The Web 2.0 revolution has come a little late to the gaming scene, they seemed to grasp multiplayer online gaming with both hands - but then it stopped. Social networks, on the other hand, stormed ahead - Facebook, Google+, Skype, YouTube and Twitter are all fantastic behemoths of frontline technology. It seems that now video game developers have realised the potential which the Internet really poses, and are beginning to introduce further "extended experience" elements into their games to allow the video game experience to flow out of the screen and into the rest of the world.
1. Web/Mobile Apps
Web applications allow players to interact with their game without actually having to log in to their console/PC. Typically they take a small section of the game (such as the chat or trade feature) and allow players to interact with this feature from their computer or mobile phone. It's a clever idea; not only does it allow the player to interact more freely and regularly with the game, but also it keeps the game fresh in the gamer's mind at all times.
eg, For FIFA 11 EA introduced their Ultimate Team online web app which allowed players to trade, set their squad and buy player packs without having to turn on their console. Similarly, ANet have reported that Guild Wars 2 will have an "extended experience" app which will have features such as trade and chat (although we don't know a whole lot about that yet).
2. Cross Game Achievements
One of things about making a good game is that you're expected to make a sequel. The problem with this is that you build up a playerbase on your first game, and suddenly everything they've worked for is lost because you want to line your pockets with just a little bit more gold. One way to get around this is to create some way for their achievements to pass over to the next game.
ANet have done this with the Hall of Monuments and it has really rekindled a lot of players' interest in the game. Even with a game as old as Guild Wars, if players feel like they will get advantages in the next game; they will work hard in the current one. Come to think of it, it's almost Biblical.
3. Gamer profiles
People like to know that they are getting one up on other people. If they can compare their scores against another dude then they will feel a kind of visceral, primal wave of euphoria. A nice way to allow players to do this is to add a "player profile". The profile could show stats such as kills, money and achievements earned etc.
It kinda links into my first 2 points: this profile can persist across games (from what I understand this is what EA are doing with the FIFA12 "football club" feature) and be accessible from outside the game (in a web or mobile app).
As I've mentioned before; the stereotype of the gamer is alone, sitting in the dark with the curtains drawn. But it doesn't have to be that way! Conventions bring large numbers of like-minded people together, they promote the game and encourage social interaction. The biggest of these (more specific - ie, not general gaming like PAX or GamesCon) game conventions is probably BlizzCon, but from what I understand the very first CoD Convention will be coming up in the next couple of months.
5. Alternative Reality Gaming (ARG)
ARGs are a bit of a passion of mine. I haven't talked about them for a while, but that's because my interest in them seems to come in waves. Essentially, the idea is that you create a game in the real world, which can be played out through a number of different mediums. A single person or group of people act as the "Puppetmasters" controlling the game, playing the characters and setting the challenges for the players who must work together to solve puzzles and eventually reach the end.
One of the games to embrace the ARG method is Assassin's Creed. If you've played the game you might remember the cryptic nature of the plot, with numerous codes and puzzles which aren't solved in game. Ubisoft created real world websites and media to help to solve and reveal the answers to these puzzles. Assassin's Creed itself is a virtual reality game but it employed alternative reality gaming techniques as an advertising method. Another example would be the "obey/dismantle"campaign which ANet set up to release the War in Kryta content.
Much like most of the other points I've mentioned, ARGs allow for gamers to come together to solve puzzles where they might ordinarily be playing alone. It allows developers to build upon already existing lore and to further progress the game story.
The whole "extended experience" idea is a really exciting one for me. As an avid ARG follower you really get to appreciate how involving a well played out game can be. If the part of the game where you have to sit in front of a computer for hours was just a small part of a whole web of activities, interactions and challenges which made up the whole "game" then that would be no bad thing.