Building ecosystems and communities around your XR apps, games or experiences is not easy. But, it is not impossible either!
During the NewImages Festival, a panel discussion ”XR and GAMES: How to build Online Communities?” addressed exactly some of the issues around XR Gaming.
The panel was hosted by Darragh Dandurand, Creative Director, Exhibition Curator & Independent journalist with the guests from the industry:
–Iris Elbazis, President of WSC Group
–Fabien Gaëtan, Head of Gaming & Social Entertainment at We Are Social
–Cathy Hackl, a leading tech futurist and globally recognized business leader specializing in augmented reality, virtual reality, & spatial computing, VP of Strategic Growth and Partnerships at Avatar Dimension
–Weszt Hart, Head of Player Dynamics at Riot Games
–Richard Turco, Executive Director of the VR & game studio Innerspace
So what were the key takeaways?
Sociology of players, changing
Richard Turco from immersive game studio Innerspace (released the Fisherman’s Tale and Maskmaker) highlighted the rapid evolution of the sector. On one hand are definitely technological advancements such as the standalone headsets that give more freedom for players, it is also challenging creators to come up with more ambitious games.
Quest 2 with its really affordable price made VR experience more mainstream, as such it is a game changer.
But the other side of the coin is the risk that studios will choose only Quest, which might lead to a slowdown of innovation.
Sociology of players changed a lot in the last two years only, more casual players got into the space, and the family audience is a very interesting niche too.
The challenges will be how to design for both veterans players and casual players?
Metaverse is here!
Cathy Hackl. If web1.0 connected information and we got the internet, web2.0 connected people and we got social media, with its good and bads, web3.0 (will) connect people, places and things.
So, welcome to the Metaverse!
This new concept is unfolding and developing right before our eyes. And even if headlines try to minimize its impact, the metaverse is real.
The experiences offered are felt as real, not as fake – young generation might go for the first at a concert in metaverse, sneakers can be bought in metaverse, fashion can be bought in metaverse. And of course, technological advancement is only helping the Metaverse.
Avatars, volumetric captures (3D performance capture) are the beginning of these new worlds.
Such a groundbreaking example in fashion is the After worlds, created by Balenciaga.
Thinking social and creative agency!
Fabien Gaëtan, Head of Gaming and Social Entertainment at We Are Social suggested a focus on the social dimension of XR gaming.
As experiencing real moments together is what makes gaming such a big thing, VR should focus on this as well, VR is not something that we experience in our rooms, but something meant to be shared and lived together! In addition to that, it is important to keep in mind player-led experiences – meaning the capacity of players to modify the experience should be the core of each game!
How to work with Influencers
Iris Elbazis, President of WSC Group, presented key insights from working with influencers. More and more companies and small studios want to attract influencers, but having an influencer on your team does not necessarily guarantee your success!
As an influencer creates content supported by his/her community, that means you have to trust the influencer’s judgments when it comes to the best way to interact with the public.
As such, choose wisely your influencers, and make sure your values are aligned!
Be an active participant in the community!
Weszt Hart, Head of Player Dynamics at Riot Games, highlighted that you should not just build community as an outsider, only as a business proposition, but be an active part of the players community!
“You need to be an active participant in the community itself – you need to talk, have conversation with the players, understand their perspective’ ‘, considers Hart. And as such, players will feel that you care, they will give you feedback, tell what is good and what is crap, and will shape your games. “Delight players and ask constantly: what else can we do?”, is the advice.
Another important lesson they learned is that games are social experiences. Even if it is designed for a single player, players talk about it and as such become social.
At the open discussion, Darragh Dandurand raised briefly the issue of: trends, challenges and specificity of XR experiences.
So, let’s take a look at the answers:
When it comes to Future Trends: Multiplayer and multilocal online games will become more and more popular. Also, keeping in mind games for non-veteran gamers, considers Eris Elbazis.
Cathy Hackl highlighted that currently VR/AR games are limited, and companies are working on this issue, those that can fix the problem will become successful.
But in the case of such experiences, group dynamics have to be taken into consideration, because once you put a lot of people together, they would want to split into groups ``Players want the crowd, but they want the small groups as well” considered Weszt Hart. He also highlighted the need for topics such as social dynamics to be constantly consciously addressed from a design perspective. ‘As we are human beings, that are evolving, we have to keep in mind that there are going to be frictions between players’
What are the challenges?
What do we have to look at now, in order to solve later problems that we know are going to affect XR community building?
Metaverse is seen as such a big next thing that everybody wants to build a virtual world. But, before starting to build it, answer some question posed by Cathy Hackl: how do you keep it relevant, how do you keep people coming back in and also, how do you stuff it?” Because once built, people will not miraculously just come!
Iris Elbazis can only confirm that young generations can easily find new attractions, so companies have to always find ways to “stay on the page” and to stay relevant.
Another topic connected is related to Multiple identities. The Metaverses will be able to create the opportunity for humans to have multiple sets of identities; and also tools for different kinds of spaces. Digital identities are very interesting and powerful. It will be interesting to see how we are going to present ourselves to others, how we are gonna express ourselves to be more social, considers Fabien Gaëtan.
So, what kind of experiences can XR offer compared with other games?
Richard Turco, Innerspace, considers that we need to start thinking natively in VR and designing games that are specific to VR, that can’t be found somewhere else. “Forget that it is a game, think of it as a new experience, and develop that best and unique experience that can only be done in VR”, advises Turco.
Final short advises:
Authenticity, always say something authentic, have the right message!
Have direct contact and feedback from players! For example set up a discord channels only for the players
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! With as many people as you can!
Do what you can to make the experience and feeling worth repeating.
Think in advance of what can go wrong!
“Don’t make a business of humanity, make humanity your business!” said in the end Weszt Hart.
Panel discussion ”XR and GAMES: How to build Online Communities?”moderated by Darragh Dandurand is powered in partnership with the French Immersion program – Cultural Services of the French Embassy Cultural Services, the CNC, the Institut français and UniFrance.