The Weeks Geek - Death of Social Gaming by Social Gaming

Most people that don't actually understand gamers tend to think we are social outcasts. We sit inside all the time with little to no human contact playing our games. But they are wrong. Games, even single player ones, are a social experience. But while newer games have more social aspects to them via XBL, PSN, or Steam, it feels like they are losing their social connection.

How is this possible you may ask? Games are in a golden age of social connection. Friends lists make it easy to connect with other people. To start a multiplayer game you only need to find a few buddies online at the same time or accept the matchmaking system in the game. Achievements allow people to know how deeply you have delved into a game and what secrets you have unlocked. Distance is not a factor in playing with your friends anymore. No longer do you have to travel to another persons house to play a game with them. And in there we have what is destroying the social aspect of games.

How many of you made special plans to visit a friends house to play Mario Kart, GoldenEye 007, or Halo? Disconnected your desktop computer and lugged it along with a CRT monitor to play StarCraft with teammates? When I was growing up my friends and I would make entire parties around playing games like these. We even created our own rule sets in the original Halo that made things more interesting. Players rotated in and out of Super Smash Bros Brawl so all could have a chance. But these days are gone now. Sure systems still support up to four controllers, but there does not seem to be a point to it. I cannot remember the last time I actually used all four Xbox 360 controllers and I only ever got two Playstation 3 controllers. People instead stay along in their homes when they want to play socially, made slothful by the convenience of the gaming social network before them. No longer do you even have when you would visit a friends house while they play a single player game and just watch them and talk about what is going on. The true social aspect of games seems to be vanishing.

I will not say that I am not guilty of progressing this system along either. When IrishPride and I play co-op it is usually over Steam or XBL. But eventually we are not even going to have the choice to play locally. As it becomes less popular and people decide they want to keep track of their own stats devs will place less and less emphasis on creating split screen game play and they will just use the network system provided by XBL and PSN. There is really only one game genre that continues unabated by this so far, but even it is at risk. Fighting games are still best locally due to the havok wrecked by even they tiniest bit of lag, and ladder based tournaments keep local play strong, and required.  This will change some day, and you will need to access your account to play any game any where. This day will be the death of the social games by social games. What about you? Is there any social aspect of games that you miss that we killed by newer social game elements?