How to Get and Play Social Games

How to Get and Play Social Games

Looking to play all the best free online social games for Facebook you’ve been hearing so much about? Our guide to social gaming breaks down how to get social games, install them and enjoy free online games of all types without needing a degree in computer engineering. Here’s how to start playing today:

What is a Social Game? — Generally, a social game refers to a game that is coupled with social interaction–in other words, a multiplayer experience. This includes everything from board games to card games to online role-playing games.

A great deal of today’s video games contain social elements, but the term “social gaming” has evolved a narrower definition over the past few years. When we talk about social games today, we typically mean games that are played over a social platform or community–Facebook being a prime example.

Nick O’Neill of SocialTimes.com wrote up a solid definition of a social game:

“Social games are a structured activity which has contextual rules through which users can engage with one another. Social games must be multiplayer and have one or more of the following features: turn-based, are based on social platforms for providing users with an identity and are casual.”

A “casual game” usually refers to an easy-going title that’s easy for anyone to pick up and play.

How Do They Work? — A social game (as we know it today) is meant to be played over an internet connection with friends. Some of them run off an online community like Facebook, and some and be played from websites were social games are specifically parked, like Come2Play.com. Other social games can be played over smartphones, like iOS devices (iPhone, iPad).

Social games are typically free-to-play, meaning they cost nothing to access and play–though many of them also offer special incentives for paying players, like special items and power-ups. Other games might restrict what free players can access. The conditions for free play vary widely from social game to social games.

Where Do I Get Them? — Social games are readily available almost everywhere you look online. A Google search alone for “social games” will reveal troves. Alternatively, Facebook has countless free social games, as does LiveJournal.com.

If you own an iOS device, Apple’s App Store is another great place to find social games. Some popular picks are Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends, and Real Racing.

FAQ:

Do Social Games Cost Anything to Play? — The majority of social games are “free-to-play,” meaning they’re free to access and enjoy. Some do place restrictions on free players that can be removed with a payment, and others offer purchasable items and power-ups that are otherwise difficult to obtain in the free version of the game.

How Long Can I Play Them For? — Most social games are online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some games, however, limit the amount of activity the player can undergo in a 24 hour period. This is especially typical of free-to-play games.

Are Social Games Rated by the ESRB? — Not all social games have been designated a letter rating by the ESRB. Internet-based social games typically aren’t rated at all (but may carry content warnings), and games that are available on Apple’s App Store adhere to Apple’s own rating system.

What Hardware Requirements Do I Need to Run a Social Game? — While most PC-based social games are designed to run on a multitude of computers, including computers that don’t boast the fastest, hottest tech, the hardware requirements for social games vary from title to title. Many social games require only an updated Browser and the most recent version of Flash. Others may require a file install, and/or need decent specs to run smoothly. As far as the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch is concerned, certain games may require you to update your iOS devices’ software, or will not run on older models.

Do Social Games Run on Macs? — Again, this varies on a game-by-game basis. Consult the game’s website for Mac-based FAQs.

Do Social Games Only Work If I Play With Others, Or Can I Play Alone? — Though social games are meant to be played with others, many of them offer you the chance to go at it alone. Gameplay and character growth is often limited and slow in a solo game, however: Social games typically encourage players to share resources between friends.

Tips for Newcomers:

  • Not All Social Games Are for Children — Social games tend to look cute, cartoony, and appeal to an all-ages audience. That said, some do contain foul language, violence, sexual content, and are not meant for young children. If you’re a parent or guardian, be aware of what your charge is playing.
  • Most Social Games for Kids Have Parental Controls — Many of the social games that are designed for children let parents access their kids’ accounts in order to set certain restrictions. Some of these restrictions control what parts of the game the player can access, and also restrict chat functions, etc. Kid-oriented social games typically have a “For Parents” webpage that outlines the game’s safety policies and moderation techniques.
  • Play Wisely — If you play social games at work, make sure you do so at appropriate times. Some firms have strict policies against accessing online social media during company time. Try not to get fired.
  • Don’t Hassle Your Friends To Play With You (Too Much) — Social games are meant to be played with friends, and you can often reap in-game rewards for getting your buddies to sign up and play with you. That said, social games have gained notoriety because some players pester their friends over and over to sign up and play with them. Learn to take “No” for an answer

Also be sure to see part 2 of our series on how to enjoy social gaming, titled A Beginner’s Guide to Social Games.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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