Social Games – Playing together, wherever you are

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Going from practical to fun, let’s look this week at social games – those games you see everyone playing on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.

What Are They?

Social games are exactly that: online games that you can play on a social network like Facebook, or games that require social activity to play. Some are just board games played online (like Scrabble or chess), while others feel more like video games with monsters and quests. However, the most uniquely social games don’t look anything like a real-world games; instead, you are part of an online world where you might be a farmer, or an aquarium owner, or a mafia don. You earn points for doing all the things that a farmer or don would normally do, and by working with other friends playing the game, you can earn more points and get to higher levels of play.

The big difference between social games and most other games is that the game never ends. You might win individual rounds, but there is no ‘finishing’ the game. Just like real life social interactions, you keep going until you choose not to play.

Why Are They So Popular?

First, these are games. They’re easy to learn, easy to play and – because they’re usually on a mobile device – easy to take anywhere. Just like any other video game, board game, or physical game, players enjoy figuring out how the game works and getting good at it. Then, there’s the social aspect. Even when you can’t physically be near your friends, you can still play games against them. Your best friend might just be at work or at home across town, or might have moved to the other side of the country or the world, but you can stay connected by playing a game ‘together’ whenever you want. Finally, not only do you get to play games wherever you are and with friends near and far, but you can use those networks of friends to help you play the game by sharing experience, game money, or by lending another sword to the fight. Have more friends, conquer bigger monsters or farm bigger farms, earn more prizes, then get more friends as you explore new places in the game. See the fun, yet?

Three Examples

Farmville is one of the oldest and most popular games on Facebook. Each player creates a farm, where they can virtually plow, plant and harvest crops and trees. Players also care for their farm animals: milking their cows and collecting eggs from their chickens. As you tend to your farm, the game posts updates to your Facebook timeline and your friends can see and share in everything you do, especially friends who also play Farmville. Zynga – creators of Farmville – have nearly a dozen Facebook games, all of which are social games.

Words with Friends is a word-building game based on Scrabble – play letters to create words and earn points for each letter you play. You create an account, and then you find other friends who are also using Words with Friends and challenge them to a game. Since it’s a smart device app (for iPhone, iPad and Android), you can play it anywhere!

Draw Something is also an app-based game, where you draw clues to help the other player guess the word you’ve been given. Draw Something also lets you send messages to friends within the game, save the drawings you make and send them to Facebook and Twitter. Available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

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