gamerDNA: Splicing Genes of Social and Interactive Media
by: J. F. Amprimoz
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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Join us while we talk to Sam Houston of gamerDNA.com about bringing together thousands of gamers by integrating game platforms like Steam and Xbox Live with social media like Twitter and Facebook
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What Is gamerDNA?
There are a lot of websites devoted to gaming out there, many excellent, many… not so much. gamerDNA.com not only falls into the excellent category, but is also unique in its offerings.
“We enable gamers to share with their friends what games they are playing" explains Sam Houston, their Online Marketing Manager. “We actually integrate with Xbox Live, with platforms on the PC like Steam and X-Fire… all these gaming and social networks you are already on. We pull those into your profile, and let you broadcast those out to all your friends and share some of your gaming with all of your friends on gamerDNA.com."
“We also integrate with networks like Twitter and Facebook so you can automatically share with your friends on Facebook what games you’ve played, so it’s a great way to start conversations. Maybe a friend on Facebook will see that I just loaded Red Faction: Guerrilla up last night and he might ask me about it. A big part of what we do is try to enable gamers to easily keep track of their gaming and share it with their friends.
“And then, on the community at gamerDNA.com they can see, and find out, what games they should be really checking out, and find out what other people are saying about them."
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By the People Game Opinions
The content on gamerDNA.com is indeed community based. Looking up a game gets pages upon pages of user comments, screenshots, links to user made movies, and so on. It’s a perspective on games you can’t get from official sources or professional reviewers, and you would be trolling forums for days to find as many user opinions as gamerDNA will have.
Much like you will check out the official site and some reviews before you buy a game, you should drop by gamerDNA.com as well for a quick and easy way to see what other gamers are saying across just about any platform. The result is a variety of content on games you often wouldn’t hear much about.
“We actually track Flash games on our site. We’ve announced deals with places like Kongregate.com, a lot of the games people are probably playing at work… People are gaming in all sorts of different ways… a Facebook game you play when you get home, or I’ll play Peggle on the bus to work, and then I get home and load up my Xbox and I’ll play Red Faction, or whatever game. All of those games make up who you are as a gamer and we try to bring all that into your gamerDNA.com profile."
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What if You Hate Twitter and Facebook?
Twitter and Facebook’s popularity are hard to overstate, and many gamers love to take advantage of the broadcast side of gamerDNA.com’s integration. For people who are into it, the concept that once you link your gamerDNA.com to your XBL or Steam account, and your Twitter or Facebook account, you tweet what you are playing to all your friends in almost real time is simply brilliant. But a lot of people still view social media as something time consuming and egotistic.
While these people can certainly still benefit from visiting gamerDNA.com to see what other gamers are saying about a game they are thinking about buying, they may not see the point of making their own profile. There is however, more to gamerDNA.com then social media and gamer opinion.
“We integrate with these different social networks that they [gamers] are on, we enable them to easily keep track of track of their games. We believe that is important, and we are trying to build something on top of that… But also, we want you to come to gamerDNA.com to be able to find new and interesting content, based on the games that you’re playing."
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Traits of Games, Tags of Media
Users don’t just post about games. When you add a game to your gamerDNA.com profile, or a platform does it for you automatically, you can choose or enter up to six Traits: “…you tell us what you like about that game. We sort of create what is basically a folksonomy around that game: think of it like a Tag cloud…"
A Folksonomy, by the way "is the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one's own retrieval. The tagging is done in a social environment (usually shared and open to others). Folksonomy is created from the act of tagging by the person consuming the information." This is taken from the individual who coined the term, Thomas Vander Wal's, website. Returning to Sam's explanation:
“We utilize that in a lot of different ways on the site. What it enables us to do is to find games that you should like, and they’re going to be a lot more accurate… you go to a lot of e-commerce sites where you’re going to buy a game and it’ll say ‘hey you should check out this game as well’ and in a lot of cases, it’s going to be the top five games that came out that month, or in the last three months. Our suggestions, they’re not going to be just brand new games, they might be games that came out on the Sega… it’s not just the big and popular games."
“Prior to the site launching, I wouldn’t know, or really realize, how much of the conversation was dominated by a game like Sims 3. You’d be surprised how big that game is in terms of the conversation, or other games like Wii Fit. What’s really interesting is you can use these sites to see what people are talking about, and sort of see what you might not be following, and really see how the community reacts to a lot of the press and game releases and things like that. It’s all in real time, so it’s really cool to see the reactions happen…"
“Going into E3, I would have thought games like Modern Warfare 2 would have really dominated the conversation. But actually the winner, in terms of Tweet My Gaming, was Beatles: Rock Band… We launched the second day of June, and for a good two to three weeks, Beatles: Rock Band was in the number one spot in terms of games that have yet to release."
It really is a perfect place to see what is making waves in gaming right this minute, or search by game and see all the tweets about it for the past day, week, and so on. Even someone who has no interest in gaming, but any Twitter buff, can have a blast there, watching how a piece of news gets retweeted and discussed in real time.
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For people who do like Twitter, gamerDNA.com runs a fascinating website called tweetmygaming.com. Imagine you could see every game related tweet, just posting one after another. It would be perfect to see what gamers at large are playing, or what they thing of a major announcement, or what is really knocking their socks off at a Conference or Expo. gamerDNA made it happen on tweetmygaming.com
If you have a particular game you like, you can browse to that game and see tweets specifically about that game. Take Threshold RPG for example. It is a smaller MMO, but it has a very active community. As a result, Threshold RPG is on the first page of the list of RPGs.
“We really saw a big opportunity to bring in the conversations around games, because again, gamerDNA is all about conversations between gamers and sort of those real authentic conversations around games. Twitter just was a logical step that we would make to do something really interesting.
“What we did is we created a website called Tweet My Gaming, and what it is does is, it keeps track of all of the gaming conversations that are happening on Twitter, and pulls them into one place; so you can see what games are being talked about right now, and actually what the most popular games [are] that are being talked about right now. And you can go to that site and learn a lot of really interesting things.
“For instance… we’ve seen stuff done by gamers where they will build a fansite for Warhammer Online, they could utilize our API to pull in like the different levels and things of all the different characters in their guild or on that fansite… or you wanted to see our ‘also playing’ list… I could say ‘What are people, people that play Rock Band 2, what other games are they playing…" which would obviously be a cool feature of a Rock Band 2 site.
“We try to make it as open as possible… Twitter is obviously a huge example of someone who has opened up their API in a ton of different ways and people have built some really cool, interesting things. I would love to see someone build a TweetDeck or a Seesmic Desktop and build that off of the gamerDNA API, which is totally possible."
Of course, the API, Tweet My Gaming, and gamerDNA itself aren’t just useful for the people playing the games, but for the people trying to sell them.
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Another Way into Social Media for the Game Industry
The million, perhaps multi-million, dollar question about social media for companies is how to take advantage of something of a very grass roots nature to sell their products. It’s a very tough nut to crack, since advertising tends to be pretty top down, and the audience is purely on the receiving end, which runs completely contrary to the people-generated content nature of things like Twitter and Facebook.
By allowing integration of things like Xbox Live and Steam with gamerDNA, Microsoft and Valve, and even Flash game sites like Kongregate.com, automatically make their games part of the social media universe in a very natural way. Anyone that has linked a gamerDNA.com profile to Twitter or Facebook, as well as the game network in question, will be automatically Tweeting away about whatever they are playing.
“I think, and this applies to game companies in general, not only just publishers and platforms, it that: everyone is really, really interested in getting more of their content, and more of the conversations around them, out on the web, and, integrated into these social networks.
“Sort of a side effect of being integrated with gamerDNA, and having your game tracked on gamerDNA, through Xbox Live, or whatever, is that you can instantly have those conversations happening on Facebook, you know, about Red Faction: Guerrilla, for example. Or, a game that you played on Steam, so I think there is a lot to that. I mean everyone is trying to figure out how they can get on to social media, and gamerDNA is a great way for games to sort of get into that conversation in a really easy way…
“We’ve done a lot of the hard work already, so a lot of people can benefit from what we’ve done, and hopefully in a real, genuine way… Say I uploaded a screenshot of Beatles Rock Band and that gets pushed out to Twitter or Facebook. or even just gamerDNA, it’s a little bit more genuine, and a little bit more interesting to my ‘social graph’ – you know, my friends – than maybe, something uploaded straight from a company."
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Gaming Is a Social Medium, So Bring on the Social Media
Talking to Sam and spending some time at gamerDNA.com revealed many things about how gamers connect with each other and games, and how game companies can connect to players. The audio of the complete interview can be found here. gamerDNA.com is doing very interesting things for gamers, from an easy way to see what people are saying about a game, to recommending games based on what you like about your current games, to some ground breaking work on the social media side like letting you automatically update Facebook and Twitter with your gaming activities or monitoring the whole Twiterverse’s gaming conversation on tweetmygaming.com.
They aren’t resting on their laurel’s though, and Sam told us to expect some announcements in coming months or even weeks about what new goodies gamerDNA.com will be coming up with. You can catch Sam at PAX 09 in Seattle, where he will be on a panel about Community and Twitter (on Saturday the 6th, in the Unicorn Room) with people from EA, Ubisoft, Turbine, and Yelp.
You can (and if you are a gamer, you should) follow Sam and gamerDNA’s CEO, Jon Radolf on Twitter @Samhouston and @jradoff respectively. You can follow me @gameandpc or the Managing Editor of the MMO channel @muckbeast.