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The Basics

What are social games and how can you play them?

What are social games?

What are social games?

Social games are the latest evolution in video and computer games. They are hugely popular, with games like Candy Crush and Farmville played by millions of people all over the globe. Part of their popularity is due to the fact they are typically “casual” games, which means they do not require a long time to learn or a special set of skills to complete. You can simply, download and go! As is implied by the name, these games are also social. You can play with the other family members in your house, your friends down the street, or make some new friends from across the world!

Unlike traditional games, causal social games like Candy Crush and Farmville are not limited to a computer or a console. They can be easily downloaded to a smartphone or tablet (often for free) and played on the go. This aspect of social games certainly contributes to their popularity as you can simply pick it up or put it down whenever you have a spare minute – for instance, during your morning commute on the bus, while you are waiting in line to grab a bite to eat, or while you are waiting at the doctor’s office.

Why do people play social games?

People enjoy video games for a variety of reasons. They can be an enjoyable way for friends and family to spend time together and a means of competing (or collaborating) with others for fun. They can help pass the time, encourage relaxation, and even be great educational tools thanks to their ability to motivate players and promote collaborative play.

Take a look at our expert “Top Tips” section for an in-depth exploration of reasons why people play.

Who plays social games and how?

Social games are played by people of all ages, all over the world. Gone are the days when teenage boys are the only group to play video games! In fact, as little as one quarter of social game players are teenagers and there are more players in their thirties than their twenties1. Furthermore, just over half of the most frequent gamers play social games at least once a week2.

Here are a few other fun facts about social gamers:

Players from all over the world play social games. Social games are enjoyed all over the globe. However, the greatest concentration of gamers is found in North America.

Players play with friends and family. Just more than half of the most frequent game players say that social games help them connect with their friends. 45% also say that social games have helped their family spend more time together2.

Social games are not limited to a single genre. Social casino, shooters, action, and so-called “casual” games are some of the most popular genres of social games

Player demographics differ by genre. For example, research from the International Social Games Association shows that social casino games are played primarily by middle aged females – whereas, sports simulation games tend to be favoured by males.

On average, players invest six hours a week on social games. The most frequent gamers report playing multiplayer games at least once a week, spending an average of 6 hours playing with others online2.

Not everyone “pays-to-play”. Social games can be enjoyed without spending any money in-game, but over 5% of all players choose to spend money to gain access to premium in-game features3.

References and great further reading:

1 Kowert, R., Domahidi, E., & Quandt, T. (2016). Networking and Other Social Aspects of Technology Use: Past, Present, and Future Considerations. In M. Potenza, K. Faust, & D. Faust (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Digital Technologies and Mental Health. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

2 Entertainment Software Association (ESA; 2017). 2017 sales, demographic and usage data. Essential Facts about the computer and video game industry.

3 Kowert, R. & Quinn, S. (2017) ISGA player demographics report. London, England: ISGA

What types of games are there?

There are a huge variety of social games, catering for a wide range of interests and playing preferences. Popular games include:

Puzzle: These are games that emphasize puzzle solving. This could include quizzes, hidden object tasks, pattern recognition, and/or word completion tasks. Games can be turn-based or played in real-time. Notable examples include: QuizUp, TriviaBurst, and SongPop.

Role-Play:,The player assumes the role of a character in a fictional setting. – you work your way through imaginary worlds and communities and make decisions that influence the course of the game. Notable examples include: Lifeline, Habbo, and Taichi Panda.

Shoot ‘Em Up: The primary objective is to “shoot” targets or enemies. This includes all shooter games regardless of the perspective of the player (first or third-person). Notable examples include: Uberstrike, Offensive Combat, and Headshot.

Simulation: These kinds of games simulate real-world activities. For example, you can develop and design your own farms and cities, or rule your own kingdom. Notable examples include: DragonVale, FarmVille, and CityVille.

Social Casino: These are free-to-play gambling themed social games. An important feature of social casino games is that they are not real casino or gambling games – players cannot win or lose money in these games. Notable examples include: Casino Magic and Slotomania.

Sports: These are based on real-life sporting activities. Games can either emphasise playing the sport or focus on strategy and management. Notable examples include FIFA Superstars, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and Tennis Mania.

Strategy: These focused on thinking, planning, and strategising to achieve in-game victory against one or more opponents. Notable examples include: Army Attack, Global Warfare, and King’s Bounty: Legions.

Quiz games: Include quizzes, puzzles and learning games. Notable examples include: QuizUp, TriviaBurst and SongPop.

What devices can I play social games on?

Social games can be played on a variety of digital devices, although they are most commonly played on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets:

Smartphones: Use of smartphones is on the up – the number of smartphones used to play social games is projected to soon overtake desktops and laptops.

Tablets: With the benefit of bigger screens and the capacity for more advanced games, gamers are increasingly opting to play on tablets. Indeed, their use is actually growing faster than smartphones.

Laptops and desktop computers:  The laptop and desktop market remains an important part of the social games industry, with titles specifically adapted to the increased capability of this powerful hardware.

Smart TVs: These are essentially TVs with computer capability and Internet connectivity. Their popularity for playing social games is currently small, but growing.