Game Development Reference
Interview with Jason Decker: Love Letters from
Q: Some people would say that “social games” are just games available on
Facebook and that's it. But I think you guys have built a truly social game.
Do you think of Pocket Legends as a social game?
A: I'm not gonna badmouth Facebook games—obviously a huge number
of people play them in the world. But I don't know how social they really
are. You're not necessarily chatting or even interacting. You just happen to
be on a platform with millions of people on it. It's less that they are social
games, and more that Facebook is a channel, a platform. It's great in that
they've brought so many people together, and can then provide them
with games: Pachinko , arcade games, or Pong . But would Pong be a social
game if you were playing it against an artificial intelligence (AI) character
just because you're playing it on a social platform? I don't know.
But the social games I'm talking about are the ones that generate
hundreds of pages of people giving us their real picture, introducing them-
selves to all the friends they've met in our game. These are people who
live in the United States, in Russia, and all over the world!
We all live in a world where it's hard for people to establish a sense
of unique identity and community is very fractured. You probably know
more people online than you do in your neighborhood. So for many
people, it may be much more important what hairstyle their avatar on
the Xbox 360 has than what car they drive to work each day. You're
great, as long as you're the king of your forum, of your social space.
Q: When you think about things you'd do next, starting fresh on a new
social game and wanting to explore different ways of monetizing the game,
what would you do differently?
A: I'm always surprised that we're able to get money from people, because
we're really laying it all out there for free. I think we would try to lend an
air of exclusivity—maybe only create ten of a certain item. EVE Online has
done something like this, when you can buy a piece of clothing that will
cost you as much as a battleship, but everyone else will know that you
spent that much on it. It's a status symbol, just like in real life.
We've shied away from that so far—we prefer to give the super-duper
prizes to people who are community leaders and really active in forming
a community. We rely on these people to shape and police the commu-
nity, because we don't have the money, time, and wherewithal to keep
people from naming their character “Face Raper” or something like that.