Game of Likes

The Internet is full of social web sites, offering media of various kinds and the ability to show our appreciation in some way or another; liking, hearting, starring and so on.  The reason we interact with content in that way may be to show our appreciation to the content provider, bookmark it for further reference or generally serve our compulsive collecting need.  But otherwise we may not do much with all those likes and hearts and stars because we’re constantly exposed to so much new content that we continue responding to, with our stars, likes and hearts.

What if we were given the opportunity to play with the content we’ve liked in the past, interacting with people who like similar things, across our usual social connections, discovering new things we may like and by the way learning more about ourselves?

Game of Likes is an idea that has been brewing for over two years.  The initial idea is of a game that offers the ability to connect the various social (media) networks a player may use – Tumblr, We Heart It, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, Hype Machine, Spotify, 8tracks, deviantART, 9gag and so on – and play mini games based on the liked or posted media items from those networks, alone or against opponents that are friends or total strangers. The idea has then evolved into an environment where you gradually specify your interests and are assigned into groups of anonymous players that are regularly split up and reformed with progressively like-minded players, where you share your likes, with your likes(TM), as we like (!) to put it.   As a new player, or when the game has only a few players, you may not find yourself among like-minded people, but as you progress through the different  groups and deep-dive through the network of players, you may find yourself increasingly exposed to content that you find agreeable and along the way make connections with people sharing that content.

Later the idea has further evolved from this concept of assigning players into groups, to simply offering the ability for each player to propose a particular game to play, where others can jump into any of the proposed, open and active games, which catches their fancy.  The concept of assigned groups is still appealing, so the idea evolution may take a few more rounds or shift towards something entirely different.  I’m going to work on this with my wife, Edda Lára Kaaber, as a Masters Thesis project in the Games track at the IT University of Copenhagen.  We have written a thesis proposal, which can be read at:

http://itu.dk/people/bjrr/thesis-preparation/GameOfLikes-final-thesis-proposal.pdf

Phillip Prager has agreed to be our supervisor for this project, which we are very grateful for.  He has connected well to the Game of Likes concept and has already provided us with a variety of interesting reading material.

In the coming weeks I’ll focus on the initial implementation steps towards realising this idea, along with a couple of other projects.  The most basic feature to implement will be the ability to connect to the various social media networks and incorporate media items from them as objects for play in the game of likes.  We envision the media items being arranged on one side of a cube each, in three dimensions.  Such cubes we call like-cubes.  Initial steps along that path have already been taken as a final project in a Procedural Content Generation (PCG) course at ITU, where along with Kasper Fryland Appeldorff, I implemented a prototype that collects media items from a given Tumblr account and presents four of them at a time. The mechanics of the interaction is supposed to resemble that of slot machines or so called bandits. The user can freeze any of the items and choose to roll the free, non-frozen items, where they are either replaced with random selection from the items associated with the specified accounts, or replaced with a selection influenced by the tags (if any) of the items that have been held / frozen.  More details can be read in the report we wrote on this project:

http://itu.dk/people/bjrr/pcg/bjrr-kfap–PCG-report–likeBreeder.pdf

and the prototype can be tried out at:

http://likesplay.com/breeder/

This process of collecting media items into sets, that will be used to decorate sides of cubes, can be viewed as playful in itself.  Beyond that, we have brainstormed various games to play with such cubes.  One of the most simple games, and possibly the most relatable, is a quiz where two participants are presented with three like-cubes, one of which has been created by their opponent and the aim is to guess which of the three it is.  Points are given for correct guesses and as the quiz progresses, the participants could gain a better idea of their opponents’ likes; they could increasingly become experts in each others likes.

Another idea is to have the players arrange the cubes into narratives by connecting them with text fragments.  When presented with this idea, some have received it with skepticism, but while shopping in Copenhagen before last Christmas, I came across the the game Rory’s Story Cubes, in the bookstore Bog & idé, which is based on pretty much the same idea; the main difference being that the story cubes offer a predefined set of images, or icons, while our like-cubes will have dynamically generated sets of images drawn from each user’s social media accounts.  In the same bookstore I also found a series of games that involve the discovery and expression of the players personality, which will also be a goal with the Game of Likes, as discussed in more detail in the thesis proposal linked above.  Those findings I think further validate that we are on to something with this Game of Likes concept.

Initially the idea has been to have these games playable online, with the players usually in different locations, interacting over the internet.  After seeing the possibilities of developing console-like games for the Chromecast device, where players are located at the same place at the same time, in front of a television set and using their smartphones as game controllers, I’ve also become interested in exploring the possibilities of using that technology for some playful activities within the Game of Likes.

Flúðum, janúar 2015.

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