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April 22-25, 2003, Santa Clara -Explore. Invent. Connect.


The Game Context as a Testing Ground for Social Software
Stewart Butterfield, Yahoo! Inc.

Track: Social Software
Date: Thursday, April 24
Time: 4:30pm - 5:15pm
Location: Stevens Creek

This session examines the implementation of social software in the context of games and the lessons learned in the design and development of the Game Neverending in particular. By looking at how virtual worlds' model actors and interactions in the formation of economies, societies and political systems, valuable lessons can be brought back to the design or "real life" systems.

There are two problems facing the implementation and adoption of the most interesting dreams of the social software designers:

1. The critical mass issue -- if too few people are participating in the system, the network effect does not obtain and participation has little value, and

2. Social relationships are based on personal identities and unless "the system" can be trusted absolutely, no-one will want to participate -- our reputations, relationships and privacy are too important.

On the other hand, people flock to play massively multiplayer games and the implementation of what would might seem too risky for our "real life" identities and relationships can be played out inside of a virtual world. While any given game might have critical mass issues of its own, inside the game world everyone participates in the social software systems since that is part of the game. And the trust issues instead become game design issues since "trust" in the system reduces to appreciation or enthusiasm for the rules of the game.

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