And looking at Playful, I realise that I wanted to say more than 'I'm not good at games' I wanted to say that there are loads of games I don't like. Especially many of these new social, interacting-with-real-people games. But of course, I'm always embarrassed to say this in person, so when invited to them I tend to just not turn up. Maybe that's why I'm writing it here.
Which is not all to say that these things are bad, just that they're not for me. And, I'm not that special, so I bet they don't appeal to some other people either. And that might be worth thinking about. Because there seems to be some consensus that the more social these things are the better and I'm not sure that's true.
It's probably connected to some other things I don't like:
a) Theatre (I can never suspend my disbelief, I just see people shouting and spitting)
b) Any form of 'improv' (Always seems like a comedy song, you're supposed to be impressed that some joke-shaped thing has been constructed and not to worry about the fact that it's not funny)
c) Meeting people I don't know (I'm just a typical shy person. I like people I know, I don't like meeting people I don't. That's why the web has been such a joy for me, I've been able to 'meet' people and get to know something of them before I really meet them.)
d) Participation (I'll run a mile from any circumstance where I'll be called on to participate in an unplanned way; magic, street theatre, etc, especially when I feel like I'm being manipulated by some behind-the-scenes brain. Which is always.)
As I've said, I know this isn't right, I'm probably in a minority and possibly deeply flawed, but I bet I'm not alone. There seems to be some sort of consensus that the highest form of play is fully immersive, interactive live theatre. Well not for me. The rhetoric of these things is often about people making their own choices, being free to act, creating their own narrative, etc, etc. And I always end up feeling like a piece, a pawn.
Which means I find many of the efforts of the social and pervasive gamers a bit scary. Werewolf, for example, seems to be a codification and enforcement of all that's horrible about a dinner party. (Though it's intellectually fascinating, and if you like that kind of thing, exactly the kind of thing you'd like.)
So lots of my favourite games are only slightly social.
I love Echo Bazaar partly because the social aspect is fairly opaque. I might know who some of the people out there are, but I don't need to. I can avoid them if/when I want to. Drop 7's the same. The chat function on Word With Friends is about as far as I'd like to go with these things
I think that's why I'm drawn towards the idea of 'pretending apps' - they're not about imposing rules, they're about suggesting context. And you can play them in your own head.
Look, for instance, at Soundroid Rampage (iTunes link). It's an app that lets you pretend to be a huge mecha stamping around and lasering things. It's silly and funny and suggests all sorts of possibilities.
I realise that means they're not games, and I'm OK with that. Not everything has to be a game.
The best description that's occurred to me is Social Toys. Maybe that's what I'm trying to imagine.
They're toys because they're things for playing with, not for playing in.
And they're social because they're connected and you can play in a shared context. But it's your play, in your head. So maybe social's not the right word. But it's what I've got for now.
(As with so many things this was precipitated in my head by tweetage from Moleitau, but I won't reproduce it because he's private, I just wanted to acknowledge and testify.)