Using Game Center on the iPhone and iOS

Game Center app logo
Game Center app

The iOS—the software that runs on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad—is arguably the leading mobile video game platform, surpassing Nintendo's DS and Sony's PSP. While the games available for the iPhone and the iOS are great, gamers and developers have learned that games get even greater when you can play your friends head to head over the Internet. That's where Apple's Game Center comes in.

Game Center is an iOS app that lets you create a social network of fellow gamers to challenge them to contests, and to track your scores against other players around the world.

Here's what you need to know to use Game Center.

Game Center Basics

How to Get Game Center
Getting Game Center requires basically nothing more than having an iOS device—iPhone 3GS and newer, 2nd gen. iPod touch and newer, iPad—running iOS 4.1 or higher. You'll also need an Apple ID. Game Center is pre-loaded with the iOS, so as long as you have that version of the operating system and a compatible device, you've already got Game Center and don't need to download anything.

Game Center Accounts
Game Center uses the same iTunes account/Apple ID that you use to buy from the iTunes or App Stores. You can create a new account if you want, but it's not necessary. Either way, sign in with your account and you'll be ready to start playing.

Status and Photo
Once you log in to Game Center, you'll be taken to a home page where you see your number of friends, the number of Game Center-compatible games you have, any turns that you need to take in head-to-head games, and the number of achievements you've unlocked in your games.

There's also a place where you can enter a status—think of this as similar to a Facebook status update. Tap the status bar, type in your message, and tap the Done button to post it for others to see.

In iOS 5 and up, you can also add a photo to your profile that's shown to other users. To do that, tap the photo icon or Add Photo button, depending on your version of the iOS, and either take a photo of yourself and select one from your Photos app.

Getting Compatible Games
Not all games work with Game Center; they have to be made compatible with it by their developers. There are two places to get Game Center compatible apps: through the App Store and through the Game Center app.

To get Game Center games at the App Store, follow this link to a section that Apple has created to feature them.

In the Game Center app, tap the Games icon at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the screen are a small selection of recommended games (recommendations are based on other games you've played, as well as games played by your friends). Tap Show More to expand the list. Tapping on a game takes you to its App Store page.

Managing Friends

Adding & Removing Friends
To play games with other people, you need to first add them as friends. To do this:

  1. Tap the Friends button at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Then tap the + icon in the top corner to browse your iPhone address book or use the Search bar to check to see if your friends have Game Center accounts.
  3. Once you've found the person you want to add, you can write an optional message and then send a friend request to them. If they approve it, they'll be added to your friends list and you'll be able to play head-to-head games with them.

    To unfriend someone:

    1. Tap their name in your friend list
    2. Tap the three-dot icon in the top right corner
    3. In the pop up menu, tap Unfriend.

    Your Friends' Games & Stats
    When you're viewing your friends' profile pages, you can see a number of things about their gaming, including what Game Center games you have in common, all the Game Center games they have, and their scores and achievements.

    For games that you have in common, tap the game to see their achievements compared to yours.

    Using Game Center

    Playing Game Center Games
    When the game launches, a message will appear on the screen saying "Welcome back" and showing the Game Center icon.

    That's how you know you're signed in and your stats are being tracked. If you don't see this, go to the Game Center app, sign in, and then return to the game.

    Once you've got compatible games, you can play them and, as long as you're signed into Game Center, your stats will be saved to your account. 

    Multiplayer Games
    While Game Center is what allows you to play multiplayer games, it's not actually where you go to initiate them. Instead, when multiplayer games are available, they will be an option within the games themselves. When you choose that option, generally a Game Center window pops up.

    In that window there are two choices: auto-match or invite friend. To play against one of your friends, tap the Invite Friend button and select the friend(s) you want to play against by tapping their name. A checkmark will appear next to that name. Then tap Next in the top right corner to send them a request to play.

    You can also play against strangers looking to play the same game, even if you're not friends with them. This is called Auto-Match. In the Game Center window that pops up, tap Auto-Match and Game Center will arrange the game for you and connect you to another player. For games that support more than two players, you can combine your friends and auto-matched players.

    Competing with your friends to top each other's scores is one of the most fun things about Game Center. You do that using Challenges. Challenges issued to you by your friends show up in the Challenges menu at the bottom of the app. If you want to issue a challenge:

    1. Go to your friend's Game Center profile
    2. Find a game you have in common with them and tap it
    3. Tap Achievements
    4. Find an achievement that you've beaten them at and tap it
    5. Tap Send Challenge

    The turns menu lets you know when you're up for the next move in any turn-based games you're playing with your Game Center buddies.

    Seeing Your Stats
    To see the points you've racked up and the achievements you've unlocked, tap the Games icon at the bottom of Game Center and then tap the game you're interested in. Depending on what stats the game supports, this will show leaderboards for various game modes, your achievements, and where you rank against other players worldwide.

    Restricting and Deleting Game Center

    Parents who are concerned about their children interacting with strangers online can turn off the multiplayer and friend features of Game Center. This allows children to still track their stats and achievements, but insulates them from unwanted or inappropriate contacts.
    Learn how to use parental restrictions here.

    Like the other apps built in to the iOS, Game Center cannot be deleted.


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