I consider myself a social gamer. I enjoy the occasional single player experience, but what keeps me logging in is cracking open a beer, putting on my Turtle Beaches, and hanging with my crew. I am 30 years old as I write this article so most of my friends are spread out across the country, but thanks to my X-box I can still spend quality time with my buddies on a weekly basis as we parachute into battles, drive rocket boosted cars into oversized soccer balls, and sail the high seas collecting the skulls of undead pirate captains.
That last sentence referred to the three games that make up the holy trinity of my social gaming life; Fortnite, Rocket League, and now… Sea of Thieves. To me, these three games are currently the standard for social gaming. Each of these games represent a different type of social gaming experience; the battle, the sport, and the adventure.
The Battle: For a millennial such as myself, this is probably the most traditional form of social gaming. The classics (according to a millennial such as myself) include titles such as Golden Eye, Halo, and Call of Duty. However, simple team death matches are officially old news. The newest craze is the Battle Royal game mode. 100 people enter and the last team standing wins. Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) was the tip of the spear, but many have now begun to follow suit — my favorite being Fortnite. Going to virtual war with your friends is one of the most primal, exhilarating, and satisfying gaming experiences available and no social gaming trinity is complete without it.
The Sport: While some may consider shooters to be a subcategory or a relative of the “sports” game genre, it just doesn’t quite satisfy the same itch. Yes, they are both team based competitions, but there is something about the rhythm and dance of passing, hitting, blocking, and scoring that is at the essence of the sports game genre and differentiates it from the shooter. For most of my life, depending on the time of year, this itch was scratched by either the Madden, FIFA or Tiger Woods franchises. However, for me, Rocket League has replaced all of them. The combination of fast paced, stick skill based team play has won me over. Not only is it the perfect game to play for hours on end, but it’s 5 minute match length also allows it to be a nice little palate cleanser between games or an option for you and your buddies when you only have a short amount of time to log.
The Adventure: This is probably the most overlooked and least popular member of the holy trinity of social gaming. Before recently, I’ve had trouble filling this void. The nice thing about Fortnite and Rocket League is the simplicity — you load them up and jump into a match. With many adventure games however, there is a significant amount of time spent customizing your character, managing your inventory, progressing your skill tree, upgrading your weapons and armor, gathering resources, and listening to dialogue — all things that I love about the genre, but are hindrances to social gaming. Sea of Thieves has done a brilliant job of finding a middle ground and making the adventure genre more accessible and easy for you and some friends to jump right in and start playing. What’s nice about this type of game is that the slower pace allows for more time to hang out, drink a beer, and relax. It’s a great change of pace from the battle and sports genres.
What I find interesting is that all three of these games have a few common denominators that seem to be completely coincidental; they all have highly saturated and cartoonish graphics, they all have simple gameplay, and none of them award any kind of in-game advantages as you level up! The latter is probably the most impactful commonality. The fact that all rewards earned are purely cosmetic create an even playing field. What would traditionally be called leveling up (earning more powerful gear and powers) can now be more accurately referred to as simply getting better at the game… and I dig that.
So there it is! My Holy Trinity of Social Gaming. I highly recommend you consider adopting this model — whether you use these three games or fill the genres with titles of your own choosing — I can assure you I have tested many other combinations and none of them are quite as holy…
What does your Holy Trinity of Social Gaming look like?