I Like the Word Asynchronous

okay.  i wanna talk a little bit about where this whole web+games thing is going.  and, when i say games, i really mean synchronous activities in virtual worlds.  after all, aren’t games about people playing together?  isn’t playing together generally a synchronous activity?

so, i guess where i’m going is that there’s this convergence happening.  it’s the crossroads of synchronous (games, virtual worlds, chat) and asynchronous (web, blogs, email) communication.  right now, the biggest poster boy for this convergence is twitter.

lemme explain.

if you ask anyone who doesn’t tweet (wow — that’s an unfortunate term) what twitter is, you get some variation of “it’s for people who like to post status updates about them doing everything from going to the bathroom to what they’re having for dinner.”  those folks don’t understand what twitter really is.

twitter, for the uninitiated, is a giant, a/sync, partially scattered, on-going conversation.  it’s like globally distributed chat where anyone can join the conversation.  i did the “a/sync” thing because, in practice, twitter is asynchronous since you’re basically posting to the web, however, in terms of usage, it’s synchronous.

for example, raise your hand if you’ve heard the stories of twitter beating the usgs to the earthquake news in china.

it’s a giant pool of global — and i really mean global — real-time chat.

now, before all of you twitter pros nod off, here’s where i’m going with this: there’s going to be a twitter-like convergence between virtual worlds (aka mmos) and the web.  and not the kind you’re thinking of.

this is not — i repeatnot necessarily going to mean playing wow in a browser.  as cool as that would be, it’s really just a shoe-horn fit, i think.  it’s fantastic (beyond awesome, actually) for accessibility, convenience and acquiring new players, but i’m of the opinion that once people are hooked on the service, they’d like both a dedicated, sexy client to play in (say, from home) as well as a thin, portable web-based client to play in.  (*looks over shoulder* shhhhh… from work, for example.)

“that’s neat and all, but… duh!  ever heard of habbo hotel, noob?” you say.

stay with me for a minute here.  trust me.

one of the things that third party applications and services are doing for twitter is posthumously rebuilding conversations for others to follow, catch up on, or in any other way use that data.  they take data that was being generated in real-time (ala synchronously) and assemble it for asynchronous consumption.  so that, for every 5 people who were able to participate in the conversation in real-time, there could be 500 people who can play catch up and get engaged in the conversation later on.

follow what i’m saying?  there’s basically a long tail for synchronous communication.  you know what another name for that is? storytelling.

yes.  the convergence between virtual worlds and the web is going to be about storytelling.  and not just any old storytelling.  automated, threaded, and collaborated storytelling.

in other words, real-time twitter conversations are to gameplay as next-day twitter conversations are to storytelling.  it’s an asynchronous reassembly of originally synchronous content.

now, more on how this ties in to the term “social media” later….

m3mnoch.

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2 comments so far

  1. simagery on

    I think you need to check out http://playmockingbird.com/. We’re trying to make game making a game in itself, a social activity to be shared, a medium for communication. Mockingbird *is* the twitter of game making. Small, relevant, shareable, changeable, topical, (disposable?) games. Like posts to a forum or a blog…

  2. danctheduck on

    Love it. The concept of automatically aggregating and sorting user experiences in a game into a ‘story’ consumable asynchronously by others is quite powerful.

    I find that I enjoy reading about other players’ progress on an ARG nearly as much as I would playing it myself. For example: http://olympics.wikibruce.com/Timeline

    take care
    Danc.


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