Video games are big business on the Internet. That is not just the blockbusters like Modern Warfare 2 or World of Warcraft. There is a vast array of video and computer games if you search around. There will even be a Doctor Who video game to be released on June 5 by the BBC for Dr. Who enthusiasts.
Two recent events made me think more seriously about video games. The first was a TED talk by Charles Leadbeater on innovation, which is well worth watching to bring you new insights. Leadbeater has remarked on the rise of “pro-ams” — passionate amateurs who act like professionals, making breakthrough discoveries in many fields, from software to astronomy to kite-surfing. He enthusiastically explores how this emerging culture of mass creativity and participation could reshape companies and governments.
In the talk, he mentions Timothy Chen:
Chen runs a company called Shanda, which is the largest computer games company in China. It has 9,000 servers all over China and 250 million subscribers. At any one time, there are 4 million people playing one of his games.
He gives subscribers a platform, he gives them some rules, he gives them the tools and then he kind of orchestrates the conversation; he orchestrates the action. But actually, a lot of the content is created by the users themselves. And it creates a kind of stickiness between the community and the company which is really, really powerful. … (It’s one example of) companies built on communities, that provide communities with tools, resources, platforms in which they can share. He’s not open source, but it’s very, very powerful
It is an incredible example of some of the kinds of communities that can arise on the Internet. My thoughts were pushed in this direction by a discussion on my favourite online venue, Cre8asite Forums.
It was triggered by a blog post written by the owner, Kim Krause-Berg, titled Where Are Skilled, Generous SEO’s? She was lamenting the apparent paucity of new generation SEO experts who were willing to get involved in SEO Forums to provide advice and counsel to the newcomers to Internet marketing. This apparently irked some in the SEO community, with Lisa Barone being one of the most vigorous protagonists in an article she wrote, Who’s Responsible for Teaching, Protecting SEO?
As a result there is now a discussion in the Forums entitled Time To Close Forums. New Gen Has No Need For Them. There is a suggestion that the new generation is more into the instant gratification world spawned by Facebook and Twitter. Writing blogs and having instant comments gives them more visibility and feedback.
What was not discussed was the part that video games may play in creating communities. Conceivably the new generation are all interacting in the virtual communities created through their video and computer games. If so, that does not leave much time for real conversations with real people. Perhaps it is true then that Forums are on a slow slide to oblivion.