I have a few friends who are addicted to social and mobile games like Words With Friends on the iPhone. In fact, whenever I get together with these friends to watch a game or hang out, they're inevitably whipping out their phones repeatedly to take their turn in the popular Scrabble-type game. What's worse… they're usually playing said game with the other people in the room.
So as soon as they've played their word, they look up and start talking with their fellow competitor about how awesome they are at word games. I've joked more than once that they don't really need the phones or the apps at all–that they could recreate the entire experience with a good, old-fashioned Scrabble board. But what they're doing actually makes a lot of sense to me… because a lot of games are simply more fun when they're social, when there are others around to share the experience and discuss it with you.
And now an upstart social network called MyYearbook is hoping to add a new layer of interaction with social games by including live video. It's sort of like Chatroulette meets Farmville, if you will. As Techcrunch points out, MyYearbook has about 5 million members, most of whom are teenagers. Those members spend a huge amount of their time on MyYearbook playing social games with one another (as much as 1/3 of their total time on the site).
And now the company is rolling out a new feature: games with video. The games themselves will be fairly rudimentary. They'll have chess, and rummy, and tic tac toe, for instance. The games themselves aren't the hook, the video portion is. You'll be paired with strangers, just like Chatroulette, and placed in a game room with your fellow competitors. The hope is that the video element helps break the ice and new friendships and relationships will form over the shared experience of social gaming.
Of course, they'll have some hurdles to overcome, like the unwanted sexuality that famously derailed Chatroulette's rise to dominance. MyYearbook plans to include a flagging and reporting system in order to curtail the exhibitionism. They'll also rely on a karma system to keep users honest and committed to completing the game–if you quit a game early you'll lose karma points, which can eventually cause you to be blocked from game access altogether.
Time will tell how successful this will be, but I'm hoping it works out for them. Many online games have long included a live chat element, from fantasy football to Texas hold 'em. Imagine how much more engaged the participants will be once this kind of live video stream becomes the norm.
Every few months someone comes along and adds video to an already established industry or concept and completely turns it on its head. It happened to advertising online when video ads were introduced. And again when random chatting when Chatroulette went live. I've said it many times before, but it's worth repeating: we're far from the end of video's impact on other industries. In fact, we're still right at the beginning. And I'm inclined to cheer the pioneers who take that first big risk to bring video into their arena. Besides, games are just more fun when they're social, and video is far more social than text and images alone could ever hope to be.
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