Social Games

LiSC has a research interest in social play with technology, and how technologically mediated interactions change the nature of the play experience. As part of a variety of larger projects, LiSC has created a range of social game artifacts that have been used to experimentally test theories of social play in both face-to-face and online contexts. These are presented below. In addition, LiSC publications and invited talks on the subject are presented below the games.


– Fearsquare is a mashup of crime data with Foursquare checkins. It allows users to see how dangerous are each of the places they use frequently. It then challenges them by asking them to visit more dangerous places to earn more points…

– “A Game for Closet Sociopaths” where players use mobile devices to tag the people around them in social situations with hidden tags that are only visible by other players.

– a game where you must smuggle virtual drugs through real airport security. Blowtooth is a locative game that uses bluetooth to make airports more entertaining places to use, and is a subversion of the constant heavy surveillance experienced at airports.

– A social game of the International fruit trade, where players can only add new fruit by trading with people from other countries. Players must create diversity but manage the environmental impact of their trading.

– A collecting game on Facebook, where players must help one another create obscure collections of strange things, in order to be crowned “King of the Magpies”.

Familiars 2 – A reflective social experience, where a virtual animal companion changes its form based on your social behaviour on Facebook.

Familiars – A game about roaming virtual agents that collect artifacts from around the world while maintaining online blogs about their adventures.

Emergence in Social Games

Kirman, Ben (2010) Emergence and playfulness in social games. In: MindTrek 2010, 6th October – 8th October 2010, Tampere, Finland.

Although this paper is about social games exclusively, the appearance of runaway hit Minecraft prompted a change in focus of the presentation. The talk, shown below, talks about emergence in Minecraft and how it relates to the same playfulness with which many players of Social Games such as Farm Town engage.

The presentation was well received – Sebastian Deterding does a great job of placing these points in context, and talking about the importance of “underspecifying” in game design.

Network Analysis and Social Games

Ben Kirman from LiSC was invited to give a talk at Games Convention Online 2010 in Leipzig about his research on network analysis and games.
It summarises findings from over 4 years of statistical analysis of the social interactions between players of social games (millions of players and tens of millions of interactions). It describes the most interesting features – that there is definitely a hardcore/casual split, that players behave in different social ways (eg when choosing to play in clusters or reciprocal behaviour) It also describes 4 patterns or archetypes of social behaviour that emerge from the spaghetti of social interactions.

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