i’m obsessed with how people (myself very muchly included) are obsessed with facebook and world of warcraft. meta-obsessed, if you will. i became fascinated with both independently, but the more i use both the more i see some interesting similarities between the two (and a lot of interesting contrasts, which i will probably write more about later). the main similarity is the addictive game elements in both, even though facebook is not officially a game.
i had this revelation as i read this line from the semiotics of simcity: “The moment [the game] is no longer interesting is the moment when all its secrets have been discovered, its limitations exposed”
both world of warcraft and facebook are so addictive and absorbing because the limitations of both are few and ever expanding. world of warcraft has an insane amount of armor/weapons/clothes/pets/food to find, monsters to kill, lands to visit, and quests to complete. and once you’re done all that, you can get the newly released expansion pack. similarly, facebook offers the promise of finding or being found by a new friend, or having another photo of yourself tagged, or being mentioned in a note, or having something new written on your wall. but in both facebook and world of warcraft, its no a known, specific goal that is appealing, but the endless stream of new and unknown potentials, of rewards that we can display for everyone to see, but only by continuing to log in. these rewards big enough to keep us interested, but small enough to leave us unsatisfied. and we keep at it because if we don’t, there’s the possibility of missing something.
this type of collection-based game design has becoming increasingly popular too… think nintendogs, animal crossing and of course pokemon. its interesting to see it employed in a non-game website such as facebook.
in an even further blurring of games and “real life,” justin hall, one of the pioneers of blogging, created a game that kind of runs between WoW and facebook. he calls it passively multiplayer online gaming. basically it keeps track of what websites you look at and you level up based on certain criteria, such as how many reference sites you look up. its super alpha right now and appears to be down as i write this, but check it out. its a really interesting idea.