During the grand reveals of the current generation of consoles back in 2012, a huge talking point for both console manufacturers was social features. Social features this, social features that, it was an unavoidable torrent of “interacting with your friends”. When the shiny new Dualshock 4 controller was revealed, it was shown that an entire button was dedicated to sharing your gameplay experience with others on social media. The share button is now a permanent fixture on our PlayStation controllers and Sony have obviously placed a lot of stock on this being a wanted feature. Take a screenshot, share a small clip, and you can now even share your gameplay experience.
We live in an age of unbridled communication. Our internet lines allow us to be in constant interaction with the world around us. You can make a career out of it by taking photos of products as you go to the gym or making a fool out of yourself for six seconds. We’re in perpetual interaction. The console world responded to this by including a bevvy of social features that you can use in order to stay current with your buddies, communities that spring up for your particular game, sharing screenshots and videos, broadcasting on Twitch, party chats, social hubs and so much more. It’s almost overwhelming.
However, I’ve come to question the efficacy of these social features since I don’t often see them utilised. During the initial PS4 craze, people were sharing screenshots all over the place on Twitter, but these days it’s occasional at the very best. I see communities in the “community” tab of a game and there are a few outdated posts or people saying “is anyone here?”. However, I’m for sure not the target market for this whatsoever. I don’t play multiplayer games often and the ones I do play don’t really require community-driven interaction.
I have seen massive covens of players pop up for particular games that have flourished beyond measure. I know MMOs allow for guild houses or equivalent where people have met lifelong friends and even their spouses on. I know forums, like ours, are constantly populated with a community of people that do everything from count to a million (I see you people) to discussing the latest and greatest games. But all of these instances don’t really have anything to do with the social features that platforms give us. They’re external and have a sort of grassroots feel to them.
We also have third-party apps that often exceed these implemented social features and have become the norm for communication and sharing. Applications such as Discord have fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other. You can create rooms where you can join for voice chats, create topic-specific chatrooms where the discussion can be tailored to one particular thing or just a hodgepodge of inane yammering and you can even video chat and private call your homies. I’ve known quite a few people who have abandoned PSN’s terrible party system that often just doesn’t work or people on the Switch, where there is no convenient method of communication, switch to Discord as their primary method of voice chat.
We have social integration all over the place. On the bottom of this very page, you have buttons that will allow you to share this article on your social media platform of choice (who uses Google+ though, like come on) and the same applies for many online services these days. The share button was done with this express purpose so that you can show off your whip in DriveClub to your 50 Twitter followers or confuse your grandma on Facebook with that clip from God of War where Kratos smashes a troll with his fists. But as I’ve snarkily eluded to, do people actually use these features? The social media buttons just sort of disappear into the background after a while and screenshot sharing only really happens when you see a dope landscape or some kind of funny glitch.
I can be entirely wrong as well. Maybe this is used widely and I’m simply blinded by my particular sphere of social interaction and my little corner of the internet. Maybe those community pages on our PSN and Xbox homescreens are popping off with all kinds discussions or those events are a valuable tool for multiplayer organising. Maybe you use the share button all the time to highlight the games you’re playing, maybe you use Steam’s plethora of community features in order to find like-minded individuals playing the same game and maybe you’re a sucker for anything that keeps you in contact with your buddies.
So that’s my question to you; do you use these social features, communication methods and ways of sharing your experience? What exactly are you up to in the online space and how do you utilise those tools? I’ve given you my perspective of a lonely shut-in who occasionally plays Fortnite with his friends, so I want your perspective. Sound off in the comments!