Social games have been around for some 5000 years. Basically any game involving more than one player is a social game. But that is not what we mean by social game.
Social Games are Games in Social Communities, which are for free and have a browser based interface. The Casual Games segments are mainly focused on the analysis of social interaction between people.
Social Games are easy to understand and lives on a social network, so you playing it with your friends if you want. You can choose to play with or against them.
Social Games are not a reinvention, but a combination of Browser games with Social Networks.
- 2007, 3 Years after the establishment of Facebook
- Zynga -> 'Evening of gaming in the Internet'
- 510 million, Group Members worldwide play Social Games
- double size in 2010&2015
- Facebook: 61% / Google+: 17% / MySpace: 15%
- 70 millon Users worldwide play Farmville
Gaming was quickly becoming one of the most popular category of applications on Facebook. Other platforms launched this genre of games too. To the lead market of Online-Gaming belong Great Britain and Germany. In 2011 one-fifth of duration users in England played Social Games. They invested only more time in console games.
The proportion of the gamers which played and paid for casual and social games was in the year 2011 the most worldwide. For the USA was in 2011 an expansion of social gaming expected. Overall, 40% of the Internet users played this type of online games. The favorite website for these games was Pogo and Yahoo! Games, in December 2011.
The Global Online Report 2012 had predicted that the gamblers in Brazil would play the most time in social networks and casual games. In France 15% of duration play social games.
The rapid rise of Social Gaming starts with the makers of Zynga. Mark Pincus and his co-founders get the ‘Evening of gaming’ to the internet. In principle it was nothing new, the user could play games at the internet, but now they can play with their friends.
Zynga buy an online poker game called “Texas Hold’Em”. This game initiates a viral distribution because previously it was forbidden in America to play online poker for money. Zynga circumvent the gambling guidelines by don’t changing back the money that they play with. So it is not against the gambling guidelines. The first Cash Cow was born.
One of the first colleagues was SGN (Social Gaming Network) and then came Playfish. Playfish Games were very complex, had many details and an extravagant design. Electronic Arts (EA) buy the young company for estimated 400 million US Dollar. At this time Playfish had about 60 million users per month.
Social Network Games
Hence to be a little more exact, let us talk about social network games. The Wikipedia says that it is a game that is played inside a social network, such as Facebook, and "typically features multi-player and asynchronous game play mechanics."  Usually they are casual games for the occasional player. The most important feature is that you play the game with your friends within the social network.
Facebook Games are Popular
Just so that you understand, how popular games on Facebook are, look at the following numbers:
|2.||Words With Friends||8,900,000|
|6.||Texas HoldEm Poker||6,800,000|
|9.||Bubble Witch Saga||5,300,000|
(Daily Active Users (DAU) for leading applications on Facebook for 02.03.2012, source http://www.appdata.com)
Monetization of Social Games
Although almost all of these games are free to play, many people actually spend real money to buy virtual goods. The average user spends about $50 per year. For instance, Zynga partners with Facebook and is responsible for 12 percent of Facebooks revenues (Facebook gets 30%) . In addition, there are revenues through all sorts of advertisement.
(Advertisement in CityVille)
A few Examples
Just to get a rough idea what kind of games people play on Facebook, we briefly describe three popular games.
Published by Zynga it is a game about building a city. Player can open restaurants, build hotels, construct bridges, collect rent, etc.
The Sims Social (18th)
In this Electronic Arts game you create Sim (a person) and develop relationships, make friends and foes, where friends are other players.
(Screenshot, The Sims Social)
Bejeweled Blitz (20th)
By Electronic Arts, this is a quick, but addictive puzzle game, the idea is to get a row of three or more of the same stones.
(Screenshot, Bejeweled Blitz)
Gardens of Time (43rd)
A game by Playdom, here the player uses a time machine to locate hidden objects throughout history.
(Screenshot, Garden of Time)
In 2007 and 2008 everybody talked about Second Life  and even in 2012 it is quite popular. It is a free 3D virtual world, where players through a 3D avatar can socialize, and interact with other players using voice and text chat.
(AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Daana Kira)
To get an impression of how good the graphics of Second Life have become, either become a member, or
- Using Google look for ’flickr second life’ and view some of the images created from Second Life.
- For those images check out their respective licenses (for the above images you find the details on Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en)
- If you like a ’how to get started’ you can check out the tutorials at https://www.socialtext.net/socialmediaberkeley/introduction_to_second_life.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG)  are usually video games with a very large number of players interacting. They are role playing games, where the players take on the role of a character in the game and interact with other characters. Although not consider to be real social network games, because of their social interaction they should be considered as such. For instance, World of Warcraft has more than 10 million subscribers. The MMORPGing is a multi-billion dollar industry.
There is a wonderful talk about World of Warcraft and its psychological engagement and implications by Byron Reeves at the Stanford seminar on ’Human-Computer Interaction’: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFmG_2e4R4U&list=PL32A089D3E2DFB65D&index=9&feature=plpp_video (1:23:55)
Forerunners of MMORPGs, MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon) paved the way of modern online RPGs (role-playing games). As such, they deserve some reflection from a historical point of view.
MUDs are different from a modern MMORPG in that:
- A MUD has a text-based interface, so the world is described with text instead of pictures and other types of media.
- Players type textual commands rather than clicking a mouse.
- MUDs have smaller player bases, typically dozens of players rather than thousands.
- MUDs are usually hosted at universities or other not-for-profit institutions, and there is no fee required to play.
Types & Variants
While the original acronym simply denoted a generic kind of game and not a particular style of play, inveterate experts of the matter distinguish several types of MUDs that have been known to exist to this day. According to the teachings of these authorities, MUD denotes a kind of online game in which it is the characters’ primary goal to explore the virtual world they find themselves in. All along the way, they solve various kinds of riddles, perform quests, thereby proving themselves worthy by gaining experience, skills and power. After having played and labored for several years, and having gained enough power to reach the highest level a character can obtain, a status usually referred to as a Wizard, the player may start to forge the game world according to his will. To do so, the player is bestowed responsibility for a part of that world.
On the other hand, MUSHs (Multi-User Shared Hallucination) tend to focus on the social interaction of the characters that are involved in the game. The idea of a MUSH is that players, actors actually, thrive by just expressing themselves, and interacting with one another when meeting in the same (virtual) room. MUSH players tend to lack the teeth grinding sobriety of MUD players, and usually just hang out together to discuss (virtual) matters instead of teaming up to slay monsters.
There are other types of MUDs, like MOOs, MUXs, and derivatives that describe slightly different variants of the types above. However, most of these variants describe differences of the software that runs on the game server rather than differences of what players or characters spend their time with.
Delimitation & Popularity
According to many P&P role-players, MUDs come closest to what a computer-based RPG should look and feel like. Unlike Adventures, another kind of text-based computer game where players control just a single alter ego, and, while exploring the game world, must solve countless riddles and interact with more or less creative computer-controlled entities, MUDs simulate the interaction of multiple characters controlled by real humans – protagonists as well as antagonists – within the virtual world. A similar distinction applies to the type of game (also employing the ambiguous term Role-Playing Game) in which a single player controls an entire party that sets out to confront wave after wave of malicious monsters.
The golden age of MUDs was during the late 1980s and early 1990s. MUDs mainly thrived in university networks were students flocked to black & white (green, actually) terminals to celebrate and socialize. Due to the lack of Internet access for the major part of the populace at that time, MUDs were usually considered an academic phenomenon, and featured a high percentage of people with geekish finesse. When the Internet reached the masses in the middle of the 1990s, and was recognized as the commercial platform it is today, this development went hand in hand with a change of the type of online entertainment people spend their time with. As far as games were concerned, media-heavy, resource-greedy applications swept away the former charm of text-based adventuring, and although the mudding-culture never really died it never received the quantitative push that the vastly increasing online community could have brought. It therefore quietly lingers on relatively isolated from the eyes of masses.
Portals & Resources
Advantages of Social Games
Social Games have advantages both for the user and the provider.
Advantages for users
For the user is one of the best causes the social Cooperation: Users play in groups and not alone.
They can play together or against each other and also help their neighbors.
Social games are most very easy to play. For example they can play with their friends on Facebook because almost all own an account on Facebook so they don't have to sign up for a new online portal.
Yet another advantage for the user is that most of the social games are for free. They don't have to pay money for the registration.
But if some user likes to get faster to the next level he can also buy with real money some items which are important to get step forward.
Another advantage is that users play with each other worldwide. Every player can play from his home because of the global networking.
The most important thing for a user is to have fun on playing, of course.
Spending just a few minutes a day is enough to get quickly in higher levels. Further advantage is that users have an easy interaction with their friends, with a circle of acquaintances or actually with
unknowns. Maybe some people contract a friendship with someone in real life.
Advantages for the providers
For the provider are also many advantages.
At first, Social Games are a huge business with enormous profits. That is fantastic for the providers, so they earn a lot of money.
Social Games are running like a kind of snowball system. In fact all starts with one user who likes a social game. This user canvasses friends by sending a friend request or telling his friends about the game.
Then one friend also plays the game and in return the player receives the virtual neighborhood. Now they send themselves gifts to get faster in higher levels. This new user acts with the same strategy.
The world occurrence is very quick and rapid. so the useres accomplish much more person all over the world. 
As mentioned earlier users can buy virtual goods. That is also an advantage for the provider, of course because he earns the money which is spending on it. By advertising circuit most social gaming
providers also earn money. The advertisement is designed more specific to every single person of the age class.
The rapid spread of certain games, the company´s reputation increases in the industry. The providers can also use the social games for an certain department in their company, for example in the area of marketing.
The result for user and provider
Because of the rapid world occurrence the companies will earn much more money and they can spend more for the development of social games and presented new games.
Rapid developments in technology have resulted in new ways to communicate and socialise. The offer of the games gets higher and that’s really nice for the users because they will have more variety
of social games.
Social Games can be criticized in a few different areas. These areas are psychology, spam, data and deception.
But before going into detail there is a famous example of criticizing Social Games that has to be mentioned as well.
Cow Clicker  is a Social Game for Facebook developed by Ian Bogost in July 2010 that originally was supposed to criticize all the other Social Games on Facebook, especially the ones developed by Zynga.
The rules of the game are very simple. After starting the game the player gets a cow and has to place it on his virtual farm. He can click the cow and harvest it. That’s all the player can do at first because for harvesting the cow again he has to wait 6 hours. After 6 hours the player can click his cow again and also earn some clicks.
That’s all there is to do in that very simple game. Interestingly it was a hit. 2 months after its release Cow Clicker already had 50.000 players, who apparently didn’t understand the humorous side of it and became serious players, also investing money into the game to buy extra clicks.
To make his point clear, Bogost also placed different cows, at least in their looks, into the virtual market. The new cows were offered for real money but that didn’t stop the players from buying them.
In the end, Bogost wanted to bring an end to Cow Clicker and announced the “Cowpocalypse” for July 2011 exactly a year after its release.
There was as well a possibility to delay the end of the game by clicking on cows, one click delayed the countdown, or by investing money, 1$ delayed the countdown by one hour.
The end of this crazy story was that the players managed to delay the “Cowpocalypse” until September 2011 by investing 700$ and clicking many many times on virtual cows.
Now, starting with the real aspects of criticizing Social Games psychological methods have to be regarded. Social Games can be compared with the Skinner-Box. In that experiment rats and pigeons were conditioned to press a button and in exchange be rewarded with feed.
The parallels to Social Games are very obvious, the player has to click on an object and be rewarded with success in the game.
The intention behind this is to bind the players and encourage them to advertise new players by inviting their friends to play as well.
And of course this Skinner-Box method is doing the job pretty well as quick success by doing only little clicking makes the players happy.
What is Spam? Spam_(electronic) is all the unwanted messages and alerts somebody receives.
In case of the Social Games, for example on the platform Facebook, members who do not play any Social Games have friends on their list who do play them. These friends sometimes automatically, sometimes deliberately post game alerts on their walls. Users who turn on their social network and check out the news of their friends automatically are confronted with a long list of game alerts.
Sometimes this can work as a advertisement and can allure non-players to play the game. But all the others who strictly don’t want to be annoyed by these posts have to block all the social game applications one by one so they won’t see any of their posts.
But even if the non-players decide to play the Social Game, the spamming doesn’t stop. It only turns to “social-spam”, that means friends are no longer just friends but a way to improve the game success of oneself. Friends are regarded as “game neighbors” meaning they are resources to be exploited.
The abuse of data is a whole different and serious story. Every player of Social Games has to accept, before being able to play, their terms of usage. In most cases that means the application has access to the players personal data like name, birthday, relationship, interests and so on. This data can be used to fade in advertisements that interest the players so they are allured to click on them. The data is also transferred to the company of the certain Social Network so they can as well collect information about their users.
Another problem of these advertisements is that sometimes they are X-rated and thus the underage users are not protected enough as for example Facebook allows memberships beginning at the age of 13.
The innocent appearance of Social Games is used by criminals as well. They mock an add of a Social Game but behind that add the clueless user is lead to a Phishing website.
On that website the criminals try to allure the innocent people to pay for all kinds of things but normally there is nothing behind those promises.
Social Games represent a perfect method for phishing as there are millions of fans.
Dangers of Social Games
Social Gaming Addiction
In general social network games contain a high potential for addiction especially real-time games like Farmville.
Most theories of social gaming addiction still focus on built-in reward systems to explain its causes although it is known that players play for more reasons than fun alone. So it is believed that social games satisfy some basic psychological needs and users play these games by reason of boredom, a feeling of freedom or a connection to other people. Social Games promote not only a strong collective feeling, by cooperation and the joint handling of group tasks, but also competition between players and their friends. It can be said that the stronger the social environment, the higher the potential for addiction.
According to experts, psychological problems like anti-social personality, depressions or social phobia also promote social gaming addiction, which might be explained by the fact that many addicts try to escape from ordinary life including their problems. In a virtual world created by such games, they become confident and gain satisfaction, which they may not get in daily life. As a result of new friends and rising influence in-game they like there virtual life more and more than reality.
Moreover, existing approaches consider neurobiological and learning theory mechanisms. The main cause of addictive behavior here is the positive experience with these games of those concerned. According to that theory learning processes in human brain are responsible for the maintenance of excessive gaming. In this case games are played for the reason of repression of negative emotions, worries and stress. This leads to reinforcement of behavior, because a negative emotion like loneliness is offset by playing these games. Additional there is a dramatic increase in the likelihood of repetition. Therefore, learning theory mechanisms linking games with relaxation and escape from ordinary life, despite the possible negative consequences like loss of employment. That would mean an improper use, because players play no more for the reason of amusement, but to compensate negative feelings. If there is additionally a lack of alternative coping strategies the potential for addiction is increased.
Furthermore, human emotions like fun, happiness, might and excitement also play an important role in development of an addiction.
Although social games on Facebook obvious free-to-play, Zynga a social network game development company has sales of close to 250 million US Dollar.
One of the reasons for this must be the principle of social games, whereupon regular usage is free, but players can buy additional content, items and features for a game by credit card or Paypal. These items are particularly popular among players and often act as prestige objects.
This is where extra care is needed, because some players in the USA apparently become victims of doubtful debits. Therefore, Consumer protection agency recommends users to regularly check their bank account movements.
In addition, in the form of a class action of a U.S. law firm, Facebook and Zynga were accused to have a 'fraudulent business model'. Accordingly, players are lured through completion of questionnaires to earn additional points. Their evaluation is then communicated via SMS. By divulging the phone number, users subscribe to a fee-based subscription, even without knowing or wanting to. The same applies to the IQ tests of the company; their results are also communicated via SMS and causes partly high, unplanned, expenses.
As a result of the scandal, Facebook removed about 100 such applications at the end of 2009.
To be allowed to play social games on Facebook users have to confirm a read access to their profile data and their friends list in the form of Zynga's General Terms and Conditions.
It is not known what kind of information Zynga collects and how long they remain in the company. According to the company's own information, these data are used for personalized advertising.
This approach is very controversial, at least from the perspective of German law.
Ex.1: Social Network Games
Read the social network game article in Wikipedia , follow some of the game links mentioned there and see if one or another interests you. In your blog, either write about a social network game you have already played, or about your experience just trying one for fun.
Ex.2: What makes Games successful
Jesse Schell looks at many different games and finds interesting commonalities, he also draws interesting conclusions about ’When games invade real life’: www.ted.com/talks/jesse_schell_when_games_invade_real_life.html (28:19) Do write about his talk in your blog.
Ex.4: Second Life Founder Philip Rosedale (optional)
If you like to know a little more about Second Life and its founder, watch this video on TED: ( www.ted.com/talks/the_inspiration_of_second_life.html) (28:27)
Ex.5: Psychology of Gaming (optional)
There are many talk on the psychology of gaming, a nice discussion is the following: Your Brain on Games: The Hidden Psychology of Gaming, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnRq1up3E2s&feature=related) (56:11)
- Social network game, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_game
- Zynga baut ein eigenes Spieleportal, http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/games/0,1518,818957,00.html
- Second Life, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SecondLife
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_role-playing_game
- Mark Newheiser Farmville, Social Gaming, and Addiction December 4, 2009
- Cause and Impact of Video Games Addiction. May 8, 2008.
- Till Zier Social Gaming als Marketingplattform der Zukunft.
- Erin Backer Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists React to AMA Recommendation on Video Games. June 28, 2007.
- Poppy Sebag-Montefiore China's young escape into the web. November 20, 2005
- Holger Dambeck Exzessives Gaming - Forscher sehen Ähnlichkeiten zu Alkoholsucht July 7, 2006
- Social Games und Onlinespielsucht
- Facebook zockt die User ab. November 21, 2009
- Social Games und Onlinespielsucht
- World of Warcraft, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft