Before Social Gaming
Gaming is a natural social activity. They encourage users to play among each other and use social skills as their characters and as their actual selves. Many people become gamers to "escape" and to have fun. There are many MORPG's (Massive Online Role Playing Games) out there in which complete strangers learn to interact with each other through play. There are immensely popular games such as World of Warcraft, Halo, Half-Life, MapleStory, and so on.
One example of an early game that involved social aspects was LamdaMOO, a game that existed since the 1980's. It relies on users and simple generated commands. Multi-player games that are online don't have to rely on high forms of technology and scripting like World of Warcraft.
Gamers could role-play through e-mail by writing their characters' actions and sending it to the other players to receive their companions' replies. With the coming of online journals and blogging, players could also write posts through that medium. Message board role-playing is also another way for players to interact.
(Midnight-Shadows.org, run by Ellen Wind and Chrissie Oelsner)
These different mediums obviously allow players to communicate with each other easily and also build relationships with each other outside gaming. As a result of their shared interest in gaming, they bond and network.
(Example of a member profile from Midnight-Shadows.org)
The forums and blogs serve as a place to play and for for members to congregate. With the ability to code and structure forums and blogs, to customize them, players can have profiles to allow other players to gain information about them.
Social Gaming and Social Networking
Social Gaming is a new industry that ties in strongly to Social Networking. As an industry, it is a young one, only a few years old. It is, however, gaming's strongest and fastest growing sector because it can reach a wide audience.
(Screencap of personal Twitter showcasing the game "SpyMaster")
Social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook are these games' platforms. These networks are open to anybody to join and are meant for people to use to manage and maintain their friendships and relationships with other people. Social gaming stems from this, making use of an existing social network instead of the other way around; MORPG's previously was about gaming in which means of social networking were a result of the gamers' interaction.
(Screencapture of personal Facebook Requests page)
Social Gaming is just another facet of friends on social networking sites to keep in touch with one another. Through games like Farmville and Mafia Wars, friends can join groups with one another and send each other gifts and help each other with gameplay.
(Mafia Wars on Facebook developed by Zygna)
Studies show that social gamers are different from typical hardcore, console gaming demographics. People of all ages play social games because of the attachment to social networking - social networking is open to a diverse group of people with various interests. What all these people have in common is the desire to stay connected to their friends, and social gaming provides for that need.
People who play social games also tend to play twice as long as people who just play normal console games. Social games are inviting because people don't think of the games as an escape from reality or a "waste of time." These players think of it as keeping in touch and as a way to maintain their relationships with others. Playing social games is like hanging out with your friends, but without having to trade on small talk or conversations.
(Restaurant City by Playfish on Facebook)
Social games are also "asynchronous" which means that players don't have to be playing at the same time to interact with one another. This is useful for people who live in different times, and it also means that people can choose to play games for five minutes or an hour.
Many games available on social networking sites are also becoming games on the iPhone. However, the number of people on sites is dramatically higher than the number of people who have iPhones. The popularity of games on iPhones is not as high as the tens of millions of daily active users for games such as Mafia Wars and Restaurant City on Facebook. Developers are looking at ways to cross-promote their games across the different platforms to gain player interests.