I think I am a social game developer's worst nightmare. It's not that I don't enjoy social platform games — rather, I do. I enjoy the hell out of them. Barely a day goes by without me playing a round or 10 of Bejeweled Blitz, and a quick afternoon level in Bubble Island gives me fond memories of hours spent procrastinating through Snood back in university.
And then, of course, there's Triple Town, a village-building match-three puzzler whose adorable cranky bears seem to have crawled into my very soul. Indeed, Triple Town has become somewhat of a momentary obsession. With Facebook, Google +, and Android versions in my hot little hands, I always have a full set of turns waiting for me somewhere, and I can plant all the little shrubberies I want and watch them turn into houses.
No, my problem isn't with the games, nor is it even the matter of occasionally putting my own hard-earned American dollars into the hands of the folks who develop them. (I try to support creative folks whose work I consume, when I can.) My problem is this: fundamentally, I am an anti-social gamer.
None of my friends or family really know about my frequent forays into quick-paced web gaming, and until today at least I've worked hard to keep it that way. "Who can see posts and activity from this app on Facebook?" Only me. Only ever me. And every game that any friend or relative plays gets blocked from appearing in my news stream as well.
In fact, I only became willing to play social games regularly with the launch of Google+ last year. With game news and activity appearing on a separate panel, relegated to their own little desert, I could rest easy knowing that even if I should happen to click "share" in error, odds of subjecting anyone to my mistake would be low. Anyone who could see it would at least have to be interested enough in games to be on that page in the first place.
The fact of the matter is, I just don't like to share — an irony indeed for someone who spends all her time writing about her gaming experiences. Even my best scores and most extraordinary performances stay silent triumphs. I don't like to brag about my records, and I don't want to lock myself into eternal competition with friends. I can't drag all my in-laws and college pals into my newest, fleetingly temporary favourite thing just for the sake of more virtual currency.
In a world where I am incessantly active on social networks (and I am), I hoard the private record of my moment-to-moment pastimes like a deep secret. My playlists are not on Spotify, my book log is not on GoodReads, and I will simply never click "share" on any "social" game I play. I put up with statistics and achievements being shared on Steam because as an avid PC gamer, I more or less have to, but that's where I draw my personal line.
And so here I sit, the worst possible customer. I am in every way the demographic targeted for casual browser gaming, except in the single most important way. I do not tell my friends, and so I will not help make their audience grow. If "whales" are the players that drive a social game's business, I suppose that makes me a leech.