The results of a recent survey on casual games suggests that such games promote familial bonds. Some might find the results a bit suspect since it was sponsored by Popcap, one of the leading publishers of casual games. However, I can tell you that the results reflect how casual games are played in my house.
My kids' first casual game was Tumblebugs, a garden-themed Zuma clone. I remember ABM pushing me out of the chair after a few minutes to see if he could last longer than I did. It didn't take long for the kids to get in on the act. It was the first time since Tetris was popular that I had seen kids comparing high scores.
The current craze in my house are hidden object games like Mystery Case Files: Huntsville. All the kids gather around one computer and hunt for the objects. They've learned new words like spigot because the games use different names for the same objects as you get to the higher levels. My kids don't fight a lot, but they have their share of disagreements. These games always have them working together in harmony, without anyone arguing about whose turn it is in the computer chair.
Lately, I've noticed that the casual games are getting deeper. That may seem like a contradiction, but it's not. Many of today's games involve more strategy and trickier puzzles to challenge a player. However, they maintain the frequent save points that make a game casual. I welcome more challenging games, not only for myself but also for the kids. With their group brain power, they can finish all the levels on a simple game in a week. I'm looking forward to games that they don't devour so quickly!