January 11, 2023

To Lose A Friend: A Gamer's Story

To Lose A Friend: A Gamer's Story

As of 2018, roughly 66% of Americans regularly play video games.

That’s a lot of people. But how many of them do you know? Like, really know?

Despite the industry’s best attempts, identity solutions and community tools have made it easy to invite other players within your games, but fail to empower players to build and maintain genuine online friendships and connections.

Last Online: 5 years ago

If you’re a lifelong gamer like I am, you’ve been meeting new people through video games for most of your life. I met them on PlayStation Network during the early weeks of Destiny and we puzzled over the Vault of Glass together. We met when we played Pokemon Diamond and Pearl on Nintendo DS. Or maybe we met when I was a kid trying to wrap my head around the original Defense of the Ancients in Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos on

Nowadays, most of my gaming time is spent on PC, only occasionally booting up my PS5 or Nintendo Switch. I find myself wondering–what happened to my friends on my old account? What are those people I painstakingly added with unique 12-digit friend codes doing now?

Who are they now? Where are they now? Do they still play video games at all any more?

I hope they’re doing well. I really do. But I have no way of knowing. I have no way to contact or reconnect with them. I don’t know what games they’re into these days. They’re neither on my Discord nor Steam friends list, and if I open up League of Legends or Valorant, they’re not there either.

To be honest, I don’t even recognize all of the names on my friends list after 12 years of playing League of Legends and 13 years on Steam. The threads that bound us together were thin, despite the fond memories. Just a name and a game.

The Never Ending Friend Request

Where did I meet that player again?

We’re given many different tools to add friends in game, on a platform. It’s easy to invite them, it’s easy to message them or voice chat with them, but it’s not easy to connect with them when you log off Steam and boot up your Switch or hang out in a voice chat.

Most times, you have to find a way to communicate with friends externally:

“What’s your name on discord?”

“Add me on Facebook.”

“What’s your steam?”

Over and over.

I have several long-term online friends I have had to add connections for on more platforms and services than I have in any other industry or medium. The more platforms we play on, the more platforms I am obliged to add my friends’ accounts for, and the more likely I am to connect with them again in the future. Yet, these friends are far and few between, and the thin connections that exist between us across these services and games were only built through repeated effort.

I find myself wishing that all of it was easier, and I suspect many gamers feel the same way.

Gamers are understandably exhausted not just by onboarding friction between installing and learning to use dozens of different clients and systems, but also by the barriers they build between their social networks. It simply sucks to have to manage all of these accounts, usernames, and friend lists just to keep up with the people you want to play games with.

Gaming’s First Universal ID Solution

It’s time for something better. Not just a universal friends list that brings all your connections to one place, but a way to directly connect and interface with your gaming friends outside and inbetween our games.

Many friend lists are hosted on headless systems. As soon as you leave that system, you don’t have access to those connections. Your account is not tied to the game itself, but only to the platform, and in a sense your account in the game does not exist.

Other systems use single-sign-on (SSO) solutions such as Apple, Google, or Facebook that drastically reduce login and onboarding friction yet still don’t connect gamers with their friends in a more meaningful way outside of the system.

Some developers have built proprietary identity systems where their players on Mobile and PC can easily play together without creating separate accounts, such as Riot games.

Software such as Valve’s Steam, with ~120m monthly active users, is a decent start to achieving a more cohesive social gaming environment, but has minimal connection to other services such as PSN, Riot Games, or Activision Blizzard–which dwarfs Steam at over 435m combined monthly active users between their games on PC, Console, and Mobile.

This is where Smerf comes in. As a universal friend list, Smerf will allow you to maintain and reconnect with all the friends you make across your connected games. You can see what they’re playing, how they choose to share their experiences, what events and communities they’re interested in, and easily build bonds and reconnect with other players in a way that until now has been impossible within the gaming industry.

We look forward to sharing more concrete details with you in the future.

Stay tuned.