E3 2012 Raises Important Questions about Social Media Gaming

E3 is the holy week of the video game community. Never is there so much crazed media coverage of gaming events (short of the recent barrage on BioWare). Acclaimed Grammy winners and Oscar nominees (Usher and Page, for example) appear in surprise performances both on the stage and in the games. These are special moments for game players, designers, and developers. Asking to share them is to reach across the mouth of a famished dog for its meaty ham bone. The biggest question many are asking at E3 2012: should social media gaming get an equal opportunity shot at the E3 spotlight?

There is no denying social media gaming’s incredible rise and rate of expansion over the past few years. Blockbuster franchises like Assasin’s Creed and The Sims have released successful social media versions of their titles. Mostly these titles are afterthoughts for the real game. However, Ninja Gaiden Clans joins the ranks of social media gaming at E3 this year. This particular attempt was advertised as a standalone, making it one of the highest profile hybrids of social gaming and console/PC titles. Meanwhile, Angry Birds, (FILL-IN-THE-BLANK) with Friends, and so many other social media games are as widely played as Halo and God of War.

Many hardcore gamers want to know why any social media game needs to represent their presence at E3 when the outlet for the game itself reaches a far greater audience. Social media games are not bound to low media coverage. This is one of the biggest reasons for hardcore gamer backlash. Ask random Facebook users if they know of Angry Birds. Then ask the same users if they know of Metal Gear Solid. The difference isn’t about the quality or type of game, but about public awareness. Social media games have an expansive reach resulting from word of mouth publicity. It spreads like wildfire and attracts mainstream media coverage. Then the international craze begins. The merchandising, console versions, and movies commence. All of this unfolds while being discussed on the same social media platform where it began. The circle is infinite.

There are those who believe letting social media games sneak into the house of console and PC games would be disastrous. Take another look because they’re already sitting on the living room couch with a drink in one hand and petting the dog with the other. Over the years, each console system has produced their respective motion capture hardware and beefed up their media streaming selections.  Consoles have simply become home entertainment systems (prophetic for those who recall the thirty year old acronym NES). It almost feels the absence of social media games leaves these systems incomplete.

Fretting seems moot. This is not a sad time for hardcore gamers. The Halos, Call of Duty’s, and God of Wars are still running the show. E3 is still as game as ever, and isn’t going to change if more social media booths are established or if stage time is allotted. The reason for accepting social media gaming into E3 with open arms is simple. Someone said today they had no idea what E3 was, and it was shocking. Giving social media game developers the opportunity to showcase their prized dog would guarantee these conversations never take place.