ANet just posted information about Gaming Outside the Game on their blog. Massively also has a bit to say on the subject. The posts are primarily about the many ways that access to GW2 will be made available through non-game sources, such as on iPad/Pod/Phone and Android apps. There are even some very snazzy pics of the world map on an iPad. I have to say, I have mixed feelings about all of this.
ANet is definitely exploring new marketing and gameplay territories here. No other company or game (to my knowledge) has allowed for this much content outside of the actual game. Players frequently use computer programs/applications such as TeamSpeak and Ventrillo to communicate while gaming, but these programs are not embedded within the game being played. ANet is proposing not only improving upon these programs by increasing communication opportunities, but they’re allowing for communications from your phone to people currently playing the game.
Furthermore, there are numerous opportunities for you to be a part of the game while not actually playing the game. Communication is only one. You can scry on your friends as they roam around the map and learn about all of their items and even part of their personal story. You can even ping on their map to get their attention! We’ve even learned that you can access the Auction House outside of the game (though this wasn’t mentioned specifically in this article).
My concern is raised in regards to immersion and addiction. I’ve owned an iPhone for about 2 years now and every time it *dings* an update (e.g., email, Facebook, sports score, etc.) I stop whatever I’m doing, pick it up, and see what’s going on. I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs being pulled to my phone whenever I hear that sound.
People are already very connected to their smartphones. We take them everywhere and do just about everything with them. They connect us to our friends and just about anything we want from the internet. They are instant gratification machines.
By comparison, video game addiction is a very real thing. While it may have been passed over for inclusion in the DSM-V, it has many of the symptoms of other addictions (e.g., gambling and alcoholism) and stimulates the same areas of the brain. People play for hours and hours at a time, forego non-internet based social interactions, and constantly think about the game. Even casual players, such as myself, feel this pull.
The addition of apps and other programs that allow for people to be connected to the GW2 outside of the game represents a leap ahead in the current MMO world. Players will be able to do with GW2 something they cannot (yet) do in other MMOs: ALWAYS BE CONNECTED. In and of itself, that is kind of cool. You will always know when your friends are playing. You can organize groups and events efficiently. You can keep track of who has the best equipment and who has killed the most rats. You can monitor your auctions and plan out what you’re going to do when you get back into game. It will very much broaden the causal player’s gaming experience.
The danger, of course, is the other extreme. Games are meant to be cool and fun. That’s what keeps us buying them. MMOs add a social component to that and amps up the ol’ who has the highest score in the arcade mentality because you are actively competing with others in real time. There are a lot of reasons to keep playing a game you enjoy–especially a game you’re enjoying with friends. And when you can’t play, you can check up on things on your phone. At anytime, you are either playing or checking your phone. Facebook is already an example of this. We are plugged in all the time.
I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities provided by ANet through apps and programs that allow me to monitor my game status while I’m not actually playing. I’m sure a lot of people are. It is innovative, versatile, and (currently) free. Just don’t be surprised when you find yourself turning the game off and going directly to your phone or iPad to see what your friends are up to.