The Lure of Addictive Social Board Games

Mark Stephens

I am not a “gamer” and have never classed myself as one. Never owned a Playstation, Xbox or Wii; only ever purchased one PC game in my lifetime (Championship Manager!) and would rather watch angry birds scrapping on a bird table than play the game.

Yet I know the addictive power of social board games. In fact, I took counseling at one stage – well, not quite, but my wife booked me in!

For some unfortunate people it’s cigarettes or whiskey; for others it’s Bejeweled. For me it was the board game Risk. When I discovered the online version it started to take over my life! Remember, this is a serious non-gamer talking!


Addicted to Winning

I joined a site called CC (abbreviated version) which had about 60 or 70 maps where you could play individual or team games, all based around the classic board game but with many new features and additions to rules.

At that stage of my life I had plenty of time on my hands as I was recovering from serious illness and took around a year off work. As an unpaid, freemium member you were allowed to keep four active games running simultaneously; the problems started when I liked it so much I took a paid membership for $25 a year.

Pretty soon I had 25 games running and needing my attention, not to mention that I joined a “clan” and was pretty active on the forums and in-game chat; I rose to one of the Top Ten players on a site with tens of thousands of members.

Life Comes Second

I would have to plan my days around when turns were due and make sure I was at a computer so our team wouldn’t miss a turn. That would have been a disaster and would have sparked an inquest on our clan forum. We had challenges to win, more “clan wars” to organise, as well as the individual games to attend to that most of our team played separately.

Life? Work? The Wife and family? That came second, third and fourth.

Looking back I can see it really was too much. When I went back to work and began writing, thankfully sanity took over; I said my farewells to clan members and quit the site. A couple of months later I was tempted back by an old clan colleague for a few games, but mercifully it didn’t feel the same. I had broken the addiction in the two months away and since that day a couple of years ago I haven’t played a game! Honest! No…really, I’m serious.

Anyway, this all got me thinking about who are the “gamers” out there?

Are you a Potential Social Game Addict?

If a non-gamer like me can become addicted and allow it to gradually take over one’s life, then what hope do the rest of you have?

It was with this question in mind that I recently came across this infographic.

The gaming scene demographics have changed remarkably, it seems, as smartphones and tablets offer a wealth of social games that require little practice to start playing.Simple social games that are ready-to-go on the download of an app mean that everyone with a smartphone has access to an almost limitless library of games.

No longer is it a spotty teenager skipping school that is the main gamer in town. According to the chaps at FlowTown it’s a forty-three year old woman, married with children, with a good education and a full time job!

So that’s what the payroll accountant was doing when she said she was too busy to talk to me about my expense claims the other day!

She was playing Words With Friends, Tetris Battle or Texas Holdem Poker on Facebook – three of the fastest growing social games, according to the infographic.


It’s interesting that Words with Friends and Tetris Battle are games that are in the same genres as the last two games from the team at Monkeybin – MindFeud and Quopples.

The first is a social board game and the second a cascade type of social game, where you set up a challenge and use the best formations to blast the dropping tiles clear of the board.

Other Interesting Stuff

We’ll end with a few more facts from the infographic, because it is interesting to see who the next social gaming addict might be:

  • Only 1% of social gamers are under 18 – can this be true?
  • The 50-59 age group accounts for 22% of social gamers
  • Social gamers are educated but not overly so – with 36% attending college and 28% having a bachelor’s degree; only 2% of doctorate students are gamers
  • The majority are in full time employment – or retired
  • Friendly competition and social interaction were cited as the two most common reasons for playing social games