Social Gaming

No I’m not going to be talking about Farmville, not mafia wars either. I’m talking a different sort of social gaming.

Something is changing with the way we play our games and the way we interact with our friends; games are getting social. The idea for this article came about while I was playing Blur last night – it’s rammed with a whole host of sociable features: Twitter, Facebook and its own little social site in the form of, all of which exist outside of the game.

Twitter and Facebook… man those two words must annoy the hell out of anybody who isn’t in to the whole social networking thing. They are everywhere! It seems that every TV show, soft drink, film, website and religious figure has a “like” page on Facebook, a Twitter account or both.

Jesus has returned! And he's on Twitter

In a completely shameless plug so is GamingLives, and links to both are at the in the top right hand corner of the site – ohhhh glowey buttons.

It's Mario Kart meets Wipeout .

Right let’s get back on track. So in Blur you have a plethora of different options: after finishing a race you can post from inside the game to either your Twitter or Facebook accounts what your position was in the race or the time you finished the race in. Your friends or followers will then see it and can try and beat it if they want. If you’re not into the social networking thing you can challenge your friends from your friends list and the next time they play the game a little pop up tells them they have a challenge, and if they beat it you get notified and can try to better that. There is even a menu option that keeps track of your scores against your friends.  This isn’t a review for Blur by the way so I’ll stop banging on about it but the way it lets you interact with your friends is something I think we’re going to start seeing more of in games. You can upload any photos you take in game to Facebook too, which was nice.

Anybody that knows me knows that I am a complete social networking whore! Even as I am writing this my Facebook is open on the other half of my screen and Twitter is open on my iPhone. Sad I know, it has almost become an addiction; if I’m not gaming I’m reading your profile and looking at your pictures. Err I mean updating my status.

Red Dead’s free roam is another new experience for console gamers, the PC bunch have been at it for years just on a bigger scale with the likes of Warcraft. Flick the switch over to public free roam and suddenly there are a handful of other posses roaming around the west all doing different things, one group could be trying to knife bears to death while another is stealing gold from a mine and the rest are having a shootout in the middle of Armadillo. Everybody is playing in the same space, its great… well it’s great until you get a bit carried away shooting lawmen and a large bounty is put on your head.  At that point there are fifteen other people that all want the xp reward for killing you – my advice is head north and hope the bears get them before they get you. Red Dead’s great anyway, have a read of Ben’s review if you’re still on the fence.

A small selection of the GamingLives crew - Try and guess which avatar belongs to who

Now do you remember the days before party chat on Xbox Live? You’d talk to people and make new friends it was a sociable place, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in a past post but some of my best friends I’ve met on Xbox Live. To the casual gamers among you, that might seem what you call “sad” but it’s not… while you’re watching The One Show I’m knocking a new friend off his horse in Red Dead Redemption or ramming Kat up against a wall in Blur. But when party chat came along all of a sudden we were all playing with our friends in our own comfort zones, it’s a great feature for Xbox Live and it’s good to have it, especially when you’re catching up with friends and you’re all on different games. I don’t think I’ve touched the old “private chat” since it was added but party chat has made us a little anti social – we don’t talk to the randoms anymore. I’m not saying I hate my invisible friends, I love them all to bits in a “fist bump for the dudes and cuddles for the girls” kind of way but I also miss the razor sharp wit of Xbox Live gamers. Some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard were on Xbox Live. I remember playing Forza 2 late one night with friend, some random Americans and a few others, and if you have never played Forza online… it’s an odd experience.  It’s kind of an unwritten rule that you have to be polite, not crash into anybody and warn the person in front that you are over taking them so that they can politely move out of your way. It goes without saying that I don’t race this way – I just want to win. I won’t actively crash into people but I’m not letting people pass, eventually somebody bumped somebody in this one race and an American span out and wrote his car off.  He was not happy, and I won’t repeat what he said, but just think about every bad thing you ever heard on Xbox Live – it was just like that. Then, after he’d calmed down, a soft voice with a hint of brummie (that’s somebody from Birmingham for our international readers) says “it’s no good moaning mate, your six hours behind the rest of us. You should be more alert”.  Halo 3 is another place to hear the brilliance of Xbox Live users – some of the best disses I have ever heard come from a Halo lobby and, without question, these guys have the sharpest wit of us all.

Gaming is good fun but we know that.  If it was like work we would all want paying for it, but it’s even more fun with friends. The extended network us gamers have built, and the services we use around our gaming habits are, for me, some of the best things about gaming,  whether your preferred methods be forums, Facebook or Twitter. Can you believe I just said the best thing about gaming is not actually gaming?

Just one more thing...

That seems like a nice point to end on but like Columbo there is just “one more thing.”

On behalf of GamingLives and all the writers I want to say thanks to everybody who has ever commented on a post, signed up to the forum, @mentioned us on Twitter and “liked” us on Facebook. The only reason we do it is because we love it and it means a lot that you guys get involved. We’re not even close to our first birthday yet but the amount of you that read these articles and visit the site is really amazing.

We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we post in a business of tough competitors.

We love you.

You… complete… us

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Kat says:

    Me? Rammed into a wall? Pfft. I like shunting you sideways until you explo… never mind!

    I looooove the social side of gaming although 99.9% of the time with friends only as opposed to public lobbies. There are often very funny happenings in those public games but due to the high “knob quota” I stay away. I’d rather play with the knobs I call friends ^_^

    The one I don’t like is everything being automated with Twitter and Facebook. If there comes a day that all games are tied in and my feeds become purely a list of who’s scored what/achievements earned etc then I’ll sob slowly and start a MySpace revival.

    Oh, yeah, and that cowgirl stripper avatar…? She’s hawt ^_^

  2. Lee says:

    oh the raptr updates all seemed like a good idea but they are slowly making a mess of my twitter and facebook feeds, I’ve turned all mine off – maybe thats the only bad thing about “social gaming”

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Social networking within gaming isn’t something that I’ll openly embrace, mainly because I believe that a console exists for playing games and PCs should deal with social networking. Getting messages while I’m playing, or being asked to join a party chat, just annoys the hell out of me and I’ll mostly reply by SMS using my ‘phone as I have no interest whatsoever navigating the on-screen keyboard to type back a lengthy reply. When Facebook and Twitter came to XBox, so many people were excited at how they could now sit on their XBox and keep up with their Facebook updates… why? Why not keep up with Facebook through your laptop or PC and just shut down from the social aspect for a couple of hours while you enjoy gaming?

    I’m not saying that it’s WRONG to combine Facebook/Twitter with XBox Live but I’m certainly glad that I was given a CHOICE rather than having it thrust upon me by the powers that be.

    The number of people I’ve hidden on Facebook because of Mafia Wars, Farmville, Pet Scrotum, Fishy Fingers or any of the other games is incredible… it’s not enough to actually hide the apps, because they just keep going on about the games on their feeds anyway. There isn’t a single Facebook game that posts up to my wall anymore because, as soon as the first update hits my account, that app is hidden. I’ve also hidden the annoying “[insert name here] earned two and a half million True Achievement points for managing to get their arse out of bed before 5pm” status update as they were also doing my head in.

    When it comes to social gaming, I’m happy to chat to people if I’m actually playing with them but only if that’s the case. I won’t send them messages over Live, I won’t send them voicemails, I won’t send them photos from the webcam, I certainly won’t use Twitter or Facebook and I want to just be allowed to concentrate on the job in hand. In silence, and total darkness, if possible.

    That said, I DO think that Twitter and Facebook are great for other things. I enjoy reading through the various Rare, Lionhead, Sega (etc) Tweets to see what’s going on in the gaming world and who’s beating who to the finish line for the next big release.

  4. Kat says:

    Def t’wasn’t a dig at your Twitter Lee. I don’t have a prob with the odd raptr update, it’s only when all friends sign up, then do the true achievements rubbish (lolz @ Mark), then youtube, then lovefilm, then Spotify, THEN to add individual games potentially spamming social networking sites. That’s when it all gets too much. I want to see friends moaning about stuff, sharing their news or ponderings etc not automated Tweets all the time. There’s only one or two people on my Twitter that annoy me with that stuff. You and the other GL folk certainly aren’t one of them.

    Wish that MarkuzR would shut up though. God he’s ALWAYS on Twitter spamming away ;)

    Oh! So as not to be too moany, I do like the “sending challenges” thing within a game itself. Like Blur does. It encourages a little social competition. That’s cool.

  5. Lee says:

    @kat: sorry kat i wasnt getting at you i turned it off weeks ago! it pleases me that you thought you’d upset me though, and yeah markuzR is a bad spammer :-P

  6. Kat says:

    Oh thank god, I was about to move on to a grovelling apology :P

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    I’m one of those curmudgeonly types who moaned abot the inclusion of Facebook and Twitter on my Xbox…grumbling away about how ‘proper console gaming’ is being erroded…but then every time I’m in a mobile phone shop trying to find a phone that is actually a phone and not a fucking digital camera/bread mixer/camcorder, I am the same.

    I’d agree that some gaming stuff on Facebook and Twitter cna be fine, but the automated updates can be plain irritating…double posts to Twitter and FB which are identical are also grating. Okay, on Twitter you have limited characters, so you may go to FB to expand, but don’t just have exactly the same thing. Anyway…I also hide most of the gaming app stuff and as for the True Achievement nonsense, well, yawn. ‘You heartless gloaters!’

    These things are a good way to stumble across new folks though, get a little bit of banter going and catch latest news and competitions due to their immediacy and viral nature. Also our Twitter head honcho is awesome ;) And he rammed Kat against a wall…hurrr hurr. ;)

  8. Richie richie says:

    Columbo for the WIN!

    I don’t want any part of Twitter/Facebook et al on the 360. Just games and gamerscore.

    Party chat is good though and that’s social right?

  9. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Nuts to social gaming. I’m an anti-social grump, and you’re trying to steal the last refuge I have! Fricking kids and their social skills.

    Party chat I concede can have uses. For when the in-game chat channel craps out on you and stops working for no apparent reason, as it did to Pete and I in Burnout once. But I’ve never signed up to Twitter or Facebook or any of that guff, and I don’t intend to. I play games on my console. Very occasionally I will try to play a DVD on my console, in a moment of madness where I become convinced that up-scaled movies look better, because sleep deprivation does that to you.

    I’m not altogether fond of people being able to see what I’m playing at all. I once got a message from someone on my friends list just to tell me that the game I was playing was total shit. Even though I quite enjoy it. Another time I was razzed because I was playing a game on the easy difficulty, just looking for a relaxing diversion. And the whole achievement thing goes over my head too… “I have more achievements than you at INSERT GAME TITLE HERE! Hah! I’m better than you!” “Yeah… well, you’re still an arsehole. And I’m playing the game to have fun. Enjoy grinding away at some shitty title for the gamerscore you nonce.”

    Social gaming suffers from the same problem as traditional socialising. Other people.

  10. Lee says:

    maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree then. i love it

  11. Samuel The Preacher says:

    You have the (dis)advantage of being socially able to the Nth degree, Lee, heh. I’m perfectly content to agree to disagree because you’re a cool guy. I shall say no more about the matter, my beef is with the subject at hand and not you my friend!

    I know it tickles a lot of people’s parsnips, it just isn’t my kind of thing. But then I’ve seriously considered living in a cave with a power generator and an extensive library of books and games, cut off from the rest of humanity. We’re kind of at different extremes of the spectrum when it comes to this, heh.

  12. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I love parsnips.

  13. Kat says:

    Lee is our social butterfly, he has wings, Tweeting has set him free to flit between the flowers that make up the Gaming Lives garden. Fly little Lee, fly!

  14. Ben Ben says:

    I like Twitter, hate Facebook.

  15. Edward Edward says:

    Generally, I like the idea of Facebook and Twitter integration if it can be used well, but it hasn’t yet been.
    We’re still at the stage where games are like “ooh, we can do this! Let’s spam it and make it go on forever with no moderation!” Where if it was used with moderation, it’d be more interesting, like if you’re searching for people to play a game with you, you could then send a tweet or status with “Titsaplenty Wants to Play Nutshooter: The Crackening”

    It’ll get better as it goes on, it’s still at the stage of infancy. I hope.

  16. Adam Adam says:

    I know it’s off topic but as everyone else was mentioning it: The inclusion of Twitter and Facebook is an odd one. I’m not on Facebook anymore (because I’m fricking cool ok?) but when I was, it was odd to use it their. You couldn’t navigate it in the same way that you do on a pc, I couldn’t find anymore I wanted to without having to mash through too many menus and doing anything was generally just a pain. I find the Twitter app also pretty useless compared to it’s desktop counterpart BUT (of course there was a but), we are all tech savvy people in a tech savvy world. A lot of this is common place to us and I’d guess we’re all the first to get annoyed when we’re sat trying to talk Mum through doing something on a computer, all the while thinking ‘How can you not have figured this out by now’. I hear so many people working on a bar talking Facebook non-stop and how they were on it for 3 hours last night and they did this that and t’udder. I know I spent more time than is humanly acceptible on it (around an hour total a day -everyday) but that would be an hour spent contacting people and being a creepy stalker. How the fudge you can extend that by another 2 scares the crap outta me.

    It being on the Xbox makes perfect sense when you consider (I’m just going to brand them and be viscious with it) stupid people probably make great use of it. Pachter has spoke up for it and defended Microsoft for bringing it to the Xbox by talking about how it attracts so many more people to it who if they were thinking of getting into gaming, they’d stand in the shop and have the salesman say -You know what a Wii is, do you want one? No? Ok, well that leaves the PS3 and the Xbox. Both do HD gaming, they pretty much have the same games, Xbox has an amazing internet service (we wont tell them you have to pay for it at this stage) and the PS3 has Blu Ray. Whats that? You don’t want to upgrade your dvd collection to blu ray yet? You don’t really care? Well this one has Netflix, Last.Fm, Facebook, SkyTV, ESPN, Facebook and Twitter, the other one? Yeah, it has Blu-ray.

    Microsoft haven’t been intrusive with FB and Twitter on the console. I don’t use Twitter on their, not even to check anything. It’s quicker to do it on my phone which is better set up to deal with anything I find on there. What I love is the premise that Lee has said Blur does by linking you to your friends and allowing you to post challenges. That type of Gameplay is massively addictive. Beating someone head to head is one thing, but shaving .4 of a second off their best lap and ruining the 3 hours of their life spent trying to best that? Can’t knock it. The FB and Twitter intergrations means that they’re given a reason to come back to the game when they’re not playing it too which with something like Blur really can benefit from. If it wasn’t for that, the game would be dependant on you actually putting it in to check the latest and what was going on. Sites like Rockstar Social Club are fantastic for the detail and community updates you get but tell me honestly how many times you log in to it? If that information was on the website you visit most in your day, changes everything.

    More direct to the article, it’s sad that Party Chat (as wonderful as it is) has killed off the public lobbies in games. Me and Lee have a Halo 3 christmas tradition where we open PREZENTZ! and then play Halo 3 till dinner. We had a blast winding up other players (who really, in the US should have still been in bed) and hooking up with random people that ‘get’ you and the way you play. I struggle to convince my friends to switch out of Party Chat and into public these days, given the choice -we just don’t want to run the risk of finding THAT social deliquent that ticks us off and don’t want to get involved in the Special Olympics with him.

    More Social networking interlinking plz devs! So long as we can always Opt-in at either end (giggidy?) then we’re all going to enjoy a better experience

  17. Adam Adam says:

    Woah! Wall of text crits for 750 damage :S

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