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The Price of Research

"Mafia Wars" asks for access to my name, gender, university, friends list and email address.

Though I am now working on a couple of ‘social web’ game designs, I’m not an especially well-practised player of the genre; this is one reason why. It’s a much-touted complaint, but it does seem faintly ridiculous for a game to require so much information. I can see that profile pictures allow me to appear inside the game, and that my name will help personalise its greetings. Gender too might help the game address me coherently, but I even keep that information from Facebook, so it does Mafia Wars little good to ask for it here.

‘Accepting’ these applications always comes down to trust. I’ve trusted a game as large as FarmVille not to abuse my information, and likewise had few qualms about enabling Sony and Metaplace’s Facebook games. I don’t know the first thing about Mafia Wars however, other than the fact my friend and colleague plays it.

  • To whom am I sending this information?
  • Is it really only there to help personalise my gaming experience, or is it put towards market research and other such ventures to help the company make money?
  • Does doing this help to fund the games industry directly?
  • Is my personal information now some form of currency to help pay for a game which does not ask for other means of payment, such as cash?

These are the privacy concerns I would like to see dealt with in future; whether or not my photographs appear on other websites is of a lesser concern to me. My relationship with a game and its developer through the Facebook medium are so enigmatic as to leave my imagination filling the gaps in, and I simply do not have these worries when considering a console title. I’m only asked to pay for those with money.