Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why do people play social games? Why do they pay for social goods?

Facebook has 100M people that play every day an average of 30 minutes. This equals to 50,000,000 hours / day, or 1,5B / hours month spent playing games only in this site.

Why do people play social games?

  • They provide fun outside of their game mechanics. They provide fun via their flexibility and emphasis on customization. FarmVille itself (a social game where the main objective is to take care of a farm doing chores like harvesting plants) is very simple to play. The fun in playing is mainly found in doing things like choosing where to put your barn, how to decorate around your farmhouse and creating an apple orchard in one corner.
  • They make people feel part of a community in which they relate to other people by helping each other with their farms chores, sending each other’s gift, posting messages in the network, competing with each other and allowing others to see the farm built with your own effort, patience and good taste.
  • They require no download or install. They can run on old computers and they are (initially) free.

Why do people pay for virtual goods?

A virtual good, it is most commonly thought of as a discrete digital item upon which a player can exert some level of control. Examples include interior design accessories, and machines. They can be functional or purely visual.

  • Desire to accelerate progress: they provide shortcuts to insider knowledge or to skip-to-the-front-of-the-line. As in the real world, we are willing to pay for access or knowledge to get ahead faster. Some of these virtual goods do the same within the environment they are part of a better barn, a boost, or tools to enhance the game play.
  • Competing: you want to beat others, and desire to be the best, thus you purchase virtual items that can clearly help you achieve that goal.
  • Entretainment: this seems to appeal more to females. Shopping (especially if there is a social feedback loop) and/or collecting (mainly when there is an overlay of social cooperation or competition) can be a strong form of entertainment.
  • Self-expression: often related to aesthetic rather than functional virtual goods, is tied to the human desire to show off a sense of style/identity/personality.
Maybe the truth is based on what Caesar believed 1900 years ago, he said that people need just two things: food and games, meaning physical and virtual goods. Physical goods solve the physical problems of existence, while virtual goods solve mental 'problems' such as curiosity, aesthetic value judgment and boredom.


Shubhajit said...

Facebook is an addiction. I see people leaving personal messages and even what they eat, when they sleep and all nonsense. but its a pretty good medium to keep in touch with old friends..I have found many childhood acquaintances in this social site.

Personally i feel social networking uses lots of our time..if we are alone in our mind we don't need any such curiosity to sneak peak into people's lives.

guillermo said...

Don't you think that this new trend of playing games online is kind of isolating people?

ines said...

I think life is becoming each time move virtual and less real, and social games are a clear example of it. I hope real life does not disappear completelly.

the walking man said...

Don't ask me because all of that stuff makes about as much sense as ill will, which to me makes no sense at all.

Charles Gramlich said...

I play plenty of games but not social ones. I do think games provide a lot of mental stimulation and fun.

J said...

Mariana, I am currently reading a lecture by Stephen Hawking, and he raises a point that I have been thinking about in a way for some time. It is very off topic so if you want to push it to email I don't mind, but your readers would probably have something to say and I would like to see.
A quote
"In the standard positivist approach to the philosophy of science, physical theories live rent free in a Platonic heaven of ideal mathematical models. That is, a model can be arbitrarily detailed and can contain an arbitrary amount of information without affecting the universes they describe. But we are not angels, who view the universe from the outside. Instead, we and our models are both part of the universe we are describing. Thus a physical theory is self referencing."

I have accepted for convenience that thinking about physics is like Hawking says, separate from the world. It seems that way because we have our imaginative capacity. Really though, our thinking apparatus is a part of the physical world about which it thinks and must have a feedback to the no-self world.
People have been modelling the world for a long time, why does the universe make these incomplete models appear in our minds?

What is the relation of the model to the reality?

On my computer I run a climate model. This computation causes the release of CO2, in a small amount. This has to feedback into the greater system, and the same goes even for thinking, which uses energy resources.

I wonder what is the effect on the whole of producing all these incomplete models, and what direction this is all going in.

Is symbolic thinking a degradation, a clouding of understanding, a distorted mirror image of the world?

My other point that I would like to raise is to do with autism.
There is an autistic guy called Daniel Tammet. He can perform amazing calculations because he does not use conventional symbolic thinking, but instead he has a visual method of doing mathematics which is much more intuitive and rapid.
This suggests to me that our hundreds of years of mathematics has all been done the hard slow way, and some of the greatest minds are actually just the best at a bad technique.

Coincidentally, Graphics chips are much quicker at climate modelling for the BOINC software that I use.

I wonder if symbolic thinking can survive, I wonder if it will fade away in favour of superior methods.

I hope that is not too much Mariana, I should really get my own blog but I'd like to know what you and your friends think.

Janet K said...

These games and social goods are like painting by numbers instead of painting. People are scared to write, paint, sing, etc even in little ways. They compare themselves to the best the world has to offer and, of course, find they are not in that class - so they don't do creative things. They are starved for an outlet for their creativity and so they do some pseudo creative thing like Facebook games. Good luck to them and I hope some find other ways to entertain themselves that give more satisfaction. If they can't then at least they have their 'farms'.

Mariana Soffer said...

Not necesarily, is a tool and it can be used in a way that produces isolation but also in a way that provides benefits

Mariana Soffer said...

I do also feel that sometimes (life becoming more virtual). But I do not know what are the consecuences of that, a long analysis should be done I guess, to understand this better.

Mariana Soffer said...

the walking man:
Before it didn't make any sense to me either, but now I started working in a social network game company and I am starting to understand a little the appeal and the reassons behind their existence and success.

Mariana Soffer said...

Charles Gramlich:
I agree games can stimulate the mind a lot, keep it active and trained. Indeed kids games are a way for them to learn and be prepared to analogous situations in real life.

Mariana Soffer said...

I agree this is off topic, but since it is you and it is very interesting I will say a few words about it.
You say "I have accepted for convenience that thinking about physics is like Hawking says, separate from the world" I do not completelly agree with this, I think they are related and maybe even integrated.
I am not also sure we have incomplete models, maybe the models are complete, but can be applied to only one angle of a certain phenomena.
Models relate to reality by partially explaining/describing real phenomena.
The problem with models is that people belive they are the reality, they are exactly the rules that rule reality, and they are not, they are just the rules from a single viewpoint.

If you have questions that are killing you, log into make yourself a user and participate in that community. Please do it and let me know how it went with that.

Mariana Soffer said...

Janet K:
What a strong opinion Janet, It is completelly valid dough, I also think this games are simulations for the real. The thing is that I am not sure they are not able to play a satisfactory part in our life, that complements the real ones, maybe we are not choosing them just for being scared to live, maybe there are other reasons too.
A pleasure to see you here, and a very interesting response.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back at it, Mariana! Have a virtual (HUG!) on me. :)

To start with, I think Caesar was just trying to humor the crowd with that statement. Otherwise, I seriously disagree. Physically, we need food and security. Mentally, we need love and affection. If Life is but a game, then what is there to win? More Life? So then, what do the losers get? Less Death? (I'll have to assume that in the case of a tie the winnings go to that Big Bookie In The Sky.)

As far as those Facebook games go, I'm inclined to agree with Janet and Mark. At least, real ballgames require some physical exertion. Perhaps, when it comes to spare time, the clue to how we see it lies in what we believe as individuals. Can we lay waste to Time? Can we waste time? Isn't the brain always learning, always seeking, always adjusting itself to its primary conditions? For my part, my spare time is hard-earned, so I like to spend it wisely (whatever that means).

We are competitive creatures by Nature. We love to win. It gives us a sense of fulfillment. Full tummy, full ego, full of pride...good to go! Did I mention anything about how arrogant we are, thanks to Mother N? No, I didn't.


For my off-topic note, concerning our course of interest, I will say, I read "King Of The Beats", a biography on Kerouac. OMG!!! I had no idea. And girl, did I learn a history lesson or two. After reading that, I got another bio on another author. Perhaps you have heard of him, Edgar Allen Poe? So far, it's turned out to be a very interesting lesson in that historical period in literature as well.

Who are you reading now? Take care, sweet niece! Sending you love and best wishes, Uncle Tree

foam said...

a few months before my mother passed away from alzheimers, when her death was basically written on the wall, i looked into a few of these games since i was always getting invited by fb friends anyway. i did start playing. i think for me these games provided a repetitive kind of stress relieve to deal with grieving. i quit the day my mother passed away. i don't really see these games on fb anymore since i hide the application. they hold no interest for me anymore.

Brian Miller said...

i think a subtext of this too is the disconnectedness that is ever increasing in society. it give people an easy substitute for actual realationships that are much easier to manage.

Mariana Soffer said...

Brian Miller:

Well there was a tweet I was writting related to that, which it reffers to intimacy, I think that subject has a lot to do with this phenomenom. People are becoming more afraid of it, so they prefer not to risk themself by exposure.

Mariana Soffer said...

I agree that in lots of cases facebook is an adiction, but it is also a helpfull tool.

Sorry but I do not get why you say "if we are alone in our mind we don't need any such curiosity to sneak peak into people's lives."
Thanks for commenting

Mariana Soffer said...

Happy to see you here too, I also send you a virtual and strong hugh.
I must tell you that I do not agree with Caesar either, but I thought it was an interesting way to finish (simply, not in a very profound way) the post. But to tell you the truth for what I know that might have been his true belief.

It is also very interesting your reflection on what wasting time means, who knows? who is that wise to decide? as you said our brain is still processing and learning all the time no matter what we are doing.

Maybe our need to win is an inherited quality from less evolutioned beings such as chimps that need to show they are better than the others in order to be the ones that rule the community. Maybe our brain has hardwired the need to be succesfull in our communities.

Interesting I actually read his famous book on the road recently but I must confess I did not like it much. Well Poe is one of my favourite writters ever, indeed one of the reasons I tried to learn english since I was a kid was to be able to read his marvelous poems in the original language.

Nowadays I am reading Irene Niemerovsky, who was a french woman that died in the concentration camps, but before that managed to write wonderful novels.

Send you love

Mariana Soffer said...

Very interesting how those games helped you to cope with those difficult moments. I believe they filled some kind of gap you needed to cover. But It seems that when you did not have that need any more, those games do not have an appeal to you.

Thanks a lot for sharing your story

Harlequin said...

hail ceasar!
so everything old is new again. those romans had lots on the ball when it came to social analysis.

i can see how belongingness needs (a la mazlow's hierarchy) are a strong driver for so many social networks as well as the simple desire to be noticed and feel important.

i remain baffled somewhat with the virtual economies, but at some level i do see the convenience of acquisition, if nothing else.
thanks for another tasty morsel.

J said...

Well Mariana, I made myself a blog to ask my questions starting with one that has been bugging me lately.

Val said...

I feel the key to all this, is that none of it is real. I agree that (anti) social networking is an addiction. Most of the people connecting to each other have the same unhealthy relationships with each other as you would find among crack addicts or alcoholics sharing a pipe or drink. The bonding begins and ends with the rush of yakking and playing pretend. I feel the whole phenomenon will result in a new type of mental illness, and one that won't be so easy to treat. It's tragic because it's damaging young people before they even have a chance to live a 'real' life in the 'real' world and experience relationships with substance and the healthy challenges and rewards that define human relationships. Very sad stuff this is.

Mariana Soffer said...

I agree about the romans maybe they where not perfect, but they where far from stupid.
Good point bringing here mazlow's hierarchy, it completely applies.
You know that it still happens to me that I can't understand why people pay, but the more I am living in this world, I feel like I am getting closer to understand it.
Besides don't forget that maybe we have mayor cultural differences with this people, such as country from where they are and age group.

Mariana Soffer said...

congratulations, that is the first great step. Now I suggest you to go and try to build a community that visits your blog. You can leave comments with your user and blog name in other blogs with similar interests. You can create a tweeter account to promote your posts.
But as a start why don't you check my google reader blogs, there you can find some grouped blogs by subjects, which you might find interesting. Choose those blogs you think are related to you and try leaving replies with not only your name (J), but also with a way for them to find your blog, so you can start interacting

Mariana Soffer said...

Well, let me tell you that I do believe intimacy is being lost, which is one of the marvelous things that living in the real life provides. People are afraid of it, so they prefer to pretend they live life instead of doing it for real.
On the other hand I do not think virtual lives only bring drawbacks. Remember you can get to know marvelous people trough it (we talked about this) that otherwise it would have been impossible. What is important is the balance you should keep in your mind by giving each virtual and real life it's proper place.

Val said...

Exactly true marianna, it is about balance and both are valuable it's just the vulnerability of children and teens that concerns me, it's as if it's a new kind of mind altering substance that is all tied up in relating. As with all new creations, it will hurt some and help some and only time will help us understand the technology and it's affect on our mental health so that we can refine it, make it better. HUGS

Rayuela said...

la gente usa las redes sociales adictivamente, tal vez, para no partcicipar de la realidad, para "dibujar" una vida que no es tal.
creo que el tema pasa por lo que cada uno de nosotros quiere, sabe o puede...lo importante es que la red no nos masifique hasta el punto de hacernos desaparecer.

besos, Mariana (deseo que estés bien)*

human being said...


the child is tame

the game is lame

the mask is fame

the child doesn't know the child
the child is lonely

the game is a link
the link is the breast

the child doesn't grow up
the child is retarded

the breast is made of silicone
god is a digital icon

the child is hungry:

the child robs you off your words
the child buys you off your clothes
the child talks you off your thoughts

the child imitates
the child never creates

the child never grows up

god is dead

the child doesn't know the child


Mariana Soffer said...

I think each one is responsible of how it handles the balance between virtual and real. But it is true that globalization has that big danger. It destroys individuality, therefore it destroys us.
Thanks a lot for the great reflection

Mariana Soffer said...

I think the key to prevent that to happen to children and teenagers is to teach them proper values, relate truthfull with them, be honest, and try to incentivate the magical things that can be done in real life.

Mariana Soffer said...

human being:
Guau, that is a fantastic and very strong poem, congratulations. I feel honored that you wrote it here. I do not have much to say about it, just that I understand what you talk about, it is strong and real, and it should be mentioned.

Hugs and take care

Rick said...

Hello again, Marian! Sorry to have been gone so long, but I've been tied up with a plagiarism case (I was the one plagiarized- I should make that clear), but I'm glad to drop by again.

Re your games question, I play only chess, which is, as everyone knows, more real than real life, and of which our day to day existence is but a mere reflection. That is, unless I lose. Then it is a very stupid game and a waste of time!

Mariana Soffer said...

I am really happy to see you here, but I am really sorry about the plagiary problem you had.

I like chess too, but somehow Go (I do not know if you know it) also results very attractive for me, dough I do not play it often.
I liked a lot what you metaphysics comentary at the end regarding reflexion. it is very good.
Thanks a lot for stepping by

Anonymous said...


am struck
by the idea of
facebook as colosseum

we are virtual gladiators... but who really is entertained?

as noted in comments above, there certainly can be a good side to all of this, too -- the key (as always) may be in balance and moderation

wishing you a wonderful summer!

× ×


Mariana Soffer said...

Hi my dear friend, like you said the key is in balance and moderation, as with everything in life.
To tell you the truth I do not know who gets entretained, at least I don't, but I guess I am not a very representative person.

Take care my friend

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool site you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.

Bella Hakkinen
ebony escorts in london

kj said...

my friend, i am late but glad to be here.

i can't warm up to facebook or twitter, and i have no interest in the games offered. i also like reconnecting through facebook but it is generally to brief and superficial for me. on the other hand, i lOVE my blog. i am addicted to it in a certain way--to hearing from people i like, love, value, respect, but i see that addiction as a positive one.

it sounds like you have a fascinating job. i would love to hear more about it.

love love, mariana,
take care


J said...

Mariana, did you get this story? This guy sold his virtual real estate for $650,000 real ones.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Bella Swenson
escort black

J said...

Yes, you are thinking, wonderful story J - where the hell is it?


Mariana Soffer said...

My dear friend, I am happy to see you here, thanks for that.
And I really apreciate you posting your personal opinions on this social trends, you clearly represent a certain (an important) segment of the population.

I will tell you more about my work in private, cause I can't do it publicly, I will make some time for writting.

Take lots of care and send you love!

Mariana Soffer said...

J: Sorry I did not got that story, what is the url, cause is not in the one you put above. I would love to know how he did it.

J:Exactelly I was thinking that. Thanks a lot it is a fantastic story

J said...

I would be happy selling a garden shed at those prices.

Now, here's a question. Are these social games prophetic in any way?
I notice that two of the most popular are Mafia Wars and Farmville.
I'm looking at lots of articles saying that we are heading for an energy shortage and a lot of people will either have to learn to grow their own food, or join a gang to survive in the near future.
It may be a wild thought, but do people have a subconscious feeling for the future that is attracting them to those games?
Is there educational potential there?

Mariana Soffer said...

very very interesting comment, I never thought about it that way, that they do it due to the future. I always thought more of living virtual lives, alienation, communication in virtual world, but your idea sounds amazing. Maybe is the popular subconscious

J said...

Yes, I agree that it could be seen as alienation, or just the same virtualization that all games have shown - from chess to table top war games.
I suppose that these will become more popular if unemployment in the industrialised nations keeps rising, after all we are now supposed to be in the post industrial age.
What's the betting that people are growing more healthy food online than they buy from the supermercado.
You have some readers from Detroit, I think, which has been gutted of industry in recent years I believe. Maybe they can say if people are yearning for a farming future.

J said...

Mariana, I have a bit of an answer to the detroit question, but it comes after a long talk on the energy economy. The lady says that indeed folk in Detroit are becoming agriculturalists.
I don't expect you to watch it all, the last couple of minutes says it.!

So yeah, maybe the interest in Farmville foretells a new way of life for what is now suburbia, but I don't think most people understand this. It also means there is no long term future for farmville because people may be too busy doing the real thing in their garden.

J said...

Mariana, I think I am a bit of a bore on this subject. I even bore myself. Not going to add to the conversation by waffling about gardening in Detroit am i? So, um... ah.

Anonymous said...

HaPpY BiRtHdAy, Mariana!

I hope my little birthday wish
finds you doing well today.

Luvz & Hugz from your favorite old Uncle Tree :)

Mariana Soffer said...

J:JL Interesting reflection about the times being you are right this is the post industrial era therefore the culture is less centered in working and more in leisure, things like playing games.

Your second post is also interesting but there is a problem with the argument people are as interested in playing farmville as they are in having a cafe, having their virtual house and participating in online crime.

And in reply to your thoughts about being a bore let me tell you that is not like that at all, I consider you a very interesting person.
Thank you for posting so much.

Mariana Soffer said...

TThank you very much my dear and lovely aunt, I really apreciate that you remember it and pass trough here. It makes me happy.

Jason Gusmann said...

aha! a happy belated birthday to you, mariana! i am pleased that to a new generation virtual goods are as valuable as physical ones (i.e. a step away from materialism) but am dismayed about the throwaway aspect of the culture infecting other avenues that i don't feel it should

bettyl said...

I've never quite figured out the social networking thingy, either. But then I've never been dependent on anyone but myself. Maybe that's the connection.

Mariana Soffer said...

Jason Gusmann:
Thank you very much Jason, it is nice of you to remember! I agree with what you say completelly, regarding virtual goods and also the cultural infection drawbacks.
Very smart observations
Take care my friend

Mariana Soffer said...

Hi bettly.
Well you could say that your own self is made of connections, completelly. For example look at the network of neurons in your brain and how they interact.
Bye bye

Anonymous said...

Mariana, would you believe I just saw the comment you left me back on nov. 9. I don't have all my email accounts streamlined into one- let this be a lesson for me! I hope your well, dear friend, and that everything is glorious in your world.

I for one don't play fb games- like someone said over here I like to be alone n my own mind I don't always need entertainment...but I'm old school: I like my books! They are my equivalent of fb games, I guess.

un abrazo

Anonymous said...

Mariana, would you believe I just saw the comment you left me back on nov. 9. I don't have all my email accounts streamlined into one- let this be a lesson for me! I hope your well, dear friend, and that everything is glorious in your world.

I for one don't play fb games- like someone said over here I like to be alone n my own mind I don't always need entertainment...but I'm old school: I like my books! They are my equivalent of fb games, I guess.

un abrazo

Mariana Soffer said...

Those things happen to me my dear friend, you know what I did? I made a private blog with all the websites/blogs/places I log and communicate with their passwords, so once in a while I go and check them.

I am kind of old school too dough I am transforming myself with this new world, actually I am worried cause I am not reading any more, I do not have the patience, and maybe is due to the games I need to play at work. I would love to return to books.

I send you a big hugh too and hope you are doing great.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Mariana!

I swear, I wish you some very merry holidays
and hope to hell the new year brings you
what Santa forgot to pack. You'll get yours. I know it.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Peace and love, sweet niece! Keith

Mariana Soffer said...

Thank you very much dear uncle you are such a sweethart, you have always been! I really care for you.
your blogging niece

Anonymous said...

wanted to come by and wish a marry christmas and a joyful new year..

Mariana Soffer said...

It makes me happier your nice wishes, actually I wanted to put you in my blogroll long time ago, and I guess is better latter than never, by the way I have seen you blog and it looks really cool and interesting.

foam said...

hope you had a wonderful christmas too, mariana.
and i'm wishing you a very happy new year!

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot my dear friend, I really apreciate your wishes for me.
Take care

J said...

Did you see about this, Mariana?

Mariana Soffer said...

J: Nice to see you!! I did not know about it, How interesting. I recomend you to open an account on tumblr and start collecting all these interesting things you see.

J said...

Well, I don't know, I will have a look.

Mariana, what do you think about bitcoin?

Funny you should say tumblr because I have never seen tumblr till today when I saw this guy here who is using virtual currency to travel round America.