Facebook games may actually do some good in your life

November 18, 2014, Concordia University

The next time you berate yourself for wasting an evening playing Farmville on Facebook, think again. If you were playing with Mom, Dad or Aunt Carmen, you were actually helping to strengthen family bonds.

New research from Concordia University, published in Information, Communication and Society, shows that, beyond being a fun distraction, social network games (SNGs) can offer family members a meaningful way to interact and meet social obligations.

"Maintaining those connections is especially important as families find themselves dispersed across countries and continents," says senior author Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia. "SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries."

Strengthening the family network

For the study, Consalvo and co-author Kelly Boudreau, a research fellow at Concordia's Technoculture Art and Games Centre, polled a group of social network gamers. Using a questionnaire and follow-up interviews, the researchers explored what it means to interact with family members via SNGs.

They found that these offer families a common topic of conversation and enhance the quality of time spent together, despite the fact that most SNGs don't necessarily involve any direct communication. The games can also bring together who may be only distantly connected, with respondents citing experiences such as connecting with long-lost cousins or bolstering relationships with aging aunts.

That trans-generational nature of online play was something that surprised Boudreau, who uses SNGs to stay connected to her family back home in Canada now that she is a lecturer in Game Studies at Brunel University in England.

"It's not just siblings in their early 20s using SNGs to connect. Grandfathers are playing online games with granddaughters, mothers with sons. These multi-generational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers," says Boudreau.

The future of family gaming

With online games like Candy Crush Saga increasingly replacing traditional board games such as Clue, SNGs are quickly becoming an important way to interact socially. Consalvo sees this not only as a chance for families to connect, but also as a relatively unexplored opportunity for designers.

"Families that play together play the longest and have the greatest sense of duty to one another as players," she says. "That behaviour could extend the life of these games beyond what it would be if only friends or strangers were playing together. Designers should keep that in mind as they design the next generation of SNGs."

Explore further: Researchers undertake a large-scale study of sports video game players

More information: Information, Communication and Society www.tandfonline.com/toc/rics20 … current#.VGYtX1fF-i8

Related Stories

Can you tell a person's gender by their video game avatar?

May 6, 2014

A sexy wood elf with pointy ears. A hulking ogre with blue skin. An intimidating heroine with a buxom breastplate. When it comes to computer games, players can choose to be anyone or anything. But gamers don't always mask ...

The family that plays together stays together?

April 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- “Get off the computer and go play outside.” So go the words heard in homes around the country as parents and children clash over the social benefits of video games.

Study finds gaming augments players' social lives

March 27, 2014

New research finds that online social behavior isn't replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players' social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina ...

Making videogames more fun for passive audiences

September 10, 2014

You might think watching other people play videogames is boring, but researchers at the Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces (SocialNUI) at the University of Melbourne say it does not have to be this way.

Recommended for you

Fish-inspired material changes color using nanocolumns

March 20, 2019

Inspired by the flashing colors of the neon tetra fish, researchers have developed a technique for changing the color of a material by manipulating the orientation of nanostructured columns in the material.

Researchers shed new light on the origins of modern humans

March 20, 2019

Researchers from the University of Huddersfield, with colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the University of Minho in Braga, have been using a genetic approach to tackle one of the most intractable questions of ...

One transistor for all purposes

March 20, 2019

In mobiles, fridges, planes – transistors are everywhere. But they often operate only within a restricted current range. LMU physicists have now developed an organic transistor that functions perfectly under both low and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.