Reading Response #7
Leyth Toubassy
November 13th, 2022
Music 256a / CS476a, Stanford University

Reading Response: Social Design
This weeks reading focused on social design, in part outlining ways that designs can bring strangers together, even if just for a little while. This aspect of social design is what I want to focus on today. I play a lot of online games (less now because of college) and a large part of that is playing with strangers. The main game I experience this in is Destiny 2, in two main ways, the first is non-verbal communication, and the second is verbal communication (through discord). In Destiny 2 when you play casual activities you're randomly given teamates (usually 2) and it's always super interesting to see the sort of bond you can form with strangers in 10 minutes without speaking to them. Often this comes in the form of emoting, after an activity is over, most people become mysteriously compelled to walk over to the chest and start dancing. Sometimes you'll even notice people going into their inventories to equip the same dance as you so you can match. This kind of behavior has always really interested me, it provides no in game advantage, and you're unlikely to every matchmake with this person again. I don't have an answer as to why but I've always been curious as to what drives me to go run over to them and start dancing. This dancing trend is present almost everywhere in game, especially in social hub spaces to the point where it's canon in lore that Guardians (the player characters in Destiny) love dancing in large groups. There have been a couple times where I've gone to grab something and left my character emoting, only to come back and find a crowd of stangers standing around me using the same dance. It's really interesting to me how something so arbitrary has become so universal in game, making friends by emoting and following eachother around for a few minutes only to permanently part ways.
The more impactful way Destiny can bring people together is through harder activities like raids. Unlike normal activities, raids require really coordinated groups, and almost always neccesitate some form of voice chat like Discord. Instead of being able to randomly matchmake, many use massive discord servers to LFG (look for groups). After you've found a team of 6 the raid begins and here's where the magic happens. Assuming you don't find really obnoxious people (which does happen more often than it should) I find that as we go through the raid I become really close to these strangers, it feels like we've know each other for a long time. Many of my closest online friends are people I met through LFG and it always amazes me how much information about our lives we share with one another. It very quickly becomes a small community that transcends just doing raids in Destiny. In my Destiny group we often have discussions about current events, play other games, or even host movie nights, all of that from one Destiny Raid. I find it really interesting that our brains are able to form these kinds of social connections with others just as easily while going through our "fake" lives as we do with those around us in our "real" ones. It really goes to show that our brains are not designed to seperate fiction from reality, and really helps to highlight how much faster our technology advances compared to the biological evolution of our species. I think in order to conduct effective social design, one must take advantage of this fact, and really attempt to "hijack" the brain's ability to make connections in a productive, intentional manner.