Sunday, October 03, 2010

Social "games" as simple puzzles

Farmville and similar social "games" are in fact very simple continuing puzzles. Contrast this with real games and with the typical traditional single-player "interactive puzzle".

Let's face it, puzzles are more popular than games. Crossword puzzles, physical puzzles, jigsaw puzzles. The venerable "Games" magazine is more about puzzles than games, and if you look in the "Games" section of a bookdstore, you're more likely to find books of puzzles than books about games.

Why? Well, one reason may be that you can work with a puzzle a little, then go do something else, then come back. You can't do that with a real game (until recently with mail and email games) because there's a group of people right there, right now. And puzzles have very simple rules, so simple that many people would say a puzzle has no rules. People don't like to be bothered with rules (hence the popularity of video "games"). But I think the main reason why puzzles are more popular than games is, no one can beat you in a puzzle. You might feel a bit like a loser if you can't solve the puzzle, but that depends on the person; still, no one beats you--you cannot "lose", you can only give up.

1 comment:

Paul D. Owen said...

Also a puzzle is a personal activity in which the individual can engage at his own convenience, whether in a book, newspaper, or on the computer. It's private time, alone time.

A game is a more directly social activity that usually requires some kind of pre-arranged rendezvous. I suppose online games can be picked up with strangers at a moment's notice, but there's still a social "contract" in a manner of speaking, a certain obligation to carry out the game up to certain expectations.

Maybe we need our "alone time diversions" more on a day-to-day basis than we need our "social diversions."