Flash Flash Revolution (FFR) is a multi-player music game built in Flash, which follows the long tradition of rhythm-based games. You begin by picking a song, and each song has a corresponding pattern of arrows that goes along to the beat of the music. The goal is to hit the correct arrows as close as possible to the music. "If you've ever played a game like Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Beatmania, or In The Groove, you should feel right at home here", explains the site's FAQs. But it's more than just a very addictive game. FFR has evolved into a lively social network, which according to the site's founder, James Webb, now has over a million registered users.
What started in 2002 as a hobby, eventually grew large enough for Webb to quit his day job running the post-production house he had founded, and in early 2006, along with his new partner, Jason Key, he decided to pursue FFR full time.
"I felt like we were adding additional new servers at our datacenter nearly every month. Yet at the same time, I was not comfortable leaving my post production business (which I had run for 10 years). It wasn't until we nearly reached the 1 million member mark late last year that I finally decided to pursue FFR as a business."
Then in late 2006, as the MySpace phenomenon peaked in mass media coverage, FFR started to add social networking functionality of its own.
"We knew we had nearly a million people all with similar interests and many of them knew nothing about each other. Of those brave enough to post on the forums, many had MySpace links etc to help socialize and form a network of friends. We had people begging for meet ups and convention appearances. I watched as features like our video chat had helped forge friendships, but only for those specifically bold enough to go in an engage people. We knew if was time to take a bit of an evolutionary step for FFR. This basically gave birth to the concept of our 'FFR Profiles'."
Along with profiles, which Webb describes as "almost like a gamer card", the site features a comment wall, photos, videos, live chat rooms, and the ability for users to show all of their recent stats from the games played on the site.
"Of course, this was right around the time that MySpace was being banned at schools and so we had a huge influx of new traffic that spread via word of mouth. There was one day that we had over 5000 new profiles added in a single 24 hour period. It was really an incredible growth period, that continues today."
Webb is no newbie to social networking, being a veteran from the old BBS days, and he believes his younger days have put him in good stead to run and nurture FFR's user community:
"Back in the 80's and 90's, BBS systems were really some of the first online social networking systems that were easily reachable by home users. You always felt a strong sense of dedication and connection with the systems that you were part of and that is something that I think has carried over to FFR. On a site with over 1 million people, I receive nearly 50-100 private messages a day, not including our contact us emails, and I always answer each and every message, no matter how long it takes. I also make a point of writing the majority of news posts."
FFR provides a useful case study of how social networking features can be effectively leveraged where a community already exists -- in this case around the social experience of multi-player gaming.