Everyone is aware of social media (and if you’re reading this post then there’s a good chance you came across it via Twitter or Facebook), but not all forms of social media have you interacting with real people. Social media in games is a growing mechanic with Ni no Kuni II’s Leafbook, Yakuza 6’s Troublr, and Persona 5’s and Blue Reflection’s chat rooms, and they’re used to enhance the single-player experience. The people might not be real, but they sure do feel as if they are.
Nowhere nearly as intrusive as online-only restrictions and lacking the vitriol that can sometimes be found on real-world social media platforms, the likes of Leafbook and Troublr suck you further into their games’ respective worlds as well as serve as meaningful gameplay mechanics. In Ni no Kuni II, Leafbook was Prince Evan’s eyes on the world when he couldn’t be there himself. Being able to follow his loyal subjects, and those from other lands, Evan is able to open his Facebook knock-off and see how everyone is doing.
Of course, for the player it means that people have posted images of hidden items, or left messages that hint at a specific monster to defeat or someone to recruit for your kingdom. It seems like a novelty at first, but it quickly enriches your gameplay experience and breathes further life into Ni no Kuni II’s fantastical world.
Yakuza 6’s Troublr isn’t quite as engaging, but it does let Kazuma Kiryu know of any trouble occurring nearby. Poor Kiryu is awful with technology, but his kind heart means that he’s always eager to help those who can’t defend themselves as easily as he’s able to. Kiryu’s character is already well-defined thanks to the game’s amazing narratives, but Troublr shows that he’ll help anybody regardless of how small the matter may seem.
Social media is a way to get to know people, and games are incorporating that in fresh ways to make single-player experiences even greater. If you’ve played the likes of Persona 5, then you already know just how fun being social is when the narrative’s good. There’s no social network here, but there are various text message groups to get in on. Speak with your friends – or don’t, you villain – and make dates or just engage in some hilarious conversation.
This plays a vital role in why Persona 5 is so engaging, and it encourages you to speak with your friends. We all know that it’s easy to forget to in real life sometimes, and Persona 5 is a gentle reminder that you have bonds to keep up with outside of the game. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated these social aspects more. You do fall out of touch with people as you get older, and relationships become harder to maintain.
Games like Persona and Blue Reflection remind me that if I want to keep a relationship of any form going, then I have to put the effort in because it isn’t as easy as when I was a teenager. I’m sure that isn’t the lesson the Persona games want me to take away from it, but its emphasis on social elements is important and much of the reason why social media exists at all.
These social elements help to make these games stand out, and they’re becoming more prevalent in Japanese games especially. People yearn for deeper experiences – ones that’ll stay with them for a lifetime – and social media-inspired mechanics aid in providing that. Also, you can like the posts of enemies you’ve defeated in Ni no Kuni II, and it’s hilarious.