There are at least three different levels or aspects of Social Status: the players of the same game instance, the players of the same game, and persons who do not play the game but who might be otherwise interested in the game. Social Statuses at every level require time to develop naturally and the different levels can have different mechanisms for estimating and displaying Social Statuses. In any case Social Statuses form a stable hierarchy over time where some players have higher Social Status than the others. The hierarchy, naturally, can have different levels if there are enough members in the group forming the hierarchy.
Example: high ranking Soccer players can have high Social Status on every level: from the other players in the same match, from other Soccer players all over the world, and also from the spectators of the match and other people interested in Soccer.
Example: in MMORPGs the level of the players is often displayed to other players. This is an explicit indicator of Social Status based on past performances. If the game also supports guilds or other kinds of stable organizations the rank or the level in the guild might also be displayed.
Social Statuses in games are most often linked to players' level of Game Mastery. However, in games where players have Creative Control, or the games are Self-Facilitated Games, players may make Investments of time and other real world Resources in order to gain Social Status, thereby making their striving for Social Status have Extra-Game Consequences.
In order for players to have the possibility of acquiring Social Status in games, it is necessary that other players, and possible Spectators, can identify the players between game instances. This is especially important in games where the life-time of a single game instance is limited and in these cases there should be some mechanisms for the players to have Trans-Game Information, such as Handles, which act as stable identifiers from one game instance to another. The situation is slightly different in Persistent Game Worlds where the life-time of the game instance is usually much longer and which almost naturally provide ways for having stable identifiers for the players, be it Handles or some more elaborate mechanisms such as persistent Characters.
Social Status is often based on performance differences. This is especially the case in games based on Competition where the performance of individual players can be quantified: the higher the performance of the player, the higher the natural Social Status. However, this will probably also attract more difficult opponents, increasing the level of the Competition as the Social Status increases. The achieved levels in MMORPGs are one way to quantify and also to explicitly display the Social Status of the players. Games with Player Killing sometimes use an explicit display of Social Status as a Penalty for the players doing Player Killing.
Higher Social Status is often accompanied with Rewards, such as more possibilities for influencing the game. These kinds of Rewards can be specially designed for a game, but in many cases, especially in Persistent Game Worlds, they arise from natural Social Interaction within the game. For example, the player with a high Social Status in a MMORPG might get the permission from other players to distribute the Rewards from a successful mission. It is also natural to display the Social Status. The simplest case is to display the Social Status associated with the Handle of the player. Highscore Lists and other forms of Status Indicators accomplish this naturally and explicitly by having Public Information about the ranks of different players. The Handle might also be accompanied with specific titles. For example, the guild leaders in MMORPGs can have an extra field in their name designating their status in the guild. Higher Social Status can, of course, be displayed by other forms of personalization than just names, for example, by special clothing on an Avatar in a MMORPG or by other types of Illusionary Rewards. The display of Social Status might also be the same as the Individual Reward for having higher status. Players with higher Social Status can have Privileged Abilities or they can have access to more powerful items, both of which are indicated somehow to other players and possible Spectators. In cases of Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties it is often the player with the highest Social Status who gets the privilege to distribute the Rewards and Penalties.
Social Organizations that already have natural hierarchies of power also form hierarchies of Social Status. The players with higher ranking in the Social Organization are rewarded with higher Social Status, with accompanying privileges and displays of status.
There seems to be an almost universal human drive to strive for a higher Social Status within social situations. To have status gives at least a sense of Empowerment and in many cases this can give concrete positive Extra-Game Consequences. This can sometimes cause even violent rivalries for Social Status positions, especially in cases where there are two or more players with the same Social Status while the status hierarchy is unstable. These kinds of situations might give rise to Red Queen Dilemmas.
Another basic human feature is that players with lower Social Status are drawn to the company of players with high Social Status. The mere association with players of high Social Status can raise the perceived Social Status of other players and can thereby stimulate Cooperation. This happens much more easier if there are explicit displays of Social Status through Status Indicators such as Highscore Lists. The company of players with a high Social Status, however, seems also to cause excitement and even anxiety in lower ranking players. This is especially evident in cases where Social Status is based on the level of performance of the players. The inexperienced Soccer player would at the same time feel uncomfortable and excited when playing in the same team with World Champions.
When the Social Status is based on several different factors, for example, past performance, the display of Social Status, and the acceptance of the current members of the team, there might arise situations where these factors are in conflict. These situations usually cause disturbances in the status hierarchies, which lead to the rivalries between the players in order to stabilize the status hierarchy. The performance of the players is usually lower and they also feel uncomfortable in these social situations.
As Social Status of players is often linked to Game Mastery or Competence Areas, the relative statuses of players can be used to divide players into teams in order to achieve an approximate Team Balance.
Instantiated by: Rewards, Penalties, Illusionary Rewards, Handles, Privileged Abilities, Status Indicators, Self-Facilitated Games, Creative Control, Investments, Team Balance, Spectators, Trans-Game Information, Game Mastery, Competence Areas, Competition, High Score Lists
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