Social Games succeed beyond the “Killer” Personality

16 09 2010

A lot of games have been built by and for the Achiever or Killer personality type.  This psychographic, often motivated by direct competition and player vs. player activity is based on Zero-sum conflict.  Zero-sum describes a situation where one player’s gain or loss is balanced directly by the gain or loss of the other player.  In other words, if one person wins, the other looses.

But, thanks to social game developers like Zynga, we are shown that a surprising amount of people don’t find strictly competitive games attractive.

Soren Johnson posted an interview with Zynga’s Senior Designer Paul Stephanouk in his blog Designer Notes.  In the interview, Stephanouk comments:

…Coming from strategy games as I did, I was very focused on the competitive aspect of games. I was aware of players wanting to build or explore, but I always saw that as serving a conflict-driven goal. I have learned that, for many people, the conflict-driven nature of traditional games is a major detraction. I’m not saying that overall conflict is bad or that you can’t have conflict-driven action in social games – both of these things are very much not the case. What I am saying is that there are a lot of players out there, far more than I understood, that really want a game experience that isn’t driven by the need to compete against another person.

In other words, there is a tremendous value in building games beyond the “Killer” personality.  For Zynga, that value translated into 82 million monthly active FarmVille users in only nine months.

Examining research from Nick Yee’s MMORPG study, we can see a strong correlation between  achievement-based motivations and gender.  The success of many social games and MMOs may be attributed to how well the environment and mechanics allow people to cooperate, the synergy between classes or roles, and  presentation of overall relationship-building opportunities.   Given these survey results, it is not surprising to see a high population of women playing social games.  Nick Yee’s results from his MMO study on motivation:

As Soren Johnson states in his blog:

Social games…can still be competitive without being destructive; the answer is parallel competition, the race to grow and improve one’s restaurant, for instance, faster than one’s friends.

Awareness of these motivational differences and customizing game mechanics to accommodate can only increase opportunities for user engagement.

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