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Social networks for gamers: Where to connect

If you're a gamer, you might be surprised to know that there are a variety of social networks for people like you. There's no better way to connect with other gamers.

Social gaming is growing quickly on the Web. More companies are trying to find a way into the space. And as more people start playing games, many sites are realizing that creating a social network for those people is viable business model.

I tested a variety of social networks for gamers. Some are better than others, but you'll definitely find at least one site worth joining.

Gamer social networks

GameFriends GameFriends is designed for gamers who play titles on the current generation of consoles. Once you sign up, you have the option of inputting all the games you've played. When you pick a game to include in your list, the tool lets you input when you started the game, when you finished it, and rate it out of 10 stars. You can also add comments for the GameFriends community to see. Like the other sites in this roundup, you can make friends with other users and see how they're rating the games they've played. It works well, but I would have liked GameFriends more, if it had a nicer design.

GameFriends helps you find your favorite games. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

OMGPOP OMGPOP is a well-designed site. It takes just seconds to sign up. Once you're ready, you can invite friends from contacts in Gmail, friends on AIM, and more. OMGPOP then gives you the option of playing a variety of its games or make friends. Your social profile features all your gaming activity. It also tells you how many XP (experience) points you've earned by being active on the site. You even have the option of communicating with the OMGPOP community with a Twitter-like message system. OMGPOP's profile pages are fantastic. They feature big pictures, a host of information on the person, and more. I was really impressed by OMGPOP. It's beautiful, functional, and a treat to use. But I do wish it had more games.

OMGPOP has a wall to help you communicate with other gamers. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Playfire Playfire annoyed me as soon as I signed up for the site. I don't like receiving "updates" from sites, so I always uncheck the boxes that would give the site permission to send e-mail updates to my in-box. But in order to sign up for Playfire, the site requires you to allow it to send updates. I turned it off in the Settings tab in my profile after I signed up, but it was a real annoyance that Playfire should eliminate from the sign-up process.

Once I moved past that problem, I found Playfire to be a full-featured social network. It allowed me to add a variety of games I've played on current-generation consoles. I was able to review them on the site and share those reviews with the Playfire community. Playfire is well-designed and simple to use. Too bad its sign-up process is so bad.

Playfire has a slew of games to search for. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Playfish Deciding to add Playfish to the list wasn't easy. It's not a social network like the rest of the resources in this roundup. Instead of connecting you with others on Playfish's site, it instead provides a variety of games that you can play on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, or Bebo. You pick the game you want to play, choose people with whom you want to play from your friends list, your area, or the world, and start playing on the social network's pages.

It's a unique way to connect users, but it works well. The games are fun. The number of people in the community is huge. And you have the option of talking about all the games right in the Playfish apps. It might be a little different than its competitors, but Playfish is still a great option, if you want to get in on gamer social networks.

Playfish has some really neat games you should try out. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Raptr Raptr is a really neat service that makes it easy to keep your friends up-to-date on all the games you're playing. When you first sign up, the site asks you to input your Xbox Live username, Wii code, Spore identity, and much more. That information helps automatically populate much of your profile page, so you can play with the friends you get to know on Raptr.

Besides that, you can add games you've played. As you add more games and rate them, Raptr recommends other titles you might like. The recommendation engine works quite well. Like the other services, you can find and follow friends, add status updates, and see what kind of games your friends like.

Raptr gets all your gaming profiles when you sign up. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

XPOGames XPOGames is a relatively new social network that's still in beta. It has a Twitter-like input field so you can share your current status with members of the community. When you start searching for friends, you'll find that some are called "gamers" and others are called "developers." XPOGames splits those people up to let you know which users are developing games and which users are playing video games. So far, there aren't too many games on the site. XPOGames is still in its infancy, so it has some growing to do. But with an active community and a nice design, it has promise.

There are a lot of games to choose from on XPOGames. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

Want to know the three social networks gamers should consider? Check them out:

1. Raptr: It combines your console life with your online life.

2. OMGPOP: It could have more games, but it's a really nice service.

3. Playfish: It's unconventional, but it's worth spending time on.