Social network gaming helps keep families close

You might think that those constant Facebook updates from family members about what they’re ‘planting’ in FarmVille are annoying, but you should probably pay them some attention.

A new study has discovered that social network gaming is a great way for families to keep in touch.
Colleagues Mia Consalvo and Kelly Boudreau from the Technoculture Art and Games Centre at Concordia University in Montreal surveyed social network gamers about their family connections.

They found that even though these games usually don’t involve any direct communication, they can still enhance relationships. Perhaps because they ask so little, people feel comfortable using them to connect with family members they don’t know very well, with some users reconnecting with distant cousins or long-lost relatives via this type of game. SO much easier than meeting in person and struggling to know what to make awkwardly chat about.

And it’s not just for young people: people from all generations are using social network games to keep in touch with each other, with it being an especially good way for grandchildren and grandparents to connect. ‘These multi-generational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers,’ says Boudreau.

And this apparently has real-world benefits, too: as well as helping people to connect online, the researchers found that playing games on social media gave family members something to talk about when they next saw each other. In fact, the people who played the most with their family members reported the strongest sense of connection.

Boudreau and Consalvo say that if game designers want to explore new ground (and rake in the cash that follows) they could tailor future online games towards the families who use them to keep in touch.

Image via Sabrina Dent’s Flickr.

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