My Bachelors thesis which investigates social media integration in video games.
For the purpose of the essay, I will be primarily focusing on social media integration in independent games and briefly touching on how bigger studios have also made use of these marketing tools. Focusing on independent studios will allow us to examine ways in which smaller teams can make use of these tools on lower marketing budgets. This will make the research more relevant to our industry, considering that most New Zealand studios are smaller, independent ones (New Zealand Game Developers Association 2016). The goal of this research is for it to be used to inform a major production, in my third year of study and in my career after university. The social media sites examined will be ones which have primarily been used in the marketing of games, namely Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. Furthermore, I will not be looking at social media games, that is games played through social media as their primary platform. Our main sources on formulating our lens and argument overall will be from two core texts, supplemented by other readings which serve as a wider breadth for our argument.
It is undeniable the effect that social media has had on our lives and thus it is important to understand how these tools affect us as gamers, content creators and, more importantly, as game designers. Through social media platforms, players and developers are more connected than ever and we now have even more opportunity for emergent play. The primary goal of this research is to carefully examine the relationship between the player, the game, the developer and social media, in order to formulate a lens which will better our understanding of social media integration in games, how this contributes to emergent play and how this becomes beneficial to independent developers. Because of the changing nature of games and social platforms, this needs to be related to something fundamental found in all games and all performance spaces. To investigate the relationship that exists between the game, the player, the developer and social media, we will be examining Elena Pérez’s The expansion of theatrical space and the role of the spectator (2007). However, as this theory is closer related to theatre, we will be complimenting Pérez’s work with Salen and Zimmerman’s principle of Transformative Play (2004).
We begin by discussing the wider context of how the advent of social media, and the cultural changes it has brought about, has affected traditional marketing strategies. We then examine the broader context of marketing games through social media, with an in-depth analysis into these social media sites as performance spaces in order to examine the effects and potential of social media integration within games as transformative play. In part, this research aims to develop a deeper understanding as to why these platforms have been so effective in the first place. To relate these studies to video games and their relationship with social media as performance spaces, we are going to explore a series of case studies as they relate to our formalized lens in depth. Thus, we can engage with the social relationship between the audience and performer in a formalized manner. Lastly, we examine how we, as developers, can use this depth of understanding to better market our games and build communities that give players agencies for their own play outside of our games.
Marketing games and social media
It goes without saying that if no one knows about your game no one will buy it; after the huge amount of resources that are necessary for making a game, it is inconsiderable to leave marketing it up to word-of-mouth strategies. Furthermore, the games industry is growing and so has our general use of social media; observing any distribution platform, we can see that there are dozens of games released in a single day and dozens more in development (Brannigan, 2015). With so many developers discussing issues like ‘the indiepocalypse’, which has become a huge factor as games become easier to make and more independent developers are releasing games, marketing your game right is more important than ever (Smith, Saltsman, Ibrisagic, Vogel, Thomas, 2016). One of the best tools we currently have as developers is social media, and the good news is that it’s free. We are more connected now than we have ever been, the birth of the internet giving way to the rise of the greatest collection of human knowledge. Social media is a tool that binds and connects people through mutual interest, allowing for the simple and instantaneous sharing of thoughts and ideas. Social media is a space to share, a space where developers can easily show their work to players, players can share their experiences and is an ideal place for performances outside of the game to take place. By the broadest possible definition, a performance space is any arena, theatre or network which regulates the relationship between the audience and the performer (Pérez, 2007). Social media networks do exactly this, they are platforms for relationships between players of games and developers of games to share ideas. Before these spaces existed, games would be shared in different spaces. Looking at books such as The Video Game Bible, we can see the traditional manner in which games have previously been marketed, usually through general television or radio advertising campaigns (Slaven, 2002). However, people on the receiving end of aggressive marketing campaigns became resistant, “The result of this bombardment of advertising on society is that consumers have become increasingly resistant to traditional forms of advertising.” (Wright, Khanfar, Harrington, Kizer, 2010). Whereas social media is a space where both the marketer and the audience and interact with one another. Through this interaction new spaces are created.
Games, like social media, are a fast changing technology and marketing strategies have needed to adapt to this. According to Statista, more than half of advertisers agreed to integrating social media into their advertising in 2016. With changing trends and the advent of social media, we have ways of customising our advertising campaigns to better suit a particular audience. In their essay The Lasting Effects Of Social Media Trends On Advertising, one of the key identifiers made by Wright, Khanfar, Harrington and Kizer was the need to explore new media platforms, and find ways to build equally beneficial relationships with customers in order to help promote a more positive business image (2010). Social media spaces, much like the landscape of video games, are filled with a thousand voices. How do we make ours heard? With more and more people utilizing these strategies and the saturation of games coming into the market, how do we make sure that our drop in the ocean of games doesn’t go unnoticed? Brannigan argues that it is by understanding the value of marketing through building player bases and communities (2015). By actively engaging in these performance spaces with our audience, we are able to build equally beneficial relationships with them. We start finding other people with mutual interests – we start building communities.
Community forms an intrinsic part of any online identity, there is value in sharing content others can identify with. According to Berger and Milkman, “More positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone, and is driven in part by arousal” (2010). According to Berger and Milkman, this psychological relationship with online sharing comes from content that evokes either positive or negative responses from us, coupled with one’s existential self-image which motivates what, how and why we share online (2010). Social communities, much like real communities, are online environments where people go to connect with others and develop an identifiable sense of community around themselves. In order for online content to make any impact on the viewer, it first needs to be engaging. It is important to pay attention to the emotions your content provokes from viewers, as this forms an important part of a user’s willingness to engage in your idea or brand. Brannigan makes the point, “Your social content is the beginning of the conversation. If you treat your social channels solely as a digital billboard, you have a digital advertising channel, not a community. You are unlikely to build long-term relationships this way, and miss the opportunity to gain valuable insight from your customers as a result”. Using social media is not just about having an advertising space for your game, it’s about having a connection, a dialog with your players and a conversation to hear their feedback. By allowing narratives within these performances spaces, in which the audience can engage and interact with the performer, a connection can be made. By actively engaging with our audience, we build relationships and make them feel valued, which in turn reflects positively on the brand. The difficulty with understanding social media marketing is that, like games, it is such a new technology and like most new technologies, it is constantly changing and evolving. A suggestion on how to market games through social media might work today but not in five years.
What is a performance space?
This is why it is important to look at how other mediums explore narrative, performance and audience-performer relationships. Pérez’s 2007 article The expansion of theatrical space and the role of the spectator discussed this concept in depth related to theatre. Here, a performance space is described as a regulator of the relationship between the performer and the audience. In her paper, Pérez usually refers to this as theatrical space, “The expansion of theatrical space here refers to the ways in which new spaces can be incorporated into the existing theatrical space through technology”. Pérez compares traditional theatrical performance spaces and describes how these spaces have been “expanded” through the application of technology and its artefacts. Here, we examine the ways in which Pérez explores the relationship between the performer and the audience and, more importantly, how this relationship becomes as important as the message conveyed in the performance.
To start, Pérez’s paper begins by identifying a more traditional stance on theatrical spaces, examining what we expect from these traditional spaces and how they are changed with the addition of technology. “Multimedia performance generally refers to any performance that employs film, video or computer-generated imagery alongside a live performance”. In multimedia performance, the audience watch without participating in the performance. Here, there is very little relationship between the performer and the audience. In this type of performance, the only thing that technology provides is an addition to the delivery of the performance – it still remains the job of the audience to interpret and understand the meaning of the performance themselves without involvement from the performer. The relationship between the audience and performer is very limited and they exist in different spaces. Social media is an ideal platform which allows this sharing of multimedia performances to occur. However, the key difference with social media is that it is not limited only by the original performance.
This is why Pérez examines how communications networks start to change the spaces in which performance happens. “Telematic performance uses telecommunication networks to establish links between remote spaces, using the Internet to transmit images and sound between two or more sites to create a shared performance event.” Telematic performance expands our theatrical space by using two or more different platforms for the performance to take place. With this kind of performance, we start to see technology affect the relationship between the audience and the performer, especially with the anonymity online performance spaces can provide. With the sharing of multimedia performances, social media extends to invite the audience into the conversations; once something is shared in an online space, the audience is able to interact with this. Once the audience becomes more confident to actively participate in the performance and bolder in their interaction with the performer, we see the performance changing into something different from the original.
Finally, Pérez examines the ways in which these different kinds of performance spaces work in combination with each other and how this changes the performer-audience relationship, making the performance different from the original. “Pervasive performance is a hybrid emergent phenomenon that seeks to engage participants in collaborative events through a combination of gameplay, media and performance.” This phenomenon occurred as soon as we were no longer bound by the limits of physical spaces. As soon as these spaces extended to mobile platforms, audiences were able to actively take part in online, telematic performances. Theatrical space has thus been expanded by technology in a very literal sense to pervasive performance. Social media allows the audience to be included in the sharing of information, allowing them to become more invested in how this performance is shaped and how it is received. In pervasive performance, the relationship between the audiences and the performer are now blurred, with the audience able to take agency and interact with the performer. It can also become unclear who the performer in the space would be. In this instance, the relationship between the performer and the audience becomes more important and we start to experience the emergent activities that come from including more than one performer.
How does it relate to games?
As insightful as Perez’s work is, it is heavily based in theatre and performing arts, however it is easy to see how these different kinds of performances spaces relate to social media. Multimedia performance occurs when something is shared online, while telematic performance occurs when people start to comment on and interact with the multimedia performance. Pervasive performance is what the multimedia performance becomes once it has been interacted with. By constantly engaging in similar performances that appeal to the individual, the people who use social media start to form connections through similar topics of interest. However, in order for us to better understand this research in relation the topic games, we will need to extrapolate from Perez’s explanations and bring our own interpretation to create definitions more suited to gaming and its relationship with social media. Because social media spaces exist as an extension of the game itself, we are going to be looking at Salen and Zimmerman’s principle of Transformative Play (2004).
Having previously discussed the idea of Transformative Play in an audio visual essay, I wanted to talk about this topic again, applying Salen and Zimmerman’s principles to our social media sites within the scope of performance spaces (2004). These theories around transformative play exist to understand the fundamentals of play and how it exists both within and outside of the game. “Transformative play is a special case of play that occurs when the free movement of play alters the more rigid structure in which it takes shape. The play doesn’t just occupy and oppose the interstices of the system, but actually transforms the space as a whole” (Salen, Zimmerman, 2004). Emergent play has a similar definition and can be considered the result of transformative play. In another essay, Zimmerman continues to explain the idea behind why games’ rules serve to limit players’ behaviours and, by doing so, allows for other systems of narrative, interactivity and play (Zimmerman, 2005). In this essay and in their Rules of Play, they discuss the ideas of emergent play and metagaming as the result of players bringing their own social relationships and narratives to a game (2004). This social relationship is described by Richard Garfield as “The relationship between the game and outside elements, including everything from player attitudes and play styles to social reputations and the social context in which the game is played.” (Salen, Zimmerman, 2004). These outside elements are the kinds of narrative and interactive performance spaces we find on social media. Through interacting with the game in a shared environment, players are engaging in an emergent performance, which allows players to transform their own narrative of play in this space. When developers also use social media as a way of sharing their game’s multimedia performance, they too are engaging in an emergent kind of performance – one that allows audience interaction. By keeping the performance as something that relates to the game, they are engaging in elements outside of the game. When players allow social media and this transformative performance space to affect how the game is played, the performance space changes again. When enough of an audience begins to interact with this kind of emergent performance in social media spaces, we start to see communities built through mutual interest in the performance and the changing thereof. As a result of this mutual interest in engagement with a performance, brand images are also interacted with. Transformative play compliments the idea of community building while supporting the idea of treating these platforms as performance spaces where games can be shared and marketed. Considering these two theories, one based in the realm of theatre and performer-audience relationships and the other within the fundamental nature of play, we have started to formulate our own compound idea which encompasses both.
A direct performance is a more traditional player-game relationship where the game is the performer and the player is the viewer. If we compare this to multimedia performance, we could consider the game itself as the performer, but there still needs to be some kind of active involvement from the player in order for the performance to take place. But much like multimedia performance, the relationship between the audience and performer is very limited and they exist in different spaces. The key difference, with our definition of direct performance, is that the technology exists as a method of delivering the performance that players still need to interact with. Considering this in the marketing of games, there is very little way for games or developers to have an open dialogue with their audiences, it is very much a case of the developer’s game as the performance and the player as merely the viewer. Little transformative play can occur in these direct performances and this is not the space where sharing or marketing usually occurs. There is no audience involvement in the performance other than the act of playing the game and controlling when the performance proceeds. However, if effective social media integration is incorporated into these spaces, transformative and emergent play can occur. Effective social media integration is when systems are incorporated into the games direct performance, which allows the sharing of content online. This interaction is the fastest way to transform a direct performance into an extended one.
In our definition of extended performance, the game is still the primary performance and the player acts as an extension of this through different kinds of play. The performance, in this case, takes place both within the game’s performance and online. By sharing this performance in social media spaces, play is extended to something within and outside of the game itself. Comparing this to Perez’s telematic performance, we see similarities, like players becoming more confident to actively participate in the performance online. Simply by extending this performance to an online networked platform, more people outside of the game can interact with it. When players or developers can share the game’s performance, the performance transforms into something more than just the game itself. Social media was designed for this very purpose, not for sharing games, but sharing the performances of our daily lives – which extends to gaming. When Extended performance is no longer restricted only by the agency of the developer or the game, and allows players agency, we start to see a change in the relationship of the performer and audience. Playing a game was once a binary state, where the game was the sole performance and the player merely the driver behind the performance. However, in this case, the performance is made by both the game and by the player through the act of sharing and expanding the performance space to other platforms and other viewers. Here, the audience is using the original game performance to make and share their own content, therefore transforming the play and their experience into a performance of their own. However, much like if we take a picture of a live concert and upload it, we are distracted and lose part of that performance. Interest can be quickly lost if the extending of a direct performance breaks the flow and moves players out of the game space. Therefore, effective integration of social media, allowing a direct performance to become an extended one, should not break the flow of the game. A truly emergent experience is one that effectively incorporates social media into the game without breaking the performance.
By sharing this performance in social media spaces play is extended to something within and outside of the game itself. Simply by extending this performance to an online networked platform, more players outside of the game can interact with it. An emergent performance is one where the game and the player become the performance. Very similar to Perez’s pervasive performance, the relationship between the audiences and the performer are now blurred, with the audience able to take agency and interact with the performer. Emergent performance integrates online technology and social media spaces into the game’s performance, thus letting the audience interact with the performances. This relationship, the interaction between the audience and the performer, is paramount and has become nearly as important as the play itself. The audience in this case doesn’t just view the game’s performance, or just extend the game’s performance, they themselves become both the player and the performer. Through active engagement between the audience and performer, both our play and our performance spaces are transformed to become unique and emergent. The distinction should be made that the developer is sharing the games performance to drive interest in it, while the player should be encouraged to share the performance in order to enjoy the transformative play that emerges from this sharing. With the extended performance being as smooth for them as possible it makes it easier to share and easier for more emergent play to occur. In instances such as this, we can see how the play performance might be changed based on different audience interactions, especially uninhibited interactions that we find in online environments. It is through this interaction with the performer and other audience members that all players can fully explore the creative potential emergent play. Thus opening the game, as the original performance, up to more personal, creative and emergent kinds of play.
Unlike Pérez’s examples, these things are not separate categorizations from one another, but rather one cannot exist without the other, much like the relationship between transformative play and emergent play. When it comes to games, principles of performer-audience relationships are layered on top of one another. It is through these different levels of involvement and interaction that players are able to become more entwined with emergent play within the game’s performance space. In this case, we consider technology like social media as a part of the performer-audience relationship, direct performances with well integrated extended performance allow emergent performances. The most important thing is that performance spaces allow us to recognise emergent spaces, which provides a higher level of player involvement. With social media able to provide players with more play outside of the game itself through allowing emergent play, it helps players identify themselves within an online community. This constant engagement from one member of a community can compel more involvement from players who potentially wouldn’t have been involved in the first place. From this, we can also garner potential reasons as to why social media has been such a successful platform, thus a highly useful marketing tool. The games industry and online social platforms are constantly changing and what is relevant today might not be tomorrow. By contrasting our two lenses and designing our own, we have the ability to analyse future spaces. If we look at YouTubers or Twitch streamers and their audience, and how this relationship is different, we could start to develop more interactive mediums.
Facebook and Twitter
Facebook and Twitter have been included together because they are both social media platforms originally designed as multimedia sharing spaces. The platform is designed to share thoughts and ideas with an audience and a community. With a combined audience of 3 billion active users on Facebook and Twitter, it is obvious that these are platforms which can easily and quickly extended the audience of a game. (Zeporia 2016).
Recently, over 9 million people joined in the Overwatch open beta, with this image above being Blizzard’s way of thanking players for joining in and giving Overwatch a try. This was a way of the developers extending the players’ direct performance with the game by actively trying to encourage players to celebrate their contribution to the game’s beta tests. Engagement of this manner on social media performance space encourages players by thanking them for sharing their experience; it drives investment in the performance by acknowledging the contribution made by players. We can, however, see from a recent update that the developers have realised the limitations of these interactions and have started working on implementing Facebook logins and live streaming functionality to Overwatch (Kerr, 2016). “Blizzard games are best when played with friends, so it’s important to us to provide our players with features and services that make it easy and fun to share their experiences with each other,” said Blizzard’s Gio Hunt. We can see the value that Blizzard is placing on the social media integration within their games, they are trying to design the easiest transition for players to extend their direct performance and are actively working to facilitate players emergent play.
We see similarities when we examine a platform like Twitter; arguably a better source of connecting with others due to the nature of the posting systems. With limited characters and the use of hashtags, users can experience a more customised news feed – one that delivers short and to the point messages, but still encourages community interaction. We can identify similar kinds of performance as the above Facebook post, players have already engaged in the Direct Performance of playing the game and the developers are encouraging extending this performance through social media. Things become interesting when we view the comments below. This is when the audience starts to interact with the performer. It is here that Extended Performance occurs through the exchange of thoughts and ideas between the developers and the players. When developers start to actively engage in Extended Performance with their players, we begin to see communities being developed. Players are encouraged to share and talk to the developers and, in cases such as the shared fan art post above, we start to see blurred lines between who the performer and who the audience is – the developer making the game, and extending its performance through social media, or the player who made the fan art and extended the game through their art. While simply using social media as a bulletin board might help communicating a message, it is through these Extended Performances that the value of social media marketing truly lies.
YouTube provides a slightly different kind of social media space to Twitter or Facebook. being a video uploading service, we get to witness a plethora of performances through this space. In terms performance spaces, it offers something similar to Facebook and Twitter – players or developers extended a game’s direct performance with the audience. What makes YouTube interesting is the unique kind of content that is made. Here, we gain a deeper insight to how players interact with the games direct performance through social media. The video example below is one where the YouTubers at Funhaus have created a video of themselves using Tilt Brush on the HTC Vive to play Pictionary. With the Tilt Brush designed to be an art tool and not a game, this is an excellent example of emergent and transformative play. It is also an excellent example of how creative players and content creators can be even with minimal gameplay and how we can find emergent gameplay in so many things.
As a platform, YouTube may not have the desired social media integration, which allows players to quickly and seamlessly share their experiences. YouTube videos certainly break the player’s flow from the involvement of playing the game, taking work and time to create and edit. They are, however, excellent platforms for sharing transformative and emergent play. YouTube serves as a place to view how players engage with the games direct performance. This doesn’t necessarily obscure the audience-performer relationship, but it does give the game developers, as the performer, the unique opportunity to view player reactions to their game through the player’s own extended performance. In cases such as this, the developer is no longer the performer, the player becomes the performer and, in some way, their own creator of emergent play. When marketing for a platform such as YouTube, relatively little is needed in terms of social media integration to get players to engage in the extended performance. However, it is trickier to design gameplay which takes into consideration the emergent play that YouTubers may find.
Gameplay and the performer-audience relationship changes again when we start to examine a platform like Twitch, a platform designed for live interaction between the player of a game and the audience in the chat. Twitch performers bring their own perspective, experiences and live responses to a game and share them with an audience. By sharing their direct performance with the game and extending this performance through social media along with integrating audience responses and actions into the gameplay, Twitch is a fully integrated social media to achieve emergent and transformative play. Twitch serves as our best example of Emergent play, through social media integration, which seamlessly integrates into the gaming experience. No gameplay is obscured, only extended with the audience’s agency in the game and their ability to affect the performance. The space here has completely extended to something that is both within and outside of the direct performance simultaneously. The lines here are completely blurred with both the game’s performance, the player’s performance and the audience’s performance becoming a shared performance in this space.
This kind of emergent performance accommodates players’ desire for community and engagement with their own performance of the game. With the shared gaming experience having so many interactions, its direct performance is extended by allowing developers, players and the audience share a unique medium of experience they might never have before. This level of interaction is ideal for marketing a game through shared performance. The difficulty with this is that it is often hard to predict or plan for these kinds of performances. However, the goal is to have something players want to share in their community. By making it as easy, as a platform like Twitch does, to share performance’s players are more likely to, which ultimately lends itself to more exposure of the game. With games like Superfight and Streamlined designed from the ground up to accommodate the emergent play found in the Twitch chat, these spaces are becoming more interactive than ever (Clark, 2016).
How have independent developers started using this?
Social media has changed how we experience gaming, from something we no longer need to experience for ourselves, but as something we can share with a mass of others. If, in the simplest terms, a performance space is a place where an exhibitor can express themselves with an audience, social media provides an excellent platform for these spaces. But it is what happens with the relationship between the performer and the audience that becomes truly interesting. With the audience being able to react to the outcome of a performance directly with the performer, and, in the case of Twitch, the audience being able to take agency over the performer’s gaming experience, performance spaces like this could be thought of as a network for transformative play. Many developers have started considering ways to contribute to emergent and transformative play through social media sites.
In his 2016 GDC talk, Poly Bridge developer Patrick Corrieri attributed a lot of their game’s success to a simple GIF sharing function added for players to share their experiences in the game with others. He went on to explain the unexpected ripple effect that the game received through social media, even though very little was done on the marketing side (Corrieri, 2016). In the early stages of development, they recognised the value of a strong player community and its relationship with the longevity of a game. Even in the simplest sense, the developers recognised the value of these social performance spaces and built sharing abilities into the game’s design. In the example above, a player has shared their direct performance and extended the gameplay through social media.
In his talk, Corrieri also stresses the importance of a single share button for multiple platforms in order to make it easier for players to interact with these tools (2016). In Poly Bridge, it was a single click of a button and players were able to quickly share this experience. With Poly Bridge being designed for trying and exploring different mechanics, it allowed players to share a huge variety of their direct performance with the game. With so many different kinds of play, it became engaging for players in the community to compare their play with others, thus driving the overall engagement with the game through transformative play. Through players being able to share their own way of playing the game, the developers were quickly able to identify ways to improve their puzzles to appeal to different types of transformative play. Appealing to players’ different emergent play styles, players are encouraged to share their experiences within the game, thus promoting the game further.
The developers at Campo Santo took the idea of social sharing and brought it together with their game’s merchandising. Within the games itself, players have the ability to capture the beautifully unique visuals and developers made it a very simple process of extending the play and sharing it to social media sites. However, this audience performer relationship changed when the developers gave players the option to get their screenshots physically printed. In a Polygon article, they discuss the inspiration for this and how they managed to make this sharing feature fit into the game’s lore, even going so far as to mention the print company in-game (Kuchera, 2016). Furthermore, they also include lore specific details on the merchandise packaging, which players loved (LGR, 2016). By doing this, they made the extended performance that players engaged in all the more unique and meaningful. Here, players are extending their gameplay, not just through social media sharing but through tangible emergent play in the form of merchandise.
Knowing that they could get these printed, this extended performance changed the way that they interacted with the game as well. While there is no audience-performer relationship other than the game itself, this photo printing made the performance more emergent when players started new games to specifically focus on taking picture for this unique merchandise. Furthermore, on their website, the developers encourage players to stream and share their experiences, with them suggesting users to contact them through social media sites with problems to get faster responses. More importantly, however, “we love that people stream and share their experiences in the game. You are free to monetize your videos as well. It doesn’t hurt to let us know on Twitter when you’re live. We might show up in your chat!”. They are encouraging players to monetise their own emergent and extended performances through social media. They are encouraging players to contact them when they stream so that the developers can interact in this space with the players. This action becomes such positive encouragement for player communities when the game’s creators are willing to join in and interact with them in their player base’s own direct and extended performance spaces. In an environment with a streamer, the developer and the audience, we can see a full circle of our performance space lens coming into effect.
This leads us to the best example of this kind of Emergent Performance, an example actively designed around community engagement: the development streams run by the League of Geeks studio through their own Twitch channel. The developers actively invite their player community to play their multiplayer game Armello with them. This is the best example of community engagement that completely encompasses all three layers of performance spaces. The developers are engaging in the direct performance, playing their own game, and extending it by encouraging players to play with them. The result is a completely different kind of emergent performance where the performer and audience is completely obscure. This level of performance and interaction by both the performer and audience has become a wholly unique kind of play between the developer and their players. It encourages player involvement and developer communication with their own players.
Here, the developer is not just engaging in an extended performance to drive interest in the game, they are engaging in the extended performance to share and enjoy the transformative play that comes from interacting with their audience. This kind of interaction guarantees players that the developers are invested in their enjoyment of the performance. This kind of play puts players at the forefront of influencing the outcome of a game’s direct performance through the act of sharing the performance with the developers, the game and other audience members. All of these case studies display completely unique and new ways to consider player engagement in the different kinds of performance spaces. Cases such as these prove that even small teams of independent developers can easily find success by considering their own player’s performance spaces.
Social media is constantly evolving, even the already mentioned platforms have undergone changes which can’t be fitted into this limited text. Twitter has Vines and, alongside Facebook, its own live stream services. Youtube has Youtube Red and YouTube Gaming for live streaming and, through the use of archived streams, viewers can watch Twitch even once a stream has stopped. Social media is expanding and so is its audience, there is no better time to be connected with people. For the first time since games have been developed, we are able to interact so closely with our players and there is no reason why we shouldn’t. This has been studied so little that there is no known correct way of APA referencing a Twitch stream, yet social media integration has become such an important part of game development and how we share and market games. Hopefully, these case studies have argued the value of ensuring that your player’s direct performance with a game can be easily extended to become something more emergent. Our lens illustrates a universal way of looking at these social media spaces and is not just limited to or by the above examples. With these spaces constantly changing, we would, at any point in time, be able to find all three layers of our performance space in any of the above social media sites or utilized by the above developers or integrated into the above games.
How can developers use the transformative play that comes about in these performance spaces to market their game?
By having agency within a game’s direct performance, players are encouraged to extend their performances and create their own emergent ones. A key aspect that drives this desire to design extended performances may be that players can now make money playing games, through monetisation on services such as Twitch and YouTube. However, the most important, non-financial thing that players gain from these performance spaces is Transformative Social Play (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004) “In transformative social play, players use the game context to transform social relationships. They actively engage with the rule system of a game, manipulating it in order to shift, extend, or subvert their relations with other players.” (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004). In this kind of social play, the effects of the transformative play occur through social interaction. By having agency within a game’s direct performance, players are encouraged to extend their performances and create their own emergent ones to share in social spaces, thus allowing them the experiences of Transformative Social Play. Through players having the agency to extend their direct performance with an audience and develop it into an emergent one, interaction and engagement with a game is increased. By sharing and exploring these direct performances, more people are exposed to the game through players sharing the game with others who have similar interests. These players with similar interests can design more emergent, transformative social play among themselves. With this interactivity able to occur on a cultural level, Zimmerman helps cement the idea behind why we build social communities and why they are effective (2005). By increasing the emergent and extended performance, players can experience social spaces as an extension of play, thus transformative social play becomes an integral part of how we experience games.
By using social media integration within our games, coupled with active community engagement, developers can start to develop stronger, more personal connections with their players. Designing games that can be shared and making it as easy as possible for players to share their performances provides more exposure for the game. The most important thing to consider is that your players are not billboards, it is paramount we make it an enjoyable experience for players to share their content and engage in transformative social play. The goal of any social media integration into games should be to make sure players enjoy being able to share their experiences with others and explore the differences between their gaming experiences with others. Having a consistent amount of sharing drives up the community engagement around a game and a brand and this contributes highly to the marketing of a game, through encouraging players own performances within and outside of the game itself. This kind of sharing of transformative play in various performance spaces brings attention to your game and hopefully encourages more players to be active in the community that develops.
Transformative social play provides satisfaction through engagement with a game’s direct, extended and emergent performances. Social media spaces provide new ways for developers who want to make player performances more engaging. Through facilitating a player’s desires to share their experiences within a game, it allows for a chorus of voices to share similar thoughts and ideas around a game, while at the same time building a community for future performances to take place. It’s about giving the player agency and control; by providing the tools for transformative play to occur, it is more likely to. As stated by the community manager of PikPok, “Not only is this good as you can engage in the conversation but you can also watch and monitor the free flow of conversations for tips about what is working, what isn’t, bugs as they arise and possible ideas to further shape the development as you move forward together. The outputs and communities can be considered marketing but that is almost a bi-product of enhancing and creating the performance together with your audience” (Kershaw, 2016). By seeing a player’s experience as a thought worth sharing, developers can garner a much stronger relationship with their players – encouraging their voice in their community. In conclusion, by giving players agency and tools for their own transformative play, we can build better communities with developers and player bases eager to share their experiences, thus contributing to the marketing of a game.