I AM PLAYR is an innovative take on the soccer game genre created by We R Interactive. Although the game was first unveiled back in November 2010, it has shown steady growth over time and puts in a regular appearance in the weekly top gainers’ chart — this week, for example, it is showing up as the 12th fastest-growing Facebook game by monthly active users.
I AM PLAYR is a first-person football game where players take on the role of a single player at fictional English soccer team River Park F.C. The game unfolds through a combination of full-motion video story sequences, first-person training minigames and text-based matches punctuated with occasional first-person attempts on goal. The player must build up their skills, purchase new equipment and cultivate relationships with their teammates in order to enjoy success.
Before playing each new match, the player must build up their “match fitness” rating by playing training minigames (or bypassing the requirement with hard currency). These cost energy to participate in and provide the potential to increase the player’s statistics in various ways. For example, in the passing training minigame, players must aim and set power appropriately to land the ball in one of several target areas; in shooting training, players must successfully kick the ball into various target areas in the goal mouth to score points. As the player successfully completes these exercises, harder versions unlock that require more advanced techniques such as spin to be applied.
The player puts their training into practice during matches, which unlock once an appropriate level of “match fitness” has been attained. The majority of the game is represented through text-based commentary, but occasionally the player will receive a chance to shoot from a set-piece play or free kick. At this point, the game switches to the same first-person 3D mode seen in the training sequences, and the player must again aim and set power accordingly in an attempt to score.
Between matches, the player receives text messages on their virtual mobile phone. Some of these unlock special events on the game map, and other events become available automatically. These events are represented through full-motion streaming video sequences seen “through the player’s eyes” and often incorporate moral decisions that impact the player character’s relationship with their teammates. For example, early in the game the player accidentally walks in on a hostile teammate who is receiving treatment for an injury that he has been lying about. When caught by another teammate, the player is given the option to either confide in them or protect his injured comrade by lying. Over time, the story develops according to the choices made in these sections as well as the player’s performance in matches and training. The quality of the video sequences is very good and the acting from the participants is realistic and convincing. The representation of women as vapid glory-chasers in some sequences is somewhat questionable, but the “WAGs” (Wives And Girlfriends) phenomenon is something that is well-documented by popular culture, particularly in the UK where the game is set, and so the game is simply making use of a common cultural stereotype.
With the currently-running UEFA Euro 2012 championships, it’s little surprise that I AM PLAYR is enjoying a surge of popularity. The game is noteworthy for providing an innovative and unconventional take on the soccer game genre, which generally goes down either the management or the “whole team” route — it’s still relatively unusual, whether in social games or standalone retail titles, to be able to play a soccer game where you play an individual player both on and off the pitch. The game has seen few imitators — perhaps partly due to the fact that full motion video sequences take time, money and considerable manpower to produce — and stands apart as one of the best sports games on Facebook, well-supported by its developers and featuring solid but unobtrusive monetization. It will certainly be very interesting to see if We R Interactive’s next game I AM STAR matches I AM PLAYR in quality, fun, production values and depth.
A highly original, fresh take on sports games with excellent production values.