Social Gaming: We are Hooked

“I will be out of station for a few days”, she informed grimly. “Who will look after my cattle, sheep and crops? Who feeds my fishes in my absence?” she demanded.

‘She’ here is no concerned farmer or fisherwoman; she is a dear friend of mine speaking apropos her facebook applications. ‘Facebook’ as you know, is not a family collage of passport sized faces. It is in fact, the current rage in social networking, hip and de rigueur; if you do not have and account there, you are too boho for survival in today’s world. Gone are the days when networking was limited to kitty parties and decorated soiree, tap your keys and there you are – the uncrowned prince of virtual world.

As I woke up- splashed water on my face, belches some out, I saw flood in front of my eyes, flood it was of another kind. Notifications swept away virgin sleep from my dizzy eyes, everyone needed help- help! Help! They shrieked. Some had hatched eggs as I was preparing for breakfast. Chintu (to his disgust) discovered Sharma uncle was his ‘lover of the day’. Ayesha broke up with Amir, because he flashed as her enemy of the day and accordingly changed her relationship status to ‘its complicated’. Akshay begged me to join his mafia and in a few clicks I became a don, donning the killer gloves and waging wars against my facebook friends-turned-mafia nemeses at the snap of fingers. ‘Shyla found a lost White Kitty on their farm’, It said. Oh no! I had to rescue her by adoption, but discovered someone had already drenched himself in this Holy Grail.

‘Mr. X has commented on a photo of you’, I rushed to check out and found I was only one of many nominal representatives in a montage featuring varied breed of canines.

Complicated, this world is- just like Ayesha’s status, but this is the milieu we breathe in and ‘net friends’ are the people we spend more time with , than we do with our real life buddies and relatives. Though, social networking websites like- Orkut, Facebook, Bebo, My space, etc- with its pros and cons have become inseparable part of our daily lives; it has given rise to a new epidemic called, social gaming. While, there are social gaming websites like – Secondlife, Entropia Universe, IMVU, There, Zapak etc. completely designed for that purpose; the need of the hour, it seems is integrating your applications with social networking websites. Take the case of gaming giant Electronic Arts who have realized it in time and jumped into the social networking bandwagon- by bringing the much anticipated Dante’s inferno and the renowned Need for speed Nitro on Facebook.

It is ironical how heaps of money is invested in the Console gaming industry and millions are employed on making the games more realistic, yet a strategy game with 2D graphics eats up a large share of the gaming populace. If statistics are to be believed, Farmville has 72.9 million monthly active users, making it by far the most popular game on Facebook. The closest has less than half the number of monthly actives — Café World, at 32.2 million. Put another way, FarmVille is played by more than 20 percent of Facebook’s 350 million users every single month. A survey showed Facebook is the most popular destination for online games, with 83% of the online gamers saying they have played games there. Twenty-eight percent have purchased in-game currency with real-world money. The average gamer has played six social games, and more than 50% of gamers started playing a game because a friend recommended it or because they saw a friend playing it in a news feed or other social stream.  In the spring of 2007, an Austin, Texas, company called Show Initiative put on the first Virtual Worlds conference, an event that saw dozens of companies flock to New York to talk about how marketing could work in these nascent digital environments. Second Life, There, Entropia Universe, and others working on 3D immersive worlds were the stars. Now, a few years down the line the situation has changed dramatically, so much that, the name- ‘Virtual Worlds conference’ had to be changed to ‘Engage! Expo’ and 3D gaming sites find their place in the rummages of past. With regard to the name change Chris Sherman, the lead organizer of the events says, “It broadens the scope of our business. The major media companies aren’t just looking at virtual worlds. They’re looking at iPhone apps [and] social games.”

This indicates a fresh air of change, which is bound to bring lot more innovations in the gaming industry in years to come.

So social gaming hookers don’t be afraid, you are not alone, there are hoards of your kind swaggering the streets of virtual land.

Debojit Dutta

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