Social software and gaming
Having work recently on implications of web/web2.0 practices for the video game industry, I was interested in the relationships between social software and video games. Trying to have a quiet look into things (as usual), I tried to make a sort of typology of the different directions at stake here: First, a simple option would be to simply think of "games" as social objects (in the sense Jyri describes it), which would lead to services allowing people to discus, comment, talk, criticize games or to use games or application played as a way to form a model of peers. In a sense, it would be about taking games (their physical instantiation) as belongings that can be tracked: My Things is a social platform that enable such a function. And if there are not physical instantiation? Well, Wakoopa would fit given that it "tracks what kind of software or games you use, and lets you create your own software profile". You can then share, tag, comment and web-two-point-o-ize (about) games.
A second possibility is that one could thing about "social software" as a social layer on top of games, i.e. as a way to find people to play games with (a problem referred to as "LFG": Looking for Group). This is the sort of service one can benefit from platforms such as Rupture ("Rupture connects you with the real people you play with online. You can automatically publish your character and guild profiles to the web, share pictures, chat with friends and recruit new people to play with.") or Magelo ("Launched in 2001, the Character Profile was the first tool on the market that could create a persistence of an in game character out of the game trough a simple web representation (...) Another sample is our proprietary software client, Magelo Update (MU). MU act as a 100% reliable game data collector, as well as a synchronization and authentication tool for Magelo Characters Profiles."). What is interesting here is both the profile building (either explicitly or automatically created through in-game data collection) and the social networking capabilities. There are still lots of room in the design space here, especially if you think that most of the work has been done for hardcore-gamers-oriented MMO. Adding a social layer to more casual MMO would be a good option. On that LFG topic, see also here for a discussion about Facebook and gaming.
Finally, the third possibility to think about a social software as a game itself. An interesting direction is the one taken by Justin Hall in his "passive multiplayer gaming project (" a game that you get points and levels in based on the surfing you do on the Internet"). I've heard some other projects (like Playoo) are working on that social+game direction too (not in the PMOG concept though).
The underlying variable here is to think about the relationships between the game and the social software. The steps I described is actually a continuum from which social software are totally independent or a new layer on top of games OR the game itself. Anyhow, this topic will be surely addressed at LIFT08.
Why do I blog this some thoughts for social computing and gaming design space, potential material for further talks and actions.