The term "Facebook game" has been misused for a while now. At the beginning, it could be argued that what it referenced were popular social titles like FarmVille or CityVille. But now it only takes a few moments to glance at the sheer variety of games that appear on Facebook--or use Facebook as an optional sign-in--to realize that "Facebook game" is not a clear term. Facebook gaming is not a genre, but social gaming is.
Still, it is understandable when someone uses the term, but it's hoped that what they are referencing is a series of mechanics instead of a group of games. These mechanics include--but are not limited to--energy usage, timeline sharing or visiting a friends page, in-game character or city. When it comes down to it, these mechanics are brilliant in their simplicity but can often be misunderstood or blamed for what is actually a player's inability to control posting. The mechanic is blamed for the spam.
Even with all of the controversy over Facebook spam or game sharing, social gaming mechanics are wonderful tools for casual gamers. They allow casual players to share information with friends and even allow group play to an extent, even if the groups are made up of one real player and several NPCs. Shouldn't all games utilize this sort of easy-to-access virtual group? Well, it depends.
A game like Dungeon Blitz is a perfect example of a title that simply uses Facebook as a launching platform. Dungeon Blitz also shows just how much variety there is on Facebook, more evidence that "Facebook gaming" is not only non-specific, but also inaccurate most of the time. The side-scrolling action-based gameplay is wonderful fun, but could it be improved by adding many of these popular Facebook tools that we've been talking about? Imagine if the game had not only standard friend requests, but the ability to click on a friend's portrait and teleport directly to them, or to an instanced home where they live. Imagine the game allowing players to bring along an NPC version of one of their friends into dungeons or instanced areas.
Of course, I'm being simplistic. Dungeon Blitz is action-based and has only some instancing. The beauty of an open action game like Dungeon Blitz is that players can meet up in person, go to a dungeon and kill baddies together. There is no denying the power of real players meeting with real players in real time. But, we are all fans of the social mechanic. Social gaming is massively popular simply because of its ability to allow players quick and easy routes to gaming together. For many of us, playing with a computer-controlled version of a friend and sharing our adventures on a timeline is enough of a social exercise to satisfy. Could a game like Dungeon Blitz, with its classic MMORPG elements, still benefit from social tie-ins? I would say that any game could benefit from them.
There is definitely a slow and steady take-over happening in gaming. Social gaming and social mechanics like the ones mentioned will become more and more the norm. While they might change how the act or how they appear on whichever timeline or personal page that we use in the future, they will still be the same. Social mechanics are essentially about instant sharing and forming social ties with people who we may never meet in real life. This is a good thing.
A standard game like Dungeon Blitz, one that really only uses Facebook as a launcher, might be wise to include more social tools in the game itself. Sure, they could be optional, but the younger audience (that the game likely draws in) is already more used to social mechanics and free sharing than the generation before. The next generation will be even more used to the idea of open sharing, and will probably demand it in most aspects of their lives. Games that do not feature these social tools could be left out in the rain, or seen as old-fashioned.
I'd like to see more games on Facebook act more like "Facebook games." If they are there, they might as well include the tools that made Facebook as popular as it is today. Dungeon Blitz is wonderfully fun, but I can only imagine how much more exciting it would be if we had immediate, in-game access to social circles.
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|Beau covers MMORPGs for Massively.com, enjoys blogging on his personal site and loves social and casual gaming. He has been exploring games since '99 and has no plans to stop. For Games.com News, he explores the world of hardcore Facebook and social games. You can join him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.|