Social Network Games Can Enhance Family Ties

Playing games on a social media site may actually improve communication among family members of all ages.

In a new study, researchers discovered online games like CityVille are being played multi-generationally within families. “These interactions prove social networks are tools that break down communication and age barriers,” said researcher Kelly Boudreau, Ph.D.

As discussed in the journal Information, Communication, and Society, the online games serve as more than just a source of entertainment as interacting with parents and relatives may strengthen family bonds.

Researchers believe the 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,” said senior author Dr. Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University.

“SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries.”

For the study, Consalvo and Boudreau 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 online games 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 family members 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,” said Boudreau.

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 game designers.

“Families that play together play the longest and have the greatest sense of duty to one another as players,” she said.

“That behavior 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.”

Source: Concordia University

Having fun together with a laptop photo by shutterstock.