If you've been on Facebook for any length of time, you've probably been poked, Superpoked, had a sheep thrown at you, received a round of drinks or been bitten by a vampire. These viral applications entertained us for a while, but now Facebook has created new ways for users to waste time at work and school -- social gaming.
Social games stand apart from regular games (ones you might play on your computer or through a separate Web site) because they engage your network of friends. Instead of just throwing sheep or zombies at each other, friends challenge each other to games like Scrabble, bowling and mini-golf. And unlike viral applications like SuperPoke, where users simply send each other weird stuff, social games grow more organically.
Since most game results post to your wall, your entire network will notice you're playing a certain game. Some of the simulation-based games might even ask you to team up with your friends to complete certain tasks. Friends can invite each other to beat their scores, and many games even offer "taunts" and "smack talk" that publish to the user's wall, enticing even more people to join.
This mindless fun means serious cash for game developers. Facebook games are on track to make $500 million in 2009 [source: Eldon]. Some game developers make money through traditional advertising, but many use the actual game to generate revenue. For example, players can buy virtual goods like poker chips or clothes for their avatars to move ahead in the game. We'll look at some games that use these virtual goods (along with your very real money) on the following list of top five games.