Promoting positive social interactions is at the heart of our project. In this article, we will detail why we care about this, and how we hope to positively influence the interactions within our games!
During the first lockdown, we decided to do everything we could to work full-time on VirtualSociety and build the game we dreamed of. In this difficult period, renewing the social link strongly affected by the health situation was one of our main motivations.
Loneliness is a problem
The social dimension is central to the experience we propose. Loneliness is a real problem in society today, with almost one in two people in the world feeling lonely 1; with a public health impact greater than obesity2.
- The body feels social distress! 1
- Chronic loneliness stress is very bad for your health 2
- Loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity 4
Social networks worsen it
Sadly, social networks don't address this, and often accentuate the problem by not creating real interactions, and by promoting rewarding reactions through the race to likes to keep users on their platform.
- The "like's race", plays on the reward system, like casinos. Under these conditions, most of the posts on social networks do not contribute to social bonding, and only aim at creating addiction to social networks.
- Many people spend a lot of time on social networks without really interacting or communicating with others.
- As a result, social networks end up isolating their users by the time. 5
This negative effect is not a coincidence. Social platforms aim to keep their users on their platform in order to maximize advertising revenues, and not to create social connection.
Games can reduce it
However, video games can improve social connections3. Furthermore, one of the main interesting thing to note is that interactions in video games influence the players' behavior in real life. So, designing social interactions well, and encouraging real and positive exchanges can help improve the social lives of our players. The work of designing and thinking about the precise architecture of social interactions in the game is thus crucial.
- Video games can positively influence the social behavior of their users, even in the real world. 3
- Well defined interactions can promote real communication, well-being and caring interactions.
For example, Disney's Toontown Online was designed to restrict actions to positive interactions, and many players reported changing the way they played all games as a result of their experience in Toontown. The initially constrained, positive-only actions thus permanently influenced how they interacted with others in social games, with new positive social dynamics.
Moreover, loneliness is often a vicious circle, where the lack of social interactions can produce a feeling of distrust towards others, reinforcing the feeling of loneliness. 6. Thus, promoting positive interactions within a caring community in a video game can help break this vicious circle to recreate social connection, including in the real world!
Our goal is to create a safe space, in which exchanges are positive and benevolent, and can have a positive impact on the well-being and social life of our players. To do so, many points of the game design are thought in this sense.
- Encourage interaction, with objectives requiring collaboration, rewards for positive interactions and cooperation.
- Promote creativity, with a sandbox game that allows everyone to create their own world, but also the possibility to add user content in many aspects of the game (furniture and objects, quests, dialogues, new game modes, etc.).
- Avoid anything that might produce a "likes' race", and promote real exchanges.
- Do not look for addiction, avoid reward phenomena that cannot really contribute to the well-being of our players. Suggest to players to take a break after a long time spent on the game.
- Produce positive and satisfying emotions through creativity, learning and social contact, rather than through short-term rewards.
We hope to have explained our position on social contact and our ethical goals here. We will be doing another article soon on our ethical commitments, to detail other aspects outside of social contact.
If you want to know more, feel free to read the sources below!
1 Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index, 2018
Loneliness. Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, 2008
2 Social Relationships and Health: The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation,
2014 A Longitudinal Analysis of Loneliness Among Older People in Great Britain, 2012
3 The Art of Game Design, Jesse Schell
4 A Longitudinal Analysis of Loneliness Among Older People in Great Britain, 2012
5 Alone in the crowd: The structure and spread of loneliness in a large social network.
Cacioppo, J. T., Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2009). Alone in the crowd: The structure and spread of loneliness in a large social network. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 977–991.
6 Video about loneliness - Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell