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12:40pm on Wednesday, 31st July, 2013:

Connecting Pretend People


I half half a dozen or more Facebook IDs for testing games. They have names such as Richard Le Bart and Richard El Trab. They're pretend people, but not people I'm pretending to be.

In role-playing games, people are pretending to be other people (at least in theory). It's not that you're being sneaky — everyone knows you're not really a magic-wielding gnome — but you are wearing a different identity. Shouldn't that identity have a social network connection to the characters that it knows? Not the people that you know, but the characters your character knows.

This is the sort of thing it would be quite easy to integrate into an MMO. Screenshots could be uploaded automatically, there could be Unity-rendered 3D images of your avatar's face instead of a flat photo, you could load/edit lists of friends and followers. You could chat from out-of-game with characters who are in-game. It could work really well with games that have a contemporary setting.

Unlike most social networks, which really, really want to know your real identity so they can sell it to people who want you to buy their stuff, this social network would be explicitly disassociated with real life. It would be an out-of-game extension of the game world's fiction that, paradoxically, increased in-game immersion. What we have at the moment for MMOs is either some kind of armoury-style web-based character database lookup, telling you how few vampires they've slain and how miserable their achievements are, or guild pages so you can sign up for raids and chat with your guildmates and no-0ne else. Allowing people to decide what information about their characters is visible to others would be nice; allowing people to communicate with their friends rather than merely their guildmates would be even better.

I like the idea, anyway...

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Copyright © 2013 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).