Social Architecture and the Emergence of Power Laws in Online Social Games


DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play
DiGRA/Utrecht School of the Arts, January, 2011
Volume: 6
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

This paper explores the concept of the “social architecture” of games, and tests the theory that it is possible to analyse game mechanics based on the effect they have on the social behaviour of the players. Using tools from Social Network Analysis, these studies confirm that social activity in games reliably follows a power distribution: a few players are responsible for a disproportionate amount of social interactions. Based on this, the scaling exponent is highlighted as a simple measure of sociability that is constant for a game design. This allows for the direct comparison of social activity in very different games. In addition, it can act as a powerful analytical tool for highlighting anomalies in game designs that detrimentally affect players’ ability to interact socially. Although the social architectures of games are complicated systems, SNA allows for quantitative analysis of social behaviours of players in meaningful ways, which are to the benefit of game designers.