Social aspect of emergent gameplay

…and metagaming.

Blogging, emergent gameplay and metagaming

I am neither a psychology nor sociology professional. I am merely an observer, but I try to keep a close watch as much on myself as on others. Most players agree, that massive multiplayer games are addictive (this is one of the bases on which online games business is built). Two main factors account for the addictive effect:

  • it takes time to achieve goals in the game,
  • people socialize and form online friendships in the game,

It’s the second factor, which dominates for most people. Leaving a game is hard not because of the game itself, but because it will most likely sever the connection with the people one was playing with.

This is one of the reasons CCP and other online game developers strongly encourage people to join player-owned corporations and other kinds of groups. Some players who know about this psychological effect of MMO games try to limit their engagement with other players, to limit the amount of time spent in the game.

I was at this stage once, only doing skillchanges, PI production and manufacturing in EVE, talking to my old colleagues, but not actively playing with them.

At some point I have started my own blog, which was a natural place to write about my hobbies, including EVE Online. This introduced me to a yet another part of the EVE community, a bit more loosely connected than inside a corporation, but at a somewhat higher level. You most likely have heard about Chribba, haven’t you? Is he known for things he did in game? The answer is NO. He is famous because of his online tools he have developed and actively maintains, performing an excellent service for the playerbase. You have probably also heard about an individual called Somerset Mahm, who is currently maintaining one of the biggest flash lottos in EVE (this service is known as “SOMERblink“). Again, he is not famous for his in-game deeds, but rather for his out-of-game service. This is what is known as emergent gameplay.

After Wikipedia, emergent gameplay has been defined as:

Emergent gameplay refers to complex situations in video games, board games, or table top role-playing games that emerge from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics.

More recently game designers have attempted to encourage emergent play by providing tools to players such as placing web browsers within the game engine (such as in EVE Online, The Matrix Online), providing XML integration tools and programming languages (Second Life [and EVE API]), […]

Emergent gameplay is often called as “metagaming“, but for the sake of accuracy, metagaming is a broader term, including emergent gameplay, but also strategies and tactics based on understanding of game mechanics and/or real life knowledge and experience, rather than in-character knowledge.

Blogging is a bit less pronounced than performing services for the playerbase, but is also a part of the emergent gameplay experience. Initiatives like #tweetfleet on Twitter, EVE News 24, Blog banter or EVE blog pack are just a few examples of how blogging enriches emergent games such as EVE Online, performing a service both to the community, but to the developer as well.

So, how “social” adds to all this?

Pretty social graph!
Pretty social graph!

Socializing is anything that introduces human interaction: be it PVP, discussing on the forums or writing your own blog.

Blogging, metagaming and using social networks creates just one more social ring to the already established “corporation” and “alliance” ones. And this ring will get you in touch with individuals considered celebirties of EVE, but with the CCP employees as well. If you are not on Twitter yet, I really recommend registering an account and adding the #tweetfleet channel to favourites.

Plus, you are more likely to go to the Fanfest. Why? To meet these excellent people in person obviously. Since most bloggers are on #tweetfleet as well, they create an international community. To get in touch, one must attend a global event, and Fanfest is just the most obvious one. Corp level meetings are mostly local (be it in players from the same country or continent at best). I have attended a local meeting of my corp, and actually enjoyed it. Having out of game fun with people I spent a lot of time online, playing EVE, killing stuff and chatting on Teamspeak, was a refreshing experience. It allowed me to get to know their “offline” side better, making even closer friends. Unfortunately, no one from my corp ever went to Fanfest. Being a part of the blogging community, I now have a real reason to actually go to the Fanfest and get to know other excellent bloggers, and CCP devs as well.

Obviously, this is very tempting, but “real life comes first” rule will prevent me from going to Iceland. As much as I’d like to go, my RL obligations (work, family) keep me occupied (and I actually enjoy it; boredom is such a nasty thing!). And it’s worth mentioning, that blogging about a game is just another layer to the addictive quality of online games (I would stop playing, but what happens to my webiste then?).

Limited spare time leads to another fundamental question: “To write about EVE or to play EVE?” But this is a topic for another post.

Stay tuned!