Assessment 3

The Social Media Games on Social Media

By: Huiming Wang


Class: Fiona Andreallo, Thursdays 12pm


Brief Introduction

As its literal meaning indicates, social media game refers to a variety of games, such as Farm Ville and Onmyoji, played on social network sites (SNSs), unlike other computer-end games. The combo of the name allows the exploration of this concept both in the genres of game and social media.


Game-studies perspective

There are two major categories of games from the perspective of game-study, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) requirement a large consumption of time and attention and casual games allowing easy access and quit.

So far, most social media games are designed as casual games, but this does not mean that all casual games are categorized as social media games. Computer game players were seriously stereotyped as isolating themselves from the society and having difficulty in getting connected with others. According to Hinton & Hjorth (2013), a theory called “magic circle” that is used to describe a place for players who are separated or escape from the real world. Players in this circle are assumed hiding from the annoyance of real world and living in completely-free cyber space. But just as Hinton and Hjorth have described, so-called ‘casual’ games have risen and a wider range of games are accessible to a larger group of players and often enjoyed in unconventional, new manners. There is a report has revealed that PC, the traditional gaming device is still a major platform for MMOGs while the mobile terminals are also rising rapidly to be the major gaming platform (Brand & Todhunter, 2015).

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Source: Digital Australia 2016

Another finding lies in the changes in the demographics of game players. The majority of them are still aged between 15 and 34, but the weight of older group is increasing as a major trend as suggested by the elevated average age of players in past decades.

Hinton and Hjorth especially noted this point with a finding that people playing social media games have reported more diversified demographics and motivations than console game players or traditional computer game players. As more and more new players enter the market, a new economic form of game production is pictured (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). “Gamification”, this newly-created term has witnessed the rise and prevalence of social media games as a culture phenomenon (Juul 2009, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).


Social Media Perspective

From the perspective of social media as pointed out by Salen and Zimmerman in 2003, though games have been famous for their pursuit of being solitary and socially isolated, they have long been actually linked with conviviality (cited by Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). It has been also argued by Steinkuehler and Williams in 2006 that MMOGs are equipped with an engaging and rewarding online social environment. This fact has never been more true when it interacts with another fact that a lot of social media games even create a site like discussion forum for player to communicating with other players after realizing the leisure purpose of the game itself. What has been also corrected by Hinton & Hjorth (2013) is that game-playing appears to be more like highly-social experience rather than a solitary or isolating experience, which looks especially true in an online multiplayer environment.

Besides, the social media games are not simply one-way related with social media. Instead, the relationship between social media games and social media turns out to be more symbiotic. According to Hinton & Hjorth (2013), there is a common case that a player might be willing to pay real money for virtual goods like seeds or decorations in Happy Farm, which, however, might sound ridiculous to a non-player. But such kind of purchase becomes one major source of revenue to companies like Zynga who once confirmed that 90% of their revenue was contributed by the in-game purchases. Apparently, SNSs and social media games are interdependent and share benefits and profits together.


Happy Farm and Social media

Hinton and Hjorth (2013) carried out a case study of Happy Farm, a Chinese version of Farm Ville that was embedded in RenRen (a Chinese social media platform) to explore the mechanism of how this kind of social media game grew from zero to getting virus on social network platforms as well as its influence on social media.


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Chinese social platform- RenRen

First of all, the research team methodically looked into the temporal background when Happy Farm rose in China, involving the economic transitioning, the demographics of players and the features of Happy Farm that exactly caught players’ needs. As what was pointed out by Hinton and Hjorth (2013), it was an elusive dream for most people to own a house in this social-economic backdrop with fierce competition and economic pressure. Under this background, Happy Farm offered a nostalgic fantasy where people were allowed to utilize the basic economic model of capitalism in their simple farms and replete through the morally-questionable practices of theft to develop their farms and accumulate wealth.

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Moreover, the social function of Happy Farm was also elaborated by Hinton and Hjorth. According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013), in the game, players could help their friends develop farms to gain experience points and in-game gifts were given to players for further development for inviting their friends to join the game. Hou (2011) explained that these social interaction elements in Happy Farm demonstrated an obvious effect on encouraging people to be more engaged in the game and play more frequently (Cited in Hinton and Hjorth, 2013). Meanwhile, different empirical evidences were also raised by Hinton and Hjorth to exhibit the influences of his social media game on different groups of players in China. A surprising finding was obtained by Hinton and Hjorth (2013) that compared to young adults, older players were more engaged and even addicted to Happy Farm, which could be dubbed as a type of ‘kidults’. Another interesting finding remained that the social media game could connect both friends and family members in China.


The contribution of social media game concept

By my personal experience, I’ve gained an overview and clear guidance from the concept of social media game to understand its social functions and how it works on social media platforms. The concept has also motivated me to further reflect on the social space in these social media games. According Hinton and Hjorth (2013), these social zones are interesting enough as they allow players to joyfully experiment with the game and contribute new and unintended (as far as designers are concerned) ways of playing games. Those places are called as “gap” in social media games and it is of great importance to maintain these gaps when designing the social media game, considering its useful function and role. For instance, when designing the social media game project of Sydneycon, one of the incentives could be set that the system will deliver somebody a lovely gift if he/she posts the photo featuring Sydneycon. The rule is clear that the picture is supposed to contain the element of Sydneycon, but the “gap” is also left as they do not require what kind of gesture they have to pose or what kind of information that they choose to show. I’m well inspired that it would be surely a good way to offer such space for audience to create on social media platforms.



As a conclusion, the nature of social media games being social lies in that the social engagement plays an essential role in these games. No matter with which approach, all social games induce people to connect their friends and be involved in new possible connections in the cyber space, which creates fun and multiple ways of engagement for players to stay active and connected in the virtual world.



Brand, J. E. & Todhunter, S. (2015). Digital Australia 2016. Eveleigh, NSW: IGEA.

Hjorth, L., & Hinton, S. (2013). Social Media Games. In Understanding Social Media (pp. 100–119). London: SAGE.



3 thoughts on “The Social Media Games on Social Media

  1. Hi Huiming, I really enjoyed your article!

    I agree that videogames were initially seen as a means to ‘escape’ from the real world and ‘avoid’ interactions, and how when it comes to social media games, it becomes a social experience, just like how social media itself is designed to be. I myself sometimes play a few of these games on Facebook – namely Suburbia that reminds me of TV show Desperate Housewives, and Words with Friends. The experience is fun when many other people play the same game so you can easily complete quests that require ‘help’ from them, but it is a pain when you are the only one playing. Not only it takes more time to finish tasks, there are also quests that MUST require other people to play in order to be completed, but I do not want to bother them by sending invites when I know there is not a lot of people playing the social media games I play.

    While I mentioned my experience playing social media games alone, I also experience the side that do not play the game but still get invites from others. For example, Candy Crush. I have never played the game, but some people do, and they would send me so many invites or requests. Honestly, I found it highly annoying even when I ignore them.

    In short, there are two sides of social media games: it is fun when it is shared, but annoying when not.


  2. Hi Huiming,

    As a fan of both video games and mobile games, I like your article very much.
    Firstly I do agree your point that the most attracting part of the social media games is they provide a platform for friends to play together.
    Personally, I think social media games is more like a social interacting event rather a simple game. Nowadays, the communication function is the key point of all games, especially the social media games.
    I think the social media games should consist of several characteristics to attract players. Firstly, I think they should be relaxing rather intense, the operation should be simple and easy to play when people are killing time such as waiting bus or in the bathroom. Secondly, the social media games should deliver some interaction or community building function in game, so the friends can play it together and share ideas.
    For me, I have played so many games and realize the importance of social communication in games. Games are perfect platforms to meet new friends because you must have one interest in common, the game. I do have many friends that come from the game, DOTA2, which is a MOBA video game on PC. And we have created a Wechat group for communicating and sharing informations. I think this is a perfect example that how games connects with social media.
    In addition, you also use some theory to prove that how social games run such as the in-game purchasing system. Also this is an interesting topic for me, because I always heard that the non-pay players don’t understand the paid players that why would they pay for a virtual games and even look down upon them because the paid players use money to get better stuff in games and defeat them. However, in my opinion I think this theory is ridiculous, for example, in my hometown, many women are regarded as bad women when they wear sexy clothing or heavy make-up because they are way more beautiful than the other women who never make up themselves. I think you don’t have right to judge the women, or the paid players because they have paid so much effort to themselves and they deserve the better outcome.


  3. Hi Hyuming, your article is interesting. I totally agree with you that social media games and social networking sites (SNSs) are interdependent and have mutual benefits. People have to connect to their friends in SNSs, so they can support each other in the games and then continue to play together. For example, if we run out lives in Candy Crush then we can ask help from our friends to send some new lives and vice versa. Therefore, we continue to engage with our friends, and at the same time, we may keep having fun in the games.

    However, I also find out that this culture has shifted. The social media games are potentially no longer social anymore since some people might find the ‘easy way’ by cheating in the games. Some individuals who do not like rules of the games may search some cheating tricks in the internet or different sources so they might not need their online community to survive in the games. Well, hopefully, this bad habit will not develop in the future, since it may turn the social games players to be solitary games players just like the previous stereotype that you have mentioned at the beginning of your article.


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