Week 7 Reading Reflection

I found the topic of designing for social experiences to be quite interesting and also very relevant considering the past 2 years being stuck inside! I’d like to bring up interesting design choices that I’ve seen that have allowed for expression and socialization through the medium of games, as this chapter reminded me of Kunwoo’s talk on his social experiences with Final Fantasy 14.

In thinking about games that have allowed for unique kinds of social experiences, I first thought of fighting games. Of course, any game in which you play against or with other groups of people naturally lends itself to being a potential social experience, but I find that fighting games in particular can serve as a beautiful form of both individual expression but also social connection between players. Each choice and option a player makes in a round communicates something to the other player, from something as simple as “I don’t want to get hit” to a complex game plan built around matchup knowledge and frame data. And for many games, I find that when there are countless different options at any given point in time, the ones you do end up choosing communicate something about yourself. Many of the best designed fighting games offer a varied range of choices, which allows for varied and nuanced communication between players. An example of this in Street Fighter IV would be Ryu’s Shoryuken, which has three different variants, the “heavy” variant being a move that does the most damage of the three, but also is the most risky. If you miss, your opponent has plenty of time to line up a combo for themselves. Thus, choosing to use the heavy variant in a situation where one could use the medium or light variant sends a clear message – “I know this is going to hit, because I am better than you”. Another example of this is in Melee’s top character of Fox McCloud, whose options allow players to play him in a wide variety of playstyles, from hyper-aggressive constant in-your -face brawling, to defensive poking from a distance. Two players playing the same character can win in dramatically different ways, and the breadth of options and choices that are given to players means that the objective for many is no longer just to win, but to win how they want to. These choices lets players build an identity within the game – one that lets them transcend their real life identity and communicate and bond solely through their playstyle and through the game, and I find that to be a particularly beautiful form of social expression.