Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Social Media In Your Games

How many of you run games in a modern setting? I know the games are out there. Dresden Files has won several awards and is a popular enough series that people have to be playing it. At the same time, White Wolf has made almost their entire business by catering to the Urban Fantasy crowd. Super Hero games are also usually in the modern day, as well as a ton of other games. So, for all those modern day games, how many of you actually have social media as part of the world in a meaningful way?

Not As Silly As It Sounds
The first few times I've brought this topic up with people in real life it has been met with amused chuckles and chortles. However, it isn't as funny as it sounds. Social Media has had a huge impact on the way we live our lives, how we handle our business, and what forms of entertainment reach us. We live in a world where "Youtube Celebrity" is a thing. At conventions the people whose pictures are featured in popular memes (i.e. scumbag steve, success kid, bad luck brian, etc) get asked to sign pictures and can make a career out of it. Now think about how that could work in your games too.

You Can't Control Everything...
In a world where people are beginning to trust large corporate news less and less, and smaller more personal sources more and more, information control becomes  a lot harder. In many Urban Fantasy - and other - campaigns there is a group of people that control the media to hide what is actually going on. You ever try to stop a group of people from tweeting what they're seeing? You think the home made video of someone watching a werewolf rip into a vampire on a bus isn't going to go viral in seconds? Keep in mind the old addage that once something is on the internet it can never come off of it, and you have an information control nightmare.

Easy Communication
This is used very well in Kick-Ass 2, but websites like twitter and facebook make large scale communication - of a predominantly anonymous nature - ridiculously easy. You need to get everyone involved in a movement to be somewhere? Let them know online. Yes, this means that the opposition can also see it, but sometimes that's the point right? Combine this with the point above, and social media becomes the more modern villains one stop shop for tormenting their hero of choice. You think Spider-Man is going to enjoy watching Gwen Stacy get tossed from that bridge on youtube? How about pictures of a crime scene on twitter? What happens when the internet gets involved and the villain lovers (and you know they're out there) start liking and praising the video or its contents? Things can get real very very fast.

Going Viral
I mentioned this before, but we live in a world of the instant celebrity. The internet catches something, likes it, and it spreads like wildfire across cyberspace. Someone goes from an unknown to a huge celebrity in the snap of a finger, and then all the things that come with going viral come out. For a super hero game this is a quick way to get recognition for a media-loving hero, and to get someone involved in the stakes of what is going on in the world around them. Which can also lead into cases of mistaken identity (think of all the problems Spider-Man could have today if his popularity exploded on twitter instead of in the daily bugle!)

Example In Media
The point I'm trying to make here is that social media is a powerful tool, and it has heavily augmented how people live their lives. More and more people have tighter social networks than before because there is no need to make new contacts when you can keep in touch with your highschool - or elementary school - friends forever. However, the other aspects, discussed above, also make the life of staying unknown, or being a celebrity, that much more interesting.

The best example for this in media is Kick-Ass, which was partially inspired by this very idea of how social media and modern society would react to a super hero showing up. In both the movie and the comic Kick-Ass gets a huge level of fame right away from internet celebrity, which then gets him noticed by other - "real" superheroes - and ultimately involved with the mob.

Now look at that and ask yourself, are you using it to help your game? If not, is there a reason you're not?


  1. I play two games of Shadowrun and of course social media get used a lot there, systemwise and storywise. In that world, it works very well and it's a nice tool for storytelling.

    But there is a reason why my Vampire GMs all set their stories in the 90s. And why I've never been a fan of Cthulhu Now. In the World of Darkness, there are tons of supernatural beings all carefully (more or less) hiding from the humans and we had a hard time staying hidden in our adventures even without camera phones and Twitter. Flashmob goes to a whole new level if it involves burning a vampire.

    I guess it can be fun to play a Vampire or Cthulhu story involving social media and they can be a great tool. I'm thinking about Marble Hornet for example - that's a great example of story (Slender Man) being invented and coming alive via social media.

    But it's much harder with characters being able to communicate instantly, having access to the vast resources online pretty much everywhere ect. Especially if you don't want to solve the problem with "sorry, bad reception" or "oops, the memory card of your I-Phone got wiped by accident"

  2. That is a solution I expected some GMs to use when setting their games. The 90s is very similar to today in a lot of ways, but also has its differences. The internet is still young and not to be trusted, but there. I'd imagine it offers a lot of freedom.

    Though, on the other hand, as time moves forward you start getting the problems associated with any historical setting. People are less connected to what was actually going on, what was popular, and how things worked. Newer players might not even remember the 90s from an adolescent - let alone adult - point of view. Not a problem with a closed game of friends, but it could be one if you started to recruit.

  3. In most horror genre games I play/run, I stand by the consensus that most supernatural beings cannot be photographed (especially Vampires who have no reflection anyway and virtually all Mythos horrors who inhabit dimensions outside our knowledge.)

    Of course the results of said supernatural being's actions do not fall under that claim - which leads to all sorts of strange and unexplainable photographic and video evidence.

  4. Kevin, I'm curious, does that mean they don't show only on the final product (what was traditionally film?) or while looking through a camera would there be nothing where the supernatural creature was? That could be a great way to hunt vampires in crowds if it works that way.

  5. Vampires don't show on the final product (or if the view is digitally created) so a camera view would not show the vampire even before the image is "finalized."

    So there wouldd be nothing there if viewed through a camera so long as the representation on the camera was manipulated in some fashion - digitized, enhanced, rendered, etc.

    Interesting that nobody I've ever played with has thought to hunt supernatural beings by using such a process of "you show up to the naked eye, but not on the camera image... therefore you're not natural"

  6. Yeah, that's really surprising. What could be more natural than some jerk with ear phones on walking through a crowd with his iPhone up? Anyone who you see with your eyes that's not on camera? boom, staked!

  7. Heh, drawing on my Cthulhu days... what happens when you raise that iPhone on a crowded street and see an empty intersection...

    SAN check!