Degrees of Connection

thought network

“Dinner is ready honey, can you set the table?”
“Just give me a minute, I’m just chatting to Taylor”
“Who’s Taylor?!”
“She’s an astronaut and she’s crash landed on a moon in outer space and I’m her only connection to humanity! We don’t even know which moon! She needs me!!”

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When I first told my husband about Lifeline, he thought I was being ridiculous. He was probably right. But there was something magical about that game. Game? Well, about that experience. Experience? Well, about that relationship. Yes, that’s it. I actually formed a relationship with Taylor.

The game, Lifeline, is an interactive text adventure for mobile. It’s a game that comes to you, rather than you going to it. And the mechanics? Time & notifications. Genius.

Why was I so drawn in? Because this adventure played out in real time. And my decisions affected the outcome of the story. And because I came to care about Taylor, and often found myself wondering “gee, I haven’t heard from Taylor in a few hours, I hope she made it down the side of that crater….!” And then…

DING!

It was Taylor!

It was also an intermittent reinforcement schedule, the good ole classical conditioning technique using a variable time schedule and the delightful sound of reinforcing notifications. Well played 3 Minute Games, well played.

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Yesterday, Facebook data scientists released a new research examining the degrees of separation (on average) of facebook users, globally. They compared it to the age old adage of ‘six degrees of separation’, and proposed that their data indicated that in fact, of the global 1.5 billion people on Facebook, that degrees of separation were an average of 3.5.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?

It means that, on average, every single person (on facey) is connected to every single other person (on facey) with only three and a bit other intermediary contacts.

In summary, we find that the world is more closely connected than you might think. – Core Data Science Team @ FB

Why is this important? The world is becoming more connected. More interactive. We are connected to more people and our social circles are larger than they have ever been before. Why? The internet. How? Because of massively increased availability due to socially powered networks, such as social media, and of course, online game networks.

It wasn’t all that long ago that being online was a relatively solitary experience. Those days are gone now, and shared experiences are the new norm.

It’s not surprising that on a national scale across Australia, people are now spending almost TRIPLE the amount of time online than they were only 10 years ago. In terms of games, the massive shift towards engaging in digital play is even more dramatic, with an estimated 68% of people engaging in game play of an average of an hour a day, according to the Digital Australia Report. The growth of the games industry has gone wild. I’m sure if you are remotely connected to the industry, you’ve no doubt heard the claim that the global games industry is now bigger than film and music industries combined, and shows no signs of slowing down.

For game developers, this is excellent news; “let’s develop more! And let’s develop all kinds of different technologies for play and connection!”. For players, industry growth is great news for the supply and demand cycle, meaning that lots of new & innovative interactive developments are assured to hit the market and delight. For educators and healthcare providers, this represents an exciting new opportunity to harness new technology for learning, positive change and healthcare provision. From a psychological perspective, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?! It certainly seems that engaging together online, and especially in play is satisfying some important psychological need. Psychologists, and writers here on PlayWrite have talked about this in articles about the importance of socialisation, and connection to others, and the recognition that video games satisfy universal psychological needs.

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I know, I know, I’ve gone and brought up a ridiculous number of points and different topics; how on earth am I going to wrap this up… I’ll give it a shot.

It’s about human connection. As our networks grow larger, and as our technologies grow cleverer (yes I know, that isn’t a word), and as our creatives grow creativer (I’m getting ridiculous now, aren’t I?), and as our deep seated need for socialisation and community doesn’t abate; our world is in the process of giving us new and amazing ways of meeting those needs, and making those connections.

So, was my connection with Taylor ridiculous? Or was it simply part of my hardwiring to connect, contribute & foster community? As interactive media helps us to evolve even tighter and closer, and yet bigger social networks, there are so many more ways to achieve these goals of connection and community that are so essential to our survival, especially in the case of shared play.

For many years, we have listened to the bad press of video games, the violence, the harassment, the potential for addiction, the “you’re wasting your time”… But shared interactivity, especially shared play, give us a really immediate way of connecting. I’m not just talking about connection with fictional characters like Taylor; I’m talking about genuine connection – with each other.

And that, my friends, is far from a waste of time.


PS Anyone up for a game tonight?