Social Heroes: Games as APIs for Social Interaction

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My final ITP thesis presentation. Watch a video and read the paper here: http://www.prophecyboy.com/uncategorized/social-heroes-games-as-apis-for-social-interaction-aka-my-itp-thesis/

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  • how i’ve been thinking about games as an interface for social interaction between players





  • Social Heroes is a game which runs on top of Twitter,
    online service to broadcast short pieces of text to people in lots of different ways.



    Players give each other points by tagging each other with key words,
    and eventually start earning achievement awards based on the combinations of points they’ve earned from their friends.



    It provides a framework for communication and identity construction in the context of a game.



    every game does this to some extent - people playing chess, tag, football, wii, and halo together are all engaging in a conversation with each other and with the game



    but what happens when games address that conversation directly, and make communication a core part of play?



    games are sometimes metaphorically compared to software, so i started looking there
  • Social Heroes is a game which runs on top of Twitter,
    online service to broadcast short pieces of text to people in lots of different ways.



    Players give each other points by tagging each other with key words,
    and eventually start earning achievement awards based on the combinations of points they’ve earned from their friends.



    It provides a framework for communication and identity construction in the context of a game.



    every game does this to some extent - people playing chess, tag, football, wii, and halo together are all engaging in a conversation with each other and with the game



    but what happens when games address that conversation directly, and make communication a core part of play?



    games are sometimes metaphorically compared to software, so i started looking there
  • every game does this to some extent - people playing chess, tag, football, wii, and halo together are all engaging in a conversation with each other and with the game
    but what happens when games address that conversation directly, and make it a core part of play?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • in software development, we have this concept called an API, an application programming interface, which allows data to flow in and out of a piece of software.



    Twitter is an API more than it is standalone software - can use without the website



    So, how can we apply this API concept to games?
  • - formal systems of rules: make it possible for us to predict the outcome of our interactions (unlike in the real world, which has too many unknown rules)
    - this is what makes them fun!
    - do this by evaluating game state, a snapshot of what’s going on in the game at any given moment (examples: board, sports, videogame)



    - we treat everything else in the world the same way: devising theories of the way the world works, making predictions, testing them, and revising them
    - we mostly don’t think about those models explicitly. It’s just how we see the world.
    ---overlap - areas where this is more conscious, and one of these is our social interactions
    -good at modeling what other people are thinking



    - exploring games that bring mental models of social interactions to front-of-mind, and how that affects those models and those interactions



    - paper prototyping around alliances and friend collection
  • - we treat everything else in the world the same way: devising theories of the way the world works, making predictions, testing them, and revising them
    - we mostly don’t think about those models explicitly. It’s just how we see the world.
    ---overlap - areas where this is more conscious, and one of these is our social interactions



    - exploring games that bring mental models of social interactions to front-of-mind, and how that affects those models and those interactions
  • things like SF0, big games like Pac Manhattan, and ARGs create game interfaces for the physical world, forcing us to reframe our assumptions about our environment



    what sort of game would produce the same results in our social interactions?












  • all of these problems could be solved with some amount of computing power, but i didn’t want it to get in the way of the player interactions
  • players send short text commands to twitter thru website, desktop app, text message, etc, tagging and sending points to each other



    the system awards achivements based on the number of points earned
    Rockstar (2 punk + 2 glamor + 1 creative)



    everything is public - points traded between players as well as achievements are broadcast to anyone who’s watching


  • this is the web interface for twitter
    older messages are at the bottom, newer on the top



    started with:
    limited number of tags (13 tags, 15 achievements)
    about 10 users
    the tags & achievements were originally intended to be descriptive, but users, of course, always find better things to do than what you intended.
  • this is the user who is speaking/acting/etc
  • this is the user who is speaking/acting/etc
  • this is the user who is speaking/acting/etc
  • this is the user who is speaking/acting/etc
  • tags designed to be descriptive, can also be used in other was



    zannah uses the ambiguous “flirt” tag with john - is he flirting, or is she?



    use of tags for both description & action
  • here, I’m using “glamor” points more as an invocation, to boost confidence, than a descriptor
  • a few days after we began, people start appropriating the syntax of the game (+Tag) for meta-communications, which looks like gameplay but isn’t



    decided to incorporate that into the game - buying tags
    = explosion of gameplay that became more integrated with activities outside of the game
  • first impulse: break the game!
  • rockstar example:
    in response to a favor he did IRL, Scott tries to give Daniel a rockstar point
    got back a message that it’s not a tag
  • bought the new tag and gives it to Daniel
  • daniel protests because “rockstar” is actually an achievement, but it sticks
  • heather tries to give herself rockstar points (fwiw, she was rebuffed)



    difference between relational identity & personal identity



    affects a lot of our social dynamics, and so wanted to provide a game space to play and explore that



    ->another use of the game is for metacommunication of players’ current state
  • needs coffee example:
    daniel buys a tag “needs coffee”, probably wants someone to give him that point
  • Jonathan gives 3 points in rapid succession, to Heather, Corey, & John
  • Corey tries to take “needs coffee” points away from John.



    he can’t do that yet, another example of players using game syntax to communicate meta-information
  • Social Heroes: Games as APIs for Social Interaction

    1. 1. Games as APIs for Social Interaction ! Catch them all playtest, 3/08 Adam Simon May 9, 2008
    2. 2. Application Programming Interface
    3. 3. web site desktop app facebook IM text message
    4. 4. web site desktop app facebook IM text message web site desktop app IM text message
    5. 5. game state Rumplestiltskin (an artefactual performance) prototyping, 12/07
    6. 6. Alliances Players belong to different groups, and must decide which group to support at any given time. Catch them all playtest, 3/08 Collection Collect non-players as Friends, score extra points for socializing them into one of the player groups.
    7. 7. :-( friend collection + tagging was fun highly visible in the environment & for non-players Catch them all playtest, 3/08
    8. 8. :-) rules & scoring were too complex synchronizing all the players doesn’t work game state was confused with too many tagged friends Catch them all playtest, 3/08
    9. 9. time
    10. 10. sending player
    11. 11. sending player game
    12. 12. sending player receiving player game
    13. 13. sending player receiving player game action
    14. 14. ludic language description or action? time
    15. 15. ludic language time invocation
    16. 16. ludic language adopted game syntax for communication time
    17. 17. rule modeling
    18. 18. identity response to real world actions time
    19. 19. identity relational identity construction time
    20. 20. identity time positive social hacking
    21. 21. identity time (failed) attempt at personal identity construction
    22. 22. metacommunication time
    23. 23. metacommunication time
    24. 24. metacommunication time
    25. 25. metacommunication time
    26. 26. metacommunication time
    27. 27. To Play: follow quot;socialheroesquot; on twitter

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