The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem: The New Concurrency

John Scott Tynes | 4 Feb 2010 21:00
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But then there's Zynga Texas Hold 'Em Poker. And this is where the mother of all proximal concurrency starts to take shape. Circa September of 2009, Zynga said they had 15 million monthly players of their poker game, which is available on multiple platforms (Facebook, MySpace, the iPhone, and several more). When I logged in late on a Monday night, there were 240,000 players present - more than double 1 vs. 100's record, and Zynga hits that kind of number day in and day out.

In Zynga's poker game, all players across all platforms are competing against each other. Not just in terms of eight or ten people sitting at a virtual table and playing poker, however; that's the spatial proximal concurrency, and it's not the one that matters here. Those fifteen million people are also competing via temporal proximal concurrency. By playing in weekly tournaments for prizes and having their progress compared to all other participating players, the effective proximal concurrency is everyone who is competing across the span of an entire week. Do well enough and Zynga will ship you a flat-screen TV, or whatever googaw they're giving away this time around; would you trade your level 60 Night Elf for that?

Once you understand that concurrency is not nearly as relevant as proximal concurrency, and that proximal concurrency can occur spatially (1 vs. 100) or temporally (Zynga Texas Hold 'Em Poker), the question of "what is an MMOG" gets blown wide open. When concurrency can stop meaning simultaneity and start meaning "we're all playing a game together across a timeline", well, we can get away from crashing zones and lag and start having some really big fun.

John Scott Tynes regrets that he cannot generate his own concurrency, being a singular human rather than some kind of hive mind.

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