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Reynolds: In Social Games, It's Not (Just) About Fun

Veteran developer (Civilization II, Rise of Nations) and Zynga chief game designer Brian Reynolds discusses the differences between making traditional and so
Veteran developer (Civilization II, Rise of Nations) and Zynga chief game designer Brian Reynolds discusses the differences between making traditional and social games -- which he calls "really exciting" to work in. Speaking to Gamasutra in a new feature-length interview, Reynolds says that he likes his new position, which he took last year. Compared to massive current productions, which aren't always focused on design, working at Zynga is "just game mechanics; straight game mechanics. That's cool!" However, his mindset from working on traditional PC games had to change, says Reynolds. "I spent 18, 19 years designing traditional games, particularly strategy games, and it was all about fun," he explains. "Fun was the number one thing, and, once you'd made the game fun, you knew you were gonna succeed; if you didn't make the game fun, you knew you probably weren't going to succeed very well. Everything was based around that." What's most interesting about social games to Reynolds is that the social element itself is generally more important than the fun. "It's the quality of the social interaction, and it's because the social interactions are with your real friends, not just people that you met online," he adds. Reynolds says that working this way is a "huge learning curve", and that for traditional developers entering the social space, "the most important thing is humility; it's coming in and realizing that it's not about the same thing." Reynolds continues, "You've got to come in and embrace the socialness of it and learn the socialness of it. There will be a place for your knowledge of game mechanics, but you've got to kind of unlearn that first, particularly unlearn the idea that that's the most important thing, that that's what it's all about. Then you'll find ways to integrate it in." The full feature-length interview, Brian Reynolds On His Social Transition, is live today at Gamasutra.

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