What form will the next generation of interactive experiences take? The exact nature of the future is always unknown. But now that everything is 'social', and games are a fully legitimate cultural phenomenon more profitable and more popular than Hollywood films, we can expect to see the emergence of experiences that combine aspects of games and social media in new ways.
One example of a hybrid experience that combines game elements and complex social interactions is the cross-media environment formed by the popular Killzone games and their companion site Killzone.com.
By design, the Killzone games and the Killzone.com site have co-evolved over time to interconnect on many levels. In the most recent version (planned for public release in early 2009), the game console and web site experiences work in concert to enhance gameplay with sophisticated social dynamics, and provide an active community destination that is 'synchronized' with events in the game in real time. The hybrid Killzone environment allows active game players and community members to move back and forth between game and web experiences, with simultaneous awareness of and connection to people and events in both settings.
Leading games researcher and designer Nicole Lazzaro calls these hybrid experiences 'Massively Social On-line Games'. In these types of interactive experiences, players build meaningful histories for individual characters and groups of all sizes through competitive and cooperative interactions that take place in the linked game and community contexts. Game mechanisms and social architecture elements are designed to encourage the accumulation of shared experiences, group identities, and collective histories. Over time, designers hope shared experiences will serve as the basis for a body of social memory.