Get Your (Online) Game On
My husband brought home an iPad3 this past week -- so let the games begin.
Once we synch the iPad to our email and calendars and upload apps we use for work, it'll be time for a little electronic R&R.
These days, online games are no longer the exclusive playground of kids and teens. The average age of a social gamer -- someone who plays online against other people -- is 39, and the average new social gamer is a fiftysomething woman, according to a November 2011 survey [pdf] from PopCap Games.
People are playing online games more than ever, with 41 percent of 1,201 U.S. and U.K. players polled by PopCap saying they spend at least 15 minutes a week on online games, up from 24 percent in 2010. While PCs and laptops remain the game devices of choice, more people also are using consoles, smartphones and tablet computers -- like our iPad -- to get their game on, according to PopCap.
Games have become so engrained in midlife norms and culture that people use them to make new friends or partners. One couple -- he lived in Houston; she was in Atlanta -- got married after meeting over Words With Friends, as chronicled in this HuffPost50 story.
E3, one of the electronic entertainment industry's biggest conventions of the year, opens June 5 in Los Angeles, so expect to see dozens of new titles spilling onto iTunes and Google Play (the recently renamed app store for Android smartphones) in coming weeks. New offerings getting industry watchers excited include games such as Elder Scrolls Online and Halo 4, and the upgraded Wii U controller. Diehard fans can catch E3 product briefings live on their Xbox 360s, Facebook or Spike TV.
In the meantime, here are some current games that have people buzzing:
1. Angry Birds in Space. They're the same irate cardinals that kept you up way too late trying to make it to the next level. Only in the new version, the birds are in outer space, where "the variable gravity environments provide a new set of challenges. It might not be rocket science, but it's already a massive hit," says game review site Metacritic.
Versions available: iOS, Android, PC and Mac
2. Draw Something. Players' enthusiasm for the Pictionary-style drawing game subsided somewhat after online game giant Zynga bought its creator, OMGPOP, in late March. Still, gamers downloaded Draw Something more than 50 million times in the first 50 days it was available, making it one of the fastest-growing online games ever, according to this Wall Street Journal article. In the game, one player sketches pictures to illustrate a word that another player has to guess. New features let players send comments with their drawings and "erase" their last line, as this CNET review explains.
Versions available: iOS, Android, and as a Facebook app
Price: Bare-bones version is free; upgraded app is $1.99.
3. Minecraft. The graphics in this 3-year-old multiplayer adventure game are an anomaly: They're so old-school, they're cool. This is a "sandbox" game where players use textured blocks to build, inhabit and battle over online worlds they can design to look like anything. Some gamers have created landscapes patterned after the arenas where tributes do battle in the popular Hunger Games series. The game, created by Swedish programmer "Notch," has more than 10 million registered users and has developed such a following that fans congregate at an annual MineCon convention.
Versions available: iOS, Android, PC, Xbox 360
Price: Bare-bones, single-player version is free; upgraded multiplayer version is $26.95; mobile app is $6.99.
4. Plants v. Zombies. They've taken over TV shows, movies, even Jane Austen novels. Now the undead populate a handful of hit games, including this popular version, which has won multiple game-of-the-year awards. "My husband and son play these," says Rita Colorito, an Illinois freelance writer.
Versions available: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Nintendo DS, Kindle, others
Price: $2.99 to $19.95, depending on the platform
5. SoundHound. The music search and recognition app is meant to be a tool for looking up songs, but people also use it like a game. "It's actually really fun to sit around with friends, hum a tune and see if the app will recognize the song. It's impressively accurate," says SecondAct's Kara Ohngren, who reviewed the app in this Entrepreneur.com story.
Versions available: iOS and Android
Price: Bare-bones version is free; upgraded version for iOS is $6.99.
SecondAct asks: What's your favorite social, online or video game? Let us know by leaving a comment.
Read more: How Social Health Games Can Make You Trimmer
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