Once, playing computer games required some forethought and effort: you had to go to a video arcade, purchase a game console, or buy and install software for a personal computer. But with the advent of mobile devices such as smart phones and the rise of social websites, choosing and playing a game is a matter of just a few clicks or taps. The result has been a significant uptick in the number of hours people spend playing games, as reflected in the most recent figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The types of games that people are playing have shifted as well. In the past, for example, online gaming often meant the high-tech gladiatorial combat of so-called first-person shooter games or the elaborate fantasy or science fiction settings of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Now, it is much more likely to involve challenging a friend to Scrabble or matching wits with the computer in a relatively simple puzzle. These are “casual games”–games that don’t require much effort to learn and can be enjoyed a few spare minutes at a time.