Industry Buzz via Twitter
Are Social Networks Just Another MMO Grind?
Remember in the early days of video games when there wasn't enough capacity to support 30 hours of gameplay?
By: Kevin Hoffman
Apr. 26, 2008 07:15 PM
Before I get to the analogy with social networks, let's review what an "MMO grind" is:
You are playing your character in your favorite MMO. You kill things. From the stuff you gather while killing, you can sell and make money. If there is crafting in the game, loot and even some random foliage you pick up while you're out killing can be used to up your crafting skill and maybe make you some money.
.... time passes ....
The money you earned from your previous killing trip has given you better equipment. You might have even gained a level last time, so you're more powerful. Now that you're more powerful, you need to kill bigger stuff so that you can advance further, maybe gather more crap so you can craft more stuff to get better at crafting and skill and gain more money...
... time passes ... you feel as if you've been here before ...
Now, I am not passing judgment on this so-called grind (also referred to as a treadmill), a lot of games make the act of "grinding" amusing enough to make the game experience worthwhile.
Now another comparison. You remember back in the early days of video games when there wasn't enough capacity on the carts themselves to support 30 hours of gameplay? What was the solution to keep you playing? They made the games unbelievably freaking difficult. Try playing Kid Icarus now after having played a modern game and you'll see that the game introduces artificial barriers and creates needless blocks simply to increase the amount of time spent in the game. If you're an MMO maker and you charge a monthly fee, the more time people spend in your game the more money you make.
Now lets switch gears and look at social networks. People who are "into" the whole social networking scene do not have just one social network. They're probably twittering, they probably blog, they probably have a facebook page, they might have a MySpace page, and so on and so on. Your "worth" within the social network is entirely governed by how popular your page is and how many friends you have.
The problem that I'm seeing with most of the current social networks is that 90% of the time spent on those social networks is work that is done in order to maintain currency, keep content fresh, and continue building a sprawling network of friends and raise popularity. Once you reach a certain level of social network "linked-ness", there are yet other tasks that you must perform to maintain that level and increase to the next level. What are people not doing on these social networks? Gaining measurable value from their use. I've posted about this before, but to me, the definition of a social network is this:
A network that provides intrinsic, measurable value for its members by the sheer presence of those members doing things that benefit themselves.
So, what does that mean? What it boils down to is this: If you are working for your social network instead of your social network working for you, you my friend, are standing on top of a classic MMO-style treadmill grind.
I have bobbed in and out of various social networks and there is something that every single one of them had in common: for me to gain any value from that network, I had to go out of my way to perform repetitive, out-of-band tasks just to gain any value from the network. Having been the victim of many a MMO treadmill grind, I recognize an infinite loop of horse poo when I see it, so I bailed.
Obviously there are exceptions. People using Flickr to share their photos can a tremendous amount of value from that social network. Other people, doing things for themselves that they would be doing anyway automatically provide a wealth of photos and information that wouldn't otherwise be available. I have yet to find a measurable value in Facebook or any of a dozen other social networks I've played with.
At some point, someone is going to get it "right", and there will be a social network that gives us tremendous value without us having to sacrifice for the cause, and all of the apologists using MySpace, Facebook, and the others who don't know they're apologists will flee to the new network in droves.
As such, I happily retire my level 6 half-orc social networker until I find something that is actually fun to use.
Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1
Latest Cloud Developer Stories
Subscribe to the World's Most Powerful Newsletters
Subscribe to Our Rss Feeds & Get Your SYS-CON News Live!
SYS-CON Featured Whitepapers
Most Read This Week