaking sale records all the time.
Hopefully, game developers will find ways in keeping those amazing stories in their games while utilizing new social capabilities in the future.
PS4 controller: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Observer/Pix/pictures/2013/2/22/1361552538462/playstation-4-controller-010.jpg
Halo 3: http://www.gamedynamo.com/images/galleries/photo/1140/halo-4-wishlist-screenshots-2-five-player-co-op.jpg
FIFA 13: http://www.theplayer.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/fifa-13-1.jpg
Featured Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkf6JsNxFkQ