Nearly one-half of US social network users now play social games, according to Lightspeed Research and Trendstream’s Global Web Index. That makes it the fifth most popular social networking activity, ahead of watching videos or searching for new contacts.

Women are taking to the casual gaming environment in greater numbers than men. Among all female Internet users, 28% play games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars; men were 6 percentage points less likely to do so. Several other types of gaming, including offline and online console gaming and play in virtual worlds, were more popular with men than with women.

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“Women are particularly attracted to short, casual games involving an active community like FarmVille, Cafe Wars or Pet Society,” said Tom Smith, managing director of Trendstream, in a statement. “Women also spend more time on social networks in general.”

Earlier research from PopCap Games also found women ahead in social gaming.

Q Interactive reported that 36% of female Web users played social games in January 2010. Slightly fewer than one-half of that group were used to seeing brands affiliated with the casual online games.

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“Women are particularly attracted to short, casual games involving an active community like FarmVille, Cafe Wars or Pet Society,” said Tom Smith, managing director of Trendstream, in a statement. “Women also spend more time on social networks in general.”

Earlier research from PopCap Games also found women ahead in social gaming.

Q Interactive reported that 36% of female Web users played social games in January 2010. Slightly fewer than one-half of that group were used to seeing brands affiliated with the casual online games.

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