Games usually consist of interconnected and repeating patterns of play which group together to form larger movements. Some designers take this idea further by saying that smaller and larger patterns have much the same shape. So a loop generated from a single action such as hitting an opponent and a movement of play (such as killing a boss) are basically the same thing. One is just a larger version of the other.
Your MMO guild members may be good friends but they’re scattered all across the world. Your mobile games steal your attention away from talking to people. Your social game hassles you to bug your friends for gifts, but otherwise you play alone. Your co-op sessions of Portal 2 tend to be played with mute strangers.
Most innovations in digital gaming tend to produce solitary experiences. This is fine most of the the time, but players don’t always want to be solitary. They like to gather to play, to participate and hang out. Social contact is healthy, and games have always had an important role in helping to bind communities together.
Video games have not really tapped into that spirit yet, but it feels to me like that’s the next wave. Local games are coming.
Network is my favourite film. It tells the stories of Howard Beale, and more broadly of network news itself, as Beale goes insane on air and taps into the rage of a generation. “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” he cries, and the whole nation cries with him.
Sometimes it’s like that in games. Consider how many developers hate Zynga, Ian Bogost’s declaration that gamification is bull, or a recent thread on Facebook asking whether Angry Birds is really that good, to be met with a torrent of acidic responses. Consider many of the threads in forums like The Chaos Engine where shared misery is a state of being.
Resentment, anger, begrudgery, disappointment and so on are common in any creative field. Yet they serve no purpose and can sap your enthusiasm for trying to do something awesome if you let them.
As a general grouping I would call them meta-games. They are a lot of fun to create and run as a designer (In fact I got my start in game-making through LARPs), and they have the quality of seeming to change the player’s world. But they also have a critical failing.