Social games can be defined as games played and distributed by social networks. Of course we talk here about online social games, such as these played on Facebook. Certainly social games are not new, for example Ancient Egyptians have already played social games with knucklebones and also children have played such social games as peek-a-boo since the beginning of our times (for some of the history of social games view the chart on this blog). In order to distinguish social games played on the Internet, like CityVille or FrontierVille, from other types of social games, some propose to name them “social network games” or “online social games”.
As I have been curious about the actual potential of social gaming for learning, I started collecting research results on why, how and with what effect people engage in social gaming. I would like to documents and discuss some here.
To start with here is a short synopsis of the research study done by Information Solution Group conducted with over 5,000 Internet users in USA and UK in January 2010 providing some basic facts and demographics on social games:
- Demographics: 24% of Internet users in USA and UK play social games. There is a fairly equal divided between genders (female 55%, male 45%). Social game players in USA average 48 years in age, in UK they are 38 years old on average. Most players belong to categories “single without children” or “married with children at home”. The majority of players work full-time (41%). Most players are educated – with undergraduate degree or higher.
- Technology: Facebook is the primary social networking site for playing social games. Social games are played at 49% on desktops/laptops (only 13% on mobile devices).
- Game Behavior: Most social game players also play other types of games, including on average 6 other social games. Social games dominate over other types of games played by these players The large majority (95%) of players play social games multiple times a week. 38% of social game players spend 1-5 hours per day playing with a typical game session lasting from 30 to 60 minutes. 62% of social game players play together with real world friends, 56% play with online friends. Most players play with people in their age group.
- Motivation: Most players started playing a social game because it was recommended to them by a friend. Fun and excitement (53%), stress relief (45%) and competitive spirit (43%) are the top three reasons for playing social games.
- Effects: Social game players say they read less, watch less TV and surf less on the Internet since they began playing social games. It is not exactly clear if and how social games influence social relationships, but most people tend to agree that social games helped to reconnect with old friends, make new friends and feel connected with the social network. Most players also tend to agree that game play is only a small part of interaction with people they play with
These results are basically covered by other surveys, such as the ones conducted by Games Industry in the US, UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium with over 10,000 respondents from national panels in June 2010, or presented in the NPD report on social games.
Now I am looking for and into research results on how social gaming affects learning. If you know of any good studies, I would really appreciate if you could share the links/references. Thank you!