SXSW 2010: The Difference Between Social And Traditional Game Developers

Scott Jennings and James Au Games PanelIf you are looking for a job in social games, you better be ready to be guided by metrics and not just your creative genius. That’s what Scott Jennings told a small groups of gaming enthusiasts and curious minds during a conversation led by him and James Au (of ohai) at SXSW 2010. It was in response posed to him by Social Times about what specific skills social game developers need that traditional game developers don’t have.

Following the San Francisco Games Developer Conference, which many claimed should have been called the “Social Games Developer Conference”, it was interesting to hear that there is indeed a defining attribrute that differentiates social game developers from traditional ones. While Scott Jennings is not currently working on any social games, that is all James Au is currently focused on. A developer at San Francisco-based Ohai, Au spoke briefly about the Twitter-like notifications that he painstakingly crafted hundreds of. The reason is that despite there being numerous forms of interactive media on the web, most social interactions within social games still take place through text.

While the forms of interactions are evolving, it’s difficult to created advanced interactions in a world where 140 characters reign supreme. For developers who are looking to build games integrated into Twitter, you will need to be extremely creative. That’s becuase, as Scott Jennings mentioned during the conversation, Twitter is a social game. Yes, there are ways to integrate Twitter into your social game, but the site has yet to prove itself as a social gaming platform.

While Twitter has privately told people that they would like to know what game developers need in order to make the platform more useful (detracting some from Facebook’s amazing success as a gaming platform), there has yet to be any dramatic push. For now, social game developers should continue building for Facebook as their primary integration point, and develop creative uses for competing social services.

In the meantime, remember to measure absolutely everything users are doing within your social game. It’s the users who will ultimately make the decisions as to what features should come next.

Picture: Scott Jennings Replies to SXSW Attendee Question As James Au looks on