Social Connections Abound At E3

For two days this week, I was surrounded by zombies, killer cars, fantastical warriors and polo-shirt-wearing businesspeople. It's truly a surreal world at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where everyone from Xbox to Disney to Chevy showcases their products.

It's also a fascinating look into social communities.

Platform-based Social Communities

My favorite quote of the show, overheard while someone walked by talking on their phone: "I really want to check out the Xbox because it's probably the only game console I know for sure I won't own."

Besides this anti-Xbox gamer who sounded open to an array of consoles from PS4 to the Wii to new offerings like unu, most gamers appeared very loyal to a single console. Whether because of the controllers or the extensions or the game offerings, people identified themselves with a particular console community.

This reminded me very much of people who identify with particular social platforms: "I'm not a Twitter person, I like Facebook." And, sure, there are lots of people who split their time between consoles or between social platforms, but most people identify with their core platform.

Game-based Social Communities

Probably one of the smartest booths at E3 was that created by Nintendo. In addition to showcasing the latest games, Nintendo had elaborate sets created that allowed fans to step into a scene from Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Zelda, etc. to have their photos taken.

This extended the experience at E3 both from a time perspective (by creating a moment that lived on through a photo) and from a space perspective (by providing the fan with something easily shareable on social media to exist outside E3).

And, while this is a great social integration at a real-world event, what I find particularly interesting is how much fans created social communities around these games. Fans came dressed up as characters from their favorite titles. They identified with the titles, but also started and maintained friendships based on which titles they played.

This parallels making social connections on social media based on content sharing -- often with people you've never met in real life. Content can inspire the formation of communities.

One Social Community Stands Above The Rest

However, there was one social community that stood out above all the rest. Not due to size (although the number of users is quite impressive), but due to passion. It's a game I was only mildly familiar with until recently, but have learned quite a bit about of late. The game -- no, actually, the world -- is called EVE.

An MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) that has been around for years, it creates an incredibly interesting social dynamic case study, building virtual communities, organizations, alliances and friendships. There is online currency. There is online work. There is online war.

Basically, it allows true human nature to build online, without external realities getting in the way.

To give you a sense of scale, there is currently a war going on between two alliances that involves the space ships of 85,000 players! This is a war between enough people to fill four Major League Baseball stadiums -- and, remember, the players decide EVERYTHING that happens in the game. So the war didn't have to happen. It just did.

To give you a sense of the passion, I met a gamer who was lucky enough to retire in his 30s. He now plays EVE full-time. He manages a "corporation" of 500 people who align together within the game to achieve success -- most all of whom he has never met in real life. He and his girlfriend even refer to each other by their in-game names, not their legal ones.

The level of social community building is absolutely fascinating. As I continue to look for ways to understand the social dynamics of human nature and how those play out in marketing online on social media platforms, I now find myself drawn to this new petri dish of human activity.

If you are interesting in social dynamics, and not just social media platforms, I highly suggest you take a look as well.

Tags: social media
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2 comments about "Social Connections Abound At E3".
  1. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , June 17, 2013 at 4:20 a.m.
    I've recently noticed that Nintendo has doubled-down on advertising to its core audience of under-13s. Pretty sure this is because young kids have fewer options, because they can't e.g. use facebook legally, so they're a core market for new consoles. Microsoft seem to be doing the opposite with the xbone, which I think is an additional mistake to join the whole "we have gamers" meme.
  2. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , June 17, 2013 at 4:21 a.m.
    "we hate gamers" - please add editing, mkay?