December 24, 2009 / 8:06 AM / in 8 years

Games give Facebook-weary employers more headaches

<p>An Internet user tries to log onto social networking site Facebook in Tehran May 25, 2009.Morteza Nikoubazl</p>

BANGALORE (Reuters Life!) - For many employers, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites are already a scourge that cut into productivity. Now they have something else to worry about -- the games hosted by these sites.

This new genre of social gaming is called "asynchronous" or "appointment" gaming and allows people to play with their friends without having to be online at the same time.

The low-intensity engagement has made games such as FarmVille, Cafe World, Restaurant City, Pet Society, and Happy Aquarium -- developed by firms Zynga, Playfish, Crowdstar and Slashkey -- popular among employees who often log on during office hours.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, about 12.5 percent of productivity in the corporate sector is misappropriated each day by social networking sites.

"What we are seeing is that more and more people and organizations are recognizing the productivity lost so probably more chief information officers are blocking Facebook applications," Rebecca Wettemann of Nucleus Research said.

Boston-based Nucleus Research, which conducted a recent study into the effects of social networking sites on productivity, said nearly half of office employees in the United States access social networking sites at work, which leads to an average loss of 1.5 percent of total office productivity.

Facebook, which has 350 million users, says at least 20 percent of its members play games online.

Sebastien de Halleux, CEO officer and co-founder of online game creator Playfish said Asia is growing at a faster pace than other regions.

"We had no idea that it would spread so fast... when we had 100,000 users after one month, we thought it was the biggest success ever. Now with 60 million users we think this is only the beginning of something much bigger," he added.

Playfish is behind Pet Society and Restaurant City.

Zynga's FarmVille, the best known with over 70 million active users till date, allows players to own a virtual farm where they can grow crops, raise animals and build a farm house.

While companies try to curb access to social networking sites, not everyone sees the games as harmful.

Anand Tatambhotla, a consultant at an advisory firm in Bangalore, says playing online games is akin to taking a break to chat or smoke a cigarette, only better.

Psychiatrist Santosh Chaturvedi of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bangalore agrees.

"Playing these games is like a break, without actually taking a physical break. It changes the mindset and when the person comes back to their original work, it might actually improve their concentration and productivity," he said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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