Shut Up and Play

In Ars Technica article titled Meet the “users”: We don’t talk, we don’t like you, we just want to play, Ben Kuchera writes:

I’d like to introduce you to one of the more unknown tribes in the online community. We rarely talk about them because they’re not as annoying as the griefers or as rampant as the “I have to take a bong hit now” people on Xbox Live, but they’re out there. I’m ashamed to say I’m one of them. We’re users. We don’t hook up our headsets, we mute your voice, and we just play the damn game. We’re not here to make friends, and if you extend an invite, it will just get rejected. We rarely leave feedback. For us online gaming isn’t social; most people on Xbox Live aren’t worth being social with. You may be on the other end of the line chattering away about the game, but we’re not listening.

Part of the problem with a system where you can play with any idiot out there is just that: you can play with any idiot out there. How long would you be able to tolerate these guys yelling into your headset?

In a Facebook/MySpace/Twitter world, it’s easy to forget that there are reasons why gamers go online other than social networking. Before the internet became a household world, people played networked games for a very simple reason: human opponents are far more interesting than AIs.

Ben Kuchera’s article is something that game designers should keep in mind, but it’s also something that developers of social networking applications should also consider. One of the reasons that social networking applications are popular is that there are ludic or game-like aspects to many of them, and as with games, sometimes we’d rather you just shut up and play.