User Generated Content, or UGC, has an incredibly powerful allure in the world of gaming. From fan art to custom items and levels, more and more games are embracing community contribution.
Great examples are games like Night in the Woods, which wholeheartedly promotes user generated content on social media, or others like Minecraft, which lets fans share their creations independently. Both are terrific, but while the former sounds more appealing, the latter is ultimately where games find greater longevity and stronger community bonds.
Give the Gamers What They Want
When you facilitate the creation and distribution of user generated content, your game grows into something far larger than itself. What’s more, when you design around abstract and versatile mechanics, your game becomes a creation engine for users to build and share original content. What can be more exciting than that?
Take a look at Tabletop Simulator. Here’s a prime example of the latter category; what initially began as a simple chess and checkers platform is now a widely used tool for game designers to rapidly prototype and playtest concepts. Thank you UGC!
The obvious benefit is that UGC is an awesome selling tool. When content creators share their user generated content, the only way for fans to fully experience it is to purchase the platform used to create it.
Want to be the first to play my new board game? Better download Tabletop Simulator. Want to join my virtual community? You’ll need a copy of Minecraft.
Content creators want to create content when your game makes it easy and rewarding. The rest of your fans will want to join them, because you’re offering a level of exclusivity and fun that isn’t found anywhere else. That’s the hook.
But user generated content isn’t simply a sales gimmick or passing fad. Today there are a plethora of games built completely around user generated content. There’s no doubt about it - UGC is here to stay.
The bottom line is this: any experience focused on individual creativity (especially construction) naturally promotes the generation and distribution of original content. That’s why games that naturally integrate creation into core experiences (like Minecraft, Kerbal Space Program, et al.) build stronger communities than similar games that don’t offer the same opportunities to express oneself.
Two Best Practices for Incorporating User Generated Content
Now that you see the obvious benefits, how can you prepare your game and community for user generated content? While there’s no “golden” approach, there are two simple rules to follow:
1. Facilitate an easy user content creation process.
If your fans can’t easily create custom content, such as mods, in-game items, levels, etc., give them methods to easily distribute their content online, through both your primary community and generic social networks.
Pro Tip: While in-game social media integration is a common practice, don’t forget to focus on your primary community, which is likely already developed.
2. Design for your players’ motivation to express creativity.
Regardless of your game’s genre and context, it can be assumed that a healthy percentage - if not a vast majority - of your players thrive in environments that allow them to freely choose from available options and design their own solutions to open-ended challenges.
Consider This: Even simple games about bridge building find social media attention. Why? Because experienced players find joy in designing the craziest functional solutions, rather than the “right” or most efficient structures. Let your players be themselves.
Listen, you don’t need to rebuild your game from the ground up to find success with user generated content. What’s more, not all games work with in-game player content creation.
But if you’re one of the lucky developers whose game does fit the bill, you can gain major public traction with the right social platform. Don’t rely on Facebook to support your fanbase.
Invest in a customizable community platform that fully supports any bit of content your users might want to share with the world. Give them the incentive to share their creations with relevant, targeted communities, and they will reward you greatly.