In social media, there’s a concept known as “ambient awareness” that describes the peripheral contact a user keeps with his contacts. It’s obviously not face-to-face contact, and the contact itself isn’t as substantial as in-person interaction, but it’s enough information and it’s of sufficent frequency for your contacts to passively let you know, “Hey, I’m still out here, and he’s a morsel of what I’ve been up to.” It’s friends lite, to be sure, but it’s far more functional than not being in contact with your contacts at all.
ArenaNet recently revealed a few upcoming features for Guild Wars 2 that allow players to keep an “ambient awareness” of the game when they’re not playing it traditionally, at the computer desktop. While the feature set is by definition smaller than the whole of GW2, the plan is to allow players to maintain an up-to-date information set even when they’re not in the game. Most importantly, communication between players in-game and using a mobile device are possible. While you’re at work, while you’re on the train or traveling out of town, you can still be a part of the experience. As well, note that it’s not something suggested by the world itself. Guild Wars is, of course, a fantasy game, without any in-setting equivalents of the mobile devices being used to keep those lines of communication. Is there a metaphor? Is your mobile device a crystal ball or some such magic-as-technology supposition? Or is it completely abstracted or not explained at all?
(That said, ambient awareness does have a limit to its usefulness and breadth. In most humans, the “Dunbar number” is 150. That is, the number of relationships a person can distinguish and maintain separate recognizance of is approximately 150. As to game application, that number becomes even more significant, as the ambient relationship with the game seems to suggest that it will occupy some proportion of that Dunbar number, which also has to be shared with the other players with whom the player relationships have been established. But that’s separate and, I suspect, extremely theoretical at this stage of massively multiplayer gaming.)