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According to research data, "weak social interactions" account for 31% of all reasons why players quit a mobile game, ranking in the first place.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

July 27, 2023

6 Min Read

The forms of social interaction nowadays have seen various evolutions, and the roles, spaces, and scenarios of social interaction are constantly being reconstructed. People's demands for expression and sharing have not disappeared, with many social interactions gradually shifting to online. On one hand, mature social apps are emerging; on the other hand, games became a medium for some players to interact with others.

According to research data, "weak social interactions" account for 31% of all reasons why players quit a mobile game, ranking in the first place.

So, why is social interaction so important in games?

For developers, social content differs from one-time consumption content (such as newly updated story), with less update pressure and stronger sustainability. Most online games rely on socialization to maintain player engagement long after their release, and socialization among players is also an important part of activating the game ecosystem; for players, interacting with others in game can provide a sense of recognition, belonging, which is also the main pleasure when the game is released for a long time.

Social interactions in games are often designed around the concept like cooperation, competition, supply and demand relationship. For example, players of similar level using different classes to achieve diverse combat effect when fighting bosses, players of different levels collaborating through large organizations or guilds to establish and achieve common goals, or meeting socialization needs through profit-sharing and resource trading activities.

In house system, social interaction gameplay is often based on a casual perspective of the game, creating more entertaining social experiences without adding burdens. Compared to traditional socializing, home socializing is more relaxed, and healing. It allows players to interact with acquaintances or strangers without pressure, helping them better integrate into the social ecology of the virtual world.

In the past research projects on various players, we have found that there are many types of home socialization gameplay, mainly divided into the following categories: management-oriented fun, home construction-oriented fun, and pure socialization-oriented fun.

1. Home resource exchange

Trading is the most common way to drive social interaction in games, and this is no exception in home system. For example, in Animal Crossing, players exchange things in cross-island trading, while in Revelation Mobile, players visit their friends' homes to buy rare flower species to exchange for home currency. This "differentiation" and "scarcity" can effectively motivate players and make them eager to visit others’ homes.

Specifically, in Animal Crossing, many players who enjoy collecting items say that social interaction (visiting other players' islands) is a must-do in the game. Since players are born in the northern or southern hemisphere, they have different (limited season) insects and fish, which account for a large proportion of the game's collection elements. Although the seasons change, since the game is synchronized with real time, players need to travel back and forth between the two hemispheres to quickly collect items, and visiting each other's homes has become a necessary social activity in the game.

In addition, Animal Crossing also incorporates a lot of random elements. Furniture, flower seeds, and wallpaper randomly refresh in stores; clothing sold in stores would be unlocked with progress; and some random limited events such as carpet merchants showing up (this type of event is an important way for players to obtain rare items). The random factor means that going to friends' or strangers' houses from time to time can always discover new surprises, further stimulating players' desire for this type of social interaction.

2. Multi-player interaction and activities within their homes.

Mutual benefit (helping friends water, pick vegetables, etc.) and entertainment (playing music, dancing, playing chess and cards, etc.) are common multiplayer interactions in home system of many games. Some furniture interactions that can create beautiful memories together, and mini casual games that create laughters together, are also highly demanded social needs among players.

Apart from small interactive items or casual gameplay, many players believe that holding party activities at home is also a great way for promoting social interaction among players' small circles. It is worth mentioning that the party gameplay does not have any rewards like items or game currencies. What players can gain is the opportunity to become friends with neighbors who come to the party.

3. Building a home and community for players

While visiting friends, living virtually with multiple players, interacting and entertaining, creating a group's small world is also a social activity for many players. In some games, couples/roommates particularly enjoy the process of building a home bit by bit. Even players of different servers could potentially build a house together in some online games.

Apart from communities like this where familiar friends interact, the home (or neighborhood) can also create opportunities for strangers to socialize. There are some random mechanisms (such as placing players in different groups each time you log in the social system) that create distance for players who do not really like socializing, and also bring a special social experience to players. Every time you log in, there will be new neighbors, and some of them might become your friends. From watering plants and petting cats for neighbors, to completing a two-player action with the person next door, to starting a party and inviting neighbors in your home...finally, a larger and more vibrant social network is formed.

4. The spontaneous social interaction brought about by players building their own homes.

The home system is often accompanied by a high degree of freedom in construction and decoration gameplay. Players are sometimes committed to using house building to express various creative ideas, which can often attract a large number of players and bring about spontaneous social activities. Some players in Animal Crossing like to try to bring real-life scenes into the game and leave important moments in game. For example, Japanese pixel artist BAN-8KU held a virtual exhibition which attracted a large number of players to visit; a Twitter player named WhimsyWool moved his canceled graduation ceremony into a game, and the 18-second video instantly gained 1.5 million views and 200,000 likes; many players also held virtual weddings during the pandemic in Animal Crossing and posted them on social media...

5. Summary

There are mainly three types of socialization and fun that players can obtain through the home system: 1) socialization derived from house management activities (such as harvesting vegetables, watering, feeding, and exchanging special resources, etc.) from management, 2) socialization derived from house building activities (such as displaying and inviting visitors to watch home decoration and design, building homes together, etc.) from home construction, and 3) pure socialization derived from inertacting activities (such as interactive items and social mini gameplay within the home).

For houses in game, which serves as a social scene, most players care about whether it can simulate real-life feeling with lively atmosphere. They view the home as a leisure place for socializing with acquaintances and will have gatherings, conversations, dances, and even celebrate weddings with friends in the house. At the same time, they are also open to meeting friendly strangers through the home system and interacting with them. Meanwhile, the home is no longer limited to an individual's small space but has gradually formed into a larger community with more people, thus forming a deeper social circle in game.

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