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Is Social Gaming a Healthy Recreational Activity?

While the World Wide Web has long being accepted as a broad and diverse informational resource, it is now beginning to challenge the conventional concepts of communication and interaction. A key aspect of this is social gaming, which is an expanding feature of networking sites and media outlets, and offers subscribers the chance to experience role playing games while interacting with fellow users. As it continues to grow at a rapid pace, there are issues concerning its consequence as a recreational activity.
Facebook are the most prolific source of social network games, with titles such as FarmVille and CityVille extremely popular amongst users. Statistics suggest that out of the estimated 500,000,000 subscribers who utilize facebook as a daily resource, approximately 68 million of them will be playing at least one game a week by the end of 2011. This, in addition to the increasing number of designers who are producing games within the media, is displaying a clear trend in where social networking sites are set to direct their efforts within the next 12 months.

The Changing Face of Social Networking
This trend is a statement of how social media has progressed since its inception, and also mirrors the changing landscape of the internet as a whole. Social networking sites such as Facebook were conceived with largely simple goals, in order to connect people and make it viable to interact through an alternative and cost effective method. However, as Facebook in particular has grown to be the most visited and influential website in 2011, its core purpose and aspirations have changed to suit this demand.
To to this end, it has now emerged as many individuals first choice for interaction, and this popularity has seen users spend an increased amount of time on the interface. As a reaction to this, not only have the site sought to add different elements to their service to engage and retain subscribers, but numerous advertising bodies and brands have utilized this large consumer base as a significant vantage point for advertising their goods or services. This has helped to expand Facebook and similar network sites of a smaller degree.
Social gaming is a concept which is perfectly suited to advertisers needs, as they retain users on the website for several hours and also have a particular theme to interest certain brands. As an example, FarmVille stands as a popular game on Facebook, and brands developed two key processes when using it through which to reach potential customers. Firstly, they use the pages and screen shots of the game to market themselves and their physical product or service. Secondary to this, various organic food companies used the games interface as a platform through which to sell virtual goods to players and subscribers.


The Effects of Social Gaming
So as the popularity of social gaming continues unabated, the consequences of this practice need to be assessed. It is clearly prompting many social network users to spend an increased amount of time per day online, and ultimately sacrificing face to face interaction or a degree of physical activity. These are the merely logistical implications however, and these can have far reaching effects in terms of users health and ability in terms of social skills and awareness.
If we assess the latter, then we must assume that social skills are developed through the activities of face to face interaction and communication with people of diverse faiths and cultures. As there is no strict censorship on the age of gamers who can play social media titles, this means that young and impressionable teenagers are able to spend their time on the interface as opposed to developing core social interactive skills. This is something that will leave its corollary in later life, and seriously impede an individuals ability to communicate.
The main issue with young users is that they are enjoying access to social games while still learning the inherent processes of social interaction and conduct. As they are forming behavioral trends in conjunction with spending large amount of times on social network and gaming sites, this behaviour becomes a significant part of their upbringing and preparation for adult life. In addition to this, it can also stunt physical development, and incur serious health issues that are again not influential until later life.


Regulating Social Gaming Activity
If we are to accept social gaming and networking sites as an inevitability of contemporary life, then individuals must take personal responsibility to incorporate them as part of a healthy approach of their and their child’s existence. There is nothing wrong with utilizing the services offered by social networking sites or enjoying role playing games in moderation, but they must be accompanied by extensive acts of face to face interaction and a substantial element of physical activity.
Part of a free society is the right to undertake free enterprise and recreational activity, so long that it is legal and legitimate. Any issues of ethical or moral concern are at the discretion of the individual, as it is their duty in a liberal culture to regulate themselves and their children in terms of behaviour and thought processes. With this mentality, social gaming can continue to expand as a popular and profitable entity, without the consequence of effecting users negatively.


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Navaid I. Syed is the owner and CEO of / ExcitingAds! Inc. He is a medical doctor and was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan, on July 31, 1964. He graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan, in 1990. He is Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA, USA, certified.

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