Tech UPTechnologyThe fever of the

The fever of the

farm-town More than 400 million people collaborate – or compete – in games on Facebook, MySpace and other social networks. It is a new way of fun, making friends, business … and addiction. Eugenio Spagnuolo has investigated it.

What will be better, dedicate yourself to agriculture or open a restaurant? Chilling out looking at an aquarium or gambling dough at a poker game? What do we play? Rather, what social game do we play? Since Facebook existed, video games are no longer the same. As individualistic and violent as they were, they have become more … that, social. Now you play online with friends and friends of friends who help each other. Or on the contrary, as in MMOs, you enter challenges where hundreds of thousands of strangers from all over the world compete.

To be aware of the social aspect of these hobbies, just take a walk around thevirtual difference ofFarmvillethat, taking advantage of the pull of Facebook,has surpassed 83 million users in the global village. It is a video game whose purpose is to create a business and make it prosper. To access it, it is necessary to register through a social network -MySpace, Facebook- and download a free application. It is not essential to have special skills, because, unlike real orchards, virtual ones only need a little attention and a few clicks. And if you have problems, you can ask your neighbors for help, that is, your social network contacts who, like you, have joined the game. They are the secret of the success ofFarmville, since these games foresee that the participants are in charge of taking care of the land of the colleagues who are off-line. Therefore, the more friends you have, the better your ranking will be.

To feel fulfilled and meet needs

“The possibility of collaborating with neighbors is precisely what makes residentssocial gamesin more advanced and seductive than the usual video games “, explains Giuseppe Riva, professor of Psychology and New Communication Technologies at the Catholic University of Milan.” When we play, in fact, we try to satisfy our needs. Social games, in addition to satiating the impulse to feel fulfilled through the exhibition of our skills -typical in all video games-, allow us to cover two more:self esteem, because the result is also visible to our friends, with which we can boast to them of the score, and the need for association, since the fact of being able to help a friend to carry out their tasks in the game reinforces social relationships, an atavistic need in man “.

cafe-worldAlthough it is the most famous,Farmvilleyou are not alone. More than 30 million people enjoy theCafé World, a virtual restaurant where you have to prepare and serve food; and many others are given toZynga Poker, a review of Texas Hold’em Poker designed for users of social networks.

But there are them for all tastes: one of the most famous – and controversial – isMafia Wars. Around 25 million Facebook users are busy recruiting as many friends as possible tocreate a gang of criminal gangstersbased in the New York neighborhood ofLittle Italy. Of totally opposite content arePet Society, a game in the style of the classic Tamagotchi, or the rivals Happy Aquarium YFishville, both with more than 20 million followers on Facebook. This is not the only double. YesCafé Worldhas to deal withRestaurant City, Farmvillecurrently has two clones:Farm TownYCountry Lifis.

According to a study carried out by the companyPopcap Game in the United States and Great Britain, andl 55% of social games players are women. The average age is 43 years. In the US, 46% of gamers are over 50 years old and only 6% are under 21 years old. But there is more:95% of those interviewed play several times a weekand in 59% of the cases a game lasts 30 minutes -only 9% lasts more than 3 hours-. More than 56% have been playing for more than a year and 83% do so through Facebook. It is played for fun (53%), to relieve stress (45%), for competitiveness (43%) and to avoid the mind (32%). But 24% use social games to stay in touch with friends. In fact, friendship is the foundation ofsocial games. 62% of people prefer to interact with their own friends and 57% of players have known of its existence when receiving an invitation from one of them. And it is not abandoned: 39% practice between 3 and 5 titles, and in 28% of cases money is spent to enrich their own gaming options.

pet-societyBut what is impressive is not the speed at which these social games proliferate, but the number of individuals who sign up. Only Zynga, the Californian company that createdFarmville, Mafia WarsYCafé World, has 237 million players. And one of their new releases,Treasure Isle, has reached 20 million users in just three weeks. In the hypothetical case that Zynga goes public, its market capital would amount to 5 billion dollars, according to the website www.secondshares. com. MagazineBusiness Weeksays that in 2012, the sales volume of social games will amount to $ 3.6 billion. And all because they use the formulafreemium, which consists of attracting customers with a free product and then proposing to the most hooked to buy virtual goods, with real money, to climb the game faster.

In this sense, Professor Riva warns of the dark side ofsocial games: “They are very attractive, which makes people with low self-esteem take refuge in them, a behavior that hinders their contact with the outside. On the other hand, being a great source of distraction,social games can interfere with job performance“. That is why many companies have blocked their workers’ access to social networks. In fact, the magazineTime post thatFarmvilleIt is considered the ninth worst invention in history.

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