Given members’ compulsive desire to collect online pals like living Pokemon, you could argue that social networks such as MySpace, Bebo and Hi5 are one big game unto themselves. But thanks to heavyweights like Electronic Arts and Wizards of the Coast, they’re also rapidly becoming home to high-quality, innovative and multiplayer digital diversions.
A far cry from last year’s lo-fi addictions like Zombies and WereWolves, today’s titles increasingly offer 3D graphics, head-to-head action and interactive heroes. Better yet, of the thousands now available, the vast majority are completely free to install, play and enjoy right from your Web browser. Making friends and antagonizing people is easy too, with even classic distractions like Texas HoldEm Poker sporting 5,793,824 monthly users alone.
The most popular and technically advanced platform with 120 million members, 52,000-plus programs to choose from and 140 new applications added daily, Facebook remains the gamer’s destination of choice. Here are five favorite ways to decimate productivity, between status updates and what little remains of your actual real-world life.
Get Rich Playing Games (getrichgaming.com) author and TV/radio host Scott Steinberg has covered technology for 300+ outlets from CNN to Rolling Stone. For more of his insights, visit scottsteinberg.com.
From: Digital Chocolate A reflex-intensive puzzler based on the popular mobile phone and PC downloadable amusement. To play, simply click to make a wobbling crane drop building blocks atop one another to create a leaning high-rise. The more successful one’s aim, the more stable the structure and greater the opportunity to create score-boosting combos. Although its simple 2D graphics are a step back from prior editions, markers with photos of friends that indicate how well you’re doing by comparison provide constant incentive to keep building.
From: Bonehead Labs Nintendogs, eat your heart out. This online virtual pet game lets you feed, play with, and take heartwarming snapshots of your very own computerized dog. Huggy Bear, our black Labrador pup, loves it when we waggle our cursor to rub his belly and can’t resist a good Frisbee toss. We just adore watching his big, brown 3D eyes light up when you pet him, and appreciate that he doesn’t chew up stereo cords or leave little bundles of joy on the living room rug.
Lucky Strike Lanes
From: Large Animal Games Like Bumper Stars, also from celebrated casual game developer Large Animal, this one’s among the more addictive arcade outings available on social networks. Simply aim the ball, set power, and spin with a click of the mouse. Little touches like colorful 3D visuals, the sound of pins crunching in the background, and animations which play when you land a strike or spare bring the authentic alley experience home. The only thing missing: Cheap pitchers of Budweiser and stale $10 nachos. Yum!
From: Addicting Games Think Guitar Hero, minus the obnoxious plastic controllers. Using both hands, tap and hold buttons on your keyboard in time with on-screen prompts to add audible riffs to hard-charging background tunes. An animated, shaggy-haired duo strums in time with your presses, moving their fingers at blistering speeds. But watch out. Fail to please the crowd, and you won’t just face the sound of silence. You’ll get pelted with tomatoes. Bummer, dude…
Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures
From: Wizards of the Coast Flipping a gauntlet-clad finger at 3D rivals, this text-only fantasy dungeon hack, a throwback to old-school ASCII adventures, lets you customize warrior or wizard and explore haunted crypts and monster-infested labyrinths. The game’s beauty lies in simplicity and convenience. Just choose a quest, then check back every few minutes for a witty update on your champion’s progress. A virtual Dungeon Master narrates and handles dice rolls automatically. You chime in to equip weapons and gear, or chug magic potions. Surprisingly for a title that mostly plays itself, it will have you on pins and needles to learn if you survived that last booby trap or goblin ambush.