There’s an unfair stereotype that says gamers are asocial – or even antisocial. We’ve all heard the stories of basement dwellers, people who sit in front of their computers for hours on end, and even kids who have died from video game obsession because they forgot to eat. But those cases are not the norm. Gamers are a sociable bunch and gaming social networks are proof of that.
The downside to social networks, of course, is that they require a certain level of activity to be useful. Remember the start of Google Plus and how empty it felt? Nobody wants to be part of a dead and inactive social network. There are many gaming networks out there, but only a few of them have garnered the kind of attention that a social network needs to survive.
Raptr is one of the best gaming social networks out there, period. If you’ve never used a gaming social network before, Raptr makes it extremely easy to get started. On account creation, the site walks you through everything you need to do step by step: selecting the games you play; importing data from Steam, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network; introducing the website interface in neat little popup boxes. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
The beauty of Raptr is its intensely active community – or I guess I should say sub-communities. One of the defining features of this social network is that it’s categorized into various communities for each game. There are communities for Amnesia, Tribes: Ascend, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, etc. and each community has thousands of members. Talk about active.
In Raptr, each person does have their own wall and activity feed, but most of the activity occurs in the communities themselves. At the top, there’s a bar that lists all of your communities, and once you select one, you can view all of the comments and posts in that particular community. It’s like a hybrid between a forum and a social network, but it works well.
Other features in Raptr that you might enjoy:
- Desktop App: Run the Raptr desktop application while you play your games to keep your activity feed updates and automatically create Raptr site content by taking screenshots and videos.
- Activity Tracker: Raptr automatically tracks your gaming activity by connecting with various gaming networks (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam) and aggregates all of that data into your Raptr profile.
- Rankings: Raptr ranks players against each other based on their activity in each game. See how you match up with your friends for the total time played.
- Rewards Program: As you play your games and rank up in Raptr, you can claim FREE rewards from the Rewards Program once you meet eligibility requirements.
Compared to Raptr above, Playfire’s website doesn’t have the same sort of “lived in” feel, nor does it have anywhere near the same level of gamer activity. However, you can definitely tell that it’s a different kind of social network, one that’s less focused on per-game communities and more on the gamers themselves.
When you begin, you’ll be asked for your various gaming network handles (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, and Xfire) and Playfire will do its best to import gaming data from them. Next, you’ll connect with other friends who may be using Playfire (e.g., by importing Facebook data). Then, you can manually add certain games to your profile, which taps you into the various buzz feeds for those games.
The design of Playfire revolves around the act of buzzing. A buzz is a comment or post that a gamer makes in relation to a particular game. Other gamers can reply to a buzz with their own in a way similar to how you would in Facebook or Google Plus. With the Buzz tab at the top of the site, you can see the latest buzzes from Playfire gamers.
Other features of Playfire that you might enjoy:
- Activity Feed: On the Playfire homepage, you’ll see buzzes for all of the games you follow and buzzes from all of your Playfire friends. It’s a quick and easy way to stay on top of all gaming activity that’s relevant to you.
- Vulcan Client: Vulcan is the name of Playfire’s desktop client. It sits in the background of your computer and quietly tracks your gaming activity across Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam accounts almost in real-time.
- Active Forums: If forums are a big part of your social needs, then fear not because Playfire has a very active forum section. It’s not like most typical message boards since it isn’t divided into subforums, but it’s definitely useful for chatting and building relationships.
Duxter is the newest gaming social network to hit the Internet, and it seems like it’s gathering some real force lately. Without a doubt, it’s the smallest network out of the three on this list, but it has a beautiful interface and some great features that really make it worth your while to become an “early adopter,” so to speak.
On first glance, Duxter has a real Google Plus kind of feel to it, at least in terms of aesthetics. The front page is a general activity feed that updates with various posts, actions, and achievements (more on that later) from other Duxter gamers. You can post comments on these feed items, and you can upvote or downvote them to show that you like or dislike them.
Like Raptr, Duxter allows you to follow communities. Duxter’s communities can either center around a particular game, or they can be user-created for whatever purpose, such as a gaming clan. Individuals can post updates to a community and these updates can be of differing types: text, images, videos, streams, etc.
Duxter has gamified their network a bit, presenting you with various quests that you can do, such as completing your profile or posting to the forum. Completing a quest wins you an achievement, some experience, and duckets, which are the Duxter gamification currency. Duckets can be used in the Duxter store to get discount prices off of merchandise and games, where each ducket is equivalent to $0.01 USD.
Other features of Duxter you might enjoy:
- Store: The Duxter store has a bunch of items that are relevant to social gamers, such as keyboards, mice, headphones, t-shirts, game cards, games, and even in-game items, such as gold for World of Tanks.
- Arcade: A section of the Duxter site where you can play various flash games for fun. Beating arcade games will earn you experience, which helps to level up your account.
- Meme Generator: If image macros are a source of humor for you, Duxter’s meme generator will come in handy. Pick an image, overlay some text, and Duxter will generate it on the fly so you can quickly share it on your feed.
Social networks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who do enjoy the sense of online community, they can be great. In fact, Dave has argued that social networks are beneficial to society. Specialized social networks aren’t new – one good example is LinkedIn for professionals – and maybe it’s time for one of these gaming social networks to make a real splash. If you’re interested, check them out.
What do you think of gaming social networks? Do you participate? Or do you think they offer nothing of value? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!