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Why has social gaming become so popular?

I think social networks have made gaming popular because they have revealed the true nature of what is a game. At its most basic, a game is any non-obligatory activity that is performed for fun, and this certainly describes many of the pastimes on social networks. Be they simple, complex, challenging, or script-based click tasks, games are activities that people enjoy doing. Itís almost impossible to draw the boundary around all the activities that can be classified as games, so itís easier to state the opposite: games are not work. Anything that a person elects to do, that they are not required to, for fun, is a game.

Since time began, people have thrown rocks in ponds or drawn doodles on paper, and deeds analogous to these performed on social networks are just as qualified to be called games as the more traditionally classified diversions such as chess, checkers or backgammon.

Social networks have exposed people to copious quantities of non-essential activities and provided easy channels to announce participation in these entertainments to others. Players broadcast their indulgences, performances and achievements (both actively and passively). Either because of curiosity, invitation, peer-pressure or simple thrown-down-gauntlet challenge, the viral channels inherent in social networks massively reduce the barriers of discoverability to new activities, swiftly exposing an exponential number of people to new pastimes.

Another essential element that makes social networks such an efficient distribution mechanism for entertainment is the ease of accessibility. In no more than a couple of clicks, users can be having fun, and jumping on the latest bandwagon of distraction.

Finally, whilst social could be considered a poor adjective to describe games when many games are solo activities, these activities do earn it the moniker social because they offer a shared experience. Albeit asynchronously, all the people who have enjoyed the same activity have been down the same path. Even though they might be separated by thousands of miles and/or hours of time, players share a camaraderie with their friends who have run the gauntlet of the same challenge.

The trinity of discoverability, accessibility and camaraderie, along with the refined definition of fun (something that is not work) makes for a very venomous combination, and explains why gaming is so prolific on social networks.


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