Social gaming: The popularity, the kids, the concerns

Emarketer recently released some numbers saying that social gaming is on a track to grow by about 30% in the United States by 2012.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Social gaming and it's potential popularity were proven not too long ago and with a vengeance. Zynga's success was overwhelming and quick. Some of the biggest (and in some cases oldest) content players are now taking their the rest of their eggs out of the console gaming basket and dropping them all into social gaming. Disney Interactive Studios recently shut down Propaganda Games (developer of the console game Tron: Evolution), which had employed roughly 70 people. Disney's Chief Executive Robert A. Iger recently admitted that there is a sustained shift from console to social and mobile gaming within his company.

Emarketer recently released some numbers saying that social gaming is on a track to grow by about 30% in the United States by 2012. Now while there are a few of us that got burnt out on social gaming content within Facebook before we even had a chance to try it out, thanks to clogged Facebook news feeds filled with our own friends asking us to trade some corn for cows in order to beef up their Farmville footprint. Regardless of the noise they create on Facebook, I've not seen any shortage of interest to play these games. In fact, with enthusiastically interested socialites ranging in age from 13 to 60+ years old participating in these games, as long as the social network exists, so will the growing addiction to social gaming.

I don't think this is a bad thing. I'm a gamer and have been since I was a kid. I spend most of my game time rocking the XBOX 360 and am not much of a social gaming guy myself, but with the popularity of social gaming and mammoth-sized companies like Disney putting more focus on social gaming, the age range of our online gamers will intrinsically become younger. For business reasons this is not a bad thing at all. From the perspective of a father of three active sons who are also gamers, it some ways it brings another parenting challenge to the table.

The kids

Teaching my children to balance their game time with 'regular life' is my job and I think (and hope) I manage it fairly well. I try to make it a priority to teach my sons the importance of investing in real human interaction, going outside, being active, etc. However, I think as our parenting culture progresses in an effort to stay on top of the integration of the information age in our children's lives, we need to be aware of the potential negatives.

According to a recent survey done by AVG, some eye-opening numbers that should be reflected upon by ALL parents reveal some interesting tidbits about today's online culture and kids.

  • More young children know how to play a computer game (58%) than swim (20%) or ride a bike (52%)
  • 28% of young children can make a mobile phone call, but only 20% know to dial 911 in case of an emergency
  • 69% of children aged 2-5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoelaces

Another thing to think about in this day and age is that 69% of children aged 2-5 are even using a computer in the first place. Back in the day, before our age of excess and immediate gratification, parents didn't have to spend as much of their parenting time focusing on 'limiting' so much stimuli. Now all the things we need to be cognizant of as parents are starting to feel even more overwhelming.

For you parents out there, how do you handle it in your household? Are you concerned that social gaming will make your jobs even harder as Facebook generation 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 rip around the corner, ready to jump into the fray or do you feel like it won't be much different than now?

[kids image cred]

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