Even though gaming on Facebook has been around for a while, 2009 was the year of the social gaming boom. Mafia Wars was the first game since Scrabulous to get a nod from mainstream media, and by the end of the year, you'd be hard pressed find anyone -- even your Mom -- who hasn't at least heard of FarmVille.
Then there's the fact that these games are basically cash cows, corralling millions of dollars for Zynga, Playdom, Playfish and CrowdStar (and the prediction that social gaming will be a 5 billion dollar industry in a several years), we'd say this whole social gaming thing has officially taken hold, and we can't wait to see how these games change in 2010.
Out of the 500+ games on Facebook, five in particular held us captive this year. All of the games on this list launched in '09 and have 10 million or more monthly active users. It's equally mind-boggling to sit back and think of how many hours we've sunk into these games, not to mention (yup, it's confession time) how much real-life cash we've paid to buy virtual items for these games.
5. Happy Aquarium
This aquarium simulation game from publisher CrowdStar launched in September and the traffic exploded. Turns out, people like the idea of having a tank full of fish they can tend to -- especially if its virtual. The game revolves around buying fish, feeding them and decking out your tank(s). The reason we like this game over similar ones out there? Happy Aquarium has activities other than raising and selling fish -- you can also train them (by playing mini-games) or try to mate them. Also, your fish don't die if you go missing for a few days (or weeks), and that makes us happy.
4. Cafe World
Cafe World let us tap into our inner restaurateur, giving us a small cafe and challenging us to turn it into a success by cooking and serving dishes. The catch, each dish takes a certain amount of time to cook -- from five minutes to a few days -- so the entire Games.com crew set iPhone alarms and meetings in Outlook to remind us to check in on our food before it rots. Once dishes are served, the pay-off of watching our Buzz rating and our number of coins grow kept us slaving over hot virtual stoves for weeks.
3. Mafia Wars
Everyone likes a good mafia story, so the idea of combining that lore with a text-based game on Facebook was a stroke of genius. Mafia Wars didn't introduce this concept, but had the best execution of all of the mobster-themed social games out there, mostly because everyone we know on Facebook played the darn thing. We also applauded the new expansions to the game, so we could expand our criminal empire in Cuba, Moscow and Bangkok (and later this year, in Las Vegas).
2. Bejeweled Blitz
If we logged which game we played the most this year -- it has to be Bejeweled Blitz. The brilliant minds at Pop Cap took a 10-year old game and turned it into a Facebook phenomenon by giving players one minute to match jewels and rack up as many points as possible, then post them to a leaderboard on Facebook for all to see. Then, they also added Blitz to iPhone, which also posts scores to Facebook. As if that didn't get our competitive juices flowing enough, scores are completely erased each week and it starts all over again. We've been playing so much that we have contracted "Bejeweled Blitz Wrist" -- any doctorly advice would be appreciated.