It is a little weird to realize that not only are the so called ‘social games’, i.e. Facebook games over a decade old now, but also that we at the University of Tampere Game Research Lab have studied them for all of that time. After our Professor Frans Mäyrä gave a keynote on the topic at a conference in Münster, Germany, he was asked to write an article by editors Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt, who were putting together a sequel to Routledge’s Multiplayer from 2013. The article turned into a collaborative piece reflecting on a decade’s worth of work written by Mäyrä, Janne Paavilainen, Annakaisa Kultima, and myself.
This is the story of Facebook games, the research of Facebook games, and the reaction of the game industry and society to Facebook games. In some ways, this article is sort of a bird’s eye view of the work we have been doing around this theme, contextualizing many of the individual research projects and papers. It also works as a directory; it collects works relating to this topic in one place and directs the reader towards the sources they are interested in.
Here is the abstract of the article:
The social dimensions can take many forms in games and play cultures. The phenomenon of social network games, especially the historical evolution of Facebook games, provides an interesting opportunity to explore of the social aspects of game creation and play cultures. The social and cultural frames of social play and networks have become increasingly central areas to explore in game research. Around years 2006 2007, games distributed through social network services became known as ‘social games’, even though their actual characteristics do not necessarily rely primarily on social interaction, or real-time social play, for example. Nevertheless, social play and social network services have had a central role for the design and use of these games, and it is important to understand how they have operated – as games, and as playful elements in particular kind of social media environment. This chapter draws upon a decade of research in the field of casual and social games, and highlights the interrelations between player experiences, game and service design features, as well as industry business models in this area. Finally, the chapter also reflects on the future directions of social game play, and its research.
The article “From social play to social games and back: The emergence and development of social network games” is the opening contributor article in Multiplayer 2: New Perspectives on the Social Aspects of Digital Gaming. Since this is one of those expensive books from Routledge, I cannot really recommend that you buy it, but maybe borrow it from a library?