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Last week I asked what distinguishes a social game from a multiplayer game and suggested that for social games, social context has an impact on gameplay and enjoyment. Parking Wars is a great example of a truly social game on Facebook

When I asked readers for suggestions of social games, a few people suggested Friends For Sale. I agree that FFS is social; social context has a big impact on what players do. I’m not sure that it is a game though in that there is no “win” endstate, but that may be just quibbling with definitions.

The NY Times highlighted another great example of a social game last Friday when Brad Stone wrote a profile of GoCrossCampus:

This winter, the armies of Yale invaded Massachusetts and conquered Harvard. Cornell’s troops turned Dartmouth’s militia into a vassal force. Columbia allied itself with Yale and occupied Long Island, before getting routed by the Princeton-Cornell alliance.

The historic rivalries of the Ivy League have reached the Internet.

Eleven thousand Ivy League students and alumni have played out these scenarios as part of an online computer game called GoCrossCampus, or GXC. The game, a riff on classic territorial-conquest board games like Risk, may be the next Internet phenomenon to emerge from the computers of college students.

Techcrunch notes another company, Kirkland North, with a similar model.

Both games rely heavily on social context (namely school, department, and residence loyalties) to provide a framework for alliances, gameplay and motivation. It appears that both have also been able to draw a significant proportion of the students on various campuses into games, spreading virally.

I really like the approach that all three companies have taken to building social games, both on social networks and on a standalone basis.