The social networking game

The office kitchen chat last week was about Charlie Brooker’s recent TV programme “How Video Games Changed the World“. The finale of the show (spoiler!) was to include twitter as the latest game to have had a significant impact on the world. In the fashion that I expect he intended people started debating the validity of this but it was only a couple of seconds after hearing it I realised he had a point:

All social networking is a game.

Constructing posts, getting likes, browsing feedback, better understanding the audience and what works to create the next post hoping for a higher ‘like’ or ‘+1’ count. It’s also incredibly addictive – how many times on average do you check facebook or twitter? And how many times more do you check on a day you’ve written a really interesting post? Be honest now – include checking your email for notifications too! It’s almost inescapable, a function of our socially networked world. What are the rules? You may not know them or even have considered their existence and yet it’s clear that people can cheat. As the networks evolve so does our understanding of what an online social connection means.

But wait – it’s older than that. Consider the early internet when websites were evolving. Think of hit counters – competitions about how many new visitors you got each week. Communities and link ‘rings’ indicated you had interesting content – and you could be a member of many. Next consider Google, their world changing algorithm was based in link-in counting as ‘votes’ for your site and later included context as a modifier to eliminate fakes and cheats. Essentially they were assigning your site a score based on it’s popularity and quality. And then there’s the whole business of Search Engine Optimisation – essentially the sports coaches of the web popularity competition, followed by social media consultants promising similar goals.

How can you think for a moment that the internet as a whole is not a game? The largest, most popular and probably highest financed game of all time…

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