Monday, February 08, 2010

Are you a Hunter or a Farmer?

This is my interpretation of a recent Seth Godin blog post as it relates to online social gaming.

The difference between hunters and farmers in the gaming public has been apparent for years now, but only recently, with the explosion of social networking sites like Facebook, have games for farmers taken off as successful. I don't mean just social games like Farmville and Farmtown, though they certainly fit into the category. I mean any game where the barriers are time, patience, and social skill rather than direct obstacles to be defeated as rapidly as possible.

ourWorld is primarily a farmer game, populated with an assortment of hunter games. Most of the 100 or so flash games in the ourWorld arcade are hunter type games. The disconnect between the games and many of the players who just aren't all that into them has been obvious to us for a long time. Changes like allowing basic chatting and other activities to replace gaming as the means to level up have addressed this disconnect, and things seem to be fairly well balanced now, though I believe the disconnect still lingers.

I believe the contrasts between hunter and farmer games are already known, but are being labeled differently and perhaps incorrectly.

Hunter - Farmer
Male - Female
Traditional - Social

Are all three of these pairings the same? In a very, very, broad sense, I think it's fair to say that more hunters are male and they tend to play more traditional games. Conversely, more farmers are female and tend to play more social games. As soon as you start to get more specific, however, things get less clear. What exactly is the difference between a traditional game versus a social game? The two get more intertwined every day. Sure, a lot of girls and women play social games, but lots and lots of guys do as well. Mafia Wars is a farmer game, but not targeted specifically at women (as far as I can tell.) Same for Farmtown.

I think it's a good idea for a game designer to have a clear idea of who he or she is making their game for, but finding categories that are stronger than just "boys vs girls" or "traditional vs social" will make those ideas more successful.


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