If you have a Facebook account, you are probably well aware of FarmVille, Candy Crush Saga, Diamond Dash, Bejeweled Blitz and a host of other social network games (SNGs). Most of us think of these games as a pleasant diversion at best, and, at worst, a waste of time. But did you know that today, these games help create connections among family members who are separated by distance—and sometimes, by years?
According to a recent study from Montreal’s Concordia University, published in the journal Information, Communication and Society, more families are playing these games together, and it is a fun and meaningful way to interact—similar to the old board games many of us enjoy, but available to family members who aren’t able to sit across the table from each other.
Senior author Mia Consalvo says, “Maintaining those connections is especially important as families find themselves dispersed across countries and continents. SNGs give families a convenient and cheap way to transcend geographical boundaries.”
Consalvo and her team from Concordia’s Game Studies and Design department interviewed social network gamers about the ways they connected with family through gaming. The researchers reported, “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.”
SNGs might also, in a sense, enlarge our family circle, as we connect with family members we’ve lost touch with—or have never even met. Chatty Facebook posts get us acquainted with distant cousins, and gaming with them helps cement the sense of family circle.
And the best news for seniors: the Concordia team calls social gaming “transgenerational.” Says Consalvo’s colleague Kelly Boudreau, “It’s not just siblings in their early 20s using SNGs to connect. Grandfathers are playing online games with granddaughters, mothers with sons. These multigenerational interactions prove social networks are tools that break down both communication and age barriers.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada [optional link: http://www.concordia.ca/news/media-relations/news-releases/cunews/main/releases/2014/11/18/facebook-games.html]