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Harnessing User-Generated Content in Mobile Games

User-generated content is a great way to make intriguing new content for players on PC and console. On mobile, UGC is not as common. We've been fostering UGC on mobile with Episode, an interactive storytelling network. Here's some of what we've learned.

Cass Phillipps, Blogger

February 24, 2015

5 Min Read

As a rule of thumb (or thumbs in this case), the better a game is, the stronger its community will be. Anyone who’s recently tuned in to a League of Legends tournament on Twitch or played a heavily modded version of Skyrim can attest to the power of community and user-generated content (UGC) in games.

UGC has historically been tied very closely to PC gaming. Games like Team Fortress and Skyrim have seen vibrant communities spring out of mods and in-game level editors. Valve has even made UGC a viable business for players, paying out a combined $57M to item creators in Steam Workshop.


But where is this on mobile? While some developers have begun to implement UGC in mobile, it’s usually tightly restricted inside the confines of the game. Due to the more closed-nature of mobile development, it’s not as easy for players to take initiative in the creative process. Mobile developers have to build and foster UGC tools for their players.

one another.


At Pocket Gems, we’ve been building ways to harness UGC with Episode, an interactive mobile storytelling network that seeks to democratize storytelling. Episode allows anyone to create an animated interactive story and release instantly to our mobile audience. In fostering UGC, Episode has seen over 1 million people sign up to create.


Accessibility is key. To get players hooked, the tools needs to be fun to use, and players need to see the fruits of their labor quickly and easily. If you can build an experience where your average player can create something of their own,  implement it immediately, and then share it with others, you’ve got lightning in a bottle. While Episode is still growing in this respect, community response has been unprecedented in how committed player-creators have become to the platform.


A successful mobile developer not only teaches players to use their tools, but also empowers players to educate each other. Especially when UGC involves implementing a new technology, you’re going to depend heavily on your player base to show you how the tools are received, find bugs and even discover hacks to build new things you hadn’t thought of.


Mobile developers should make it easy for players to share these tips through forums and social media. It’s important to not censor these platforms, as deleting negative posts breaks the trust between the developer and the community. Instead, engage with players as they have valuable insight.


While UGC is an amazing thing, it’s not a silver bullet and can open up a whole new set of problems. For example, the general player community can confuse Episode’s UGC with approved professional content. If a mobile developer is encouraging UGC, there should be equal respect for both the player and the professional creators.


We strive to be clear when introducing players to unreviewed content, and be diligent at curating content so only the best surface to the top. Conversely, we also need to be honest with players on how their content is surfaced.


We’ve seen that players will invest more of themselves into an app that allows them to create content for others. The player is able to feel that they are a part of something bigger when they can contribute to a game that they already enjoy.


With UGC, players are given an important role in creating content, which in turn will generate more downloads and a more engaged community. Also, when players can burn through games in a few days, empowering your community to create fresh content is a pretty enticing deal for any developer.


Next week, I’ll be speaking more about this at GDC and why other developers should consider making tools for UGC and empowering their communities to share and learn from. Hope to see you there!


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