The Game Center app, pre-installed on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch devices, is a social network that allows you to challenge other players in several games. There's no charge for using Game Center -- unlike similar services such as Xbox Live.
How does it work?
You start by creating a specific "handle," or nickname, and then look up friends. From there, you can challenge them in a number of ways.
Sometimes you simply compare stats and scores through leaderboards, such as how many pieces of fruit you're able to slice in Halfbrick's "Fruit Ninja." Other times, you can challenge players directly in online play, such as a round of "Real Racing 2."
Whatever happens in your games is automatically tracked through the program. You can see how many friends are on your list (and which ones are currently playing), how many games you've played and how many Achievements you have unlocked.
What are Achievements?
Certain accomplishments in a game earn points called achievements. You may win achievements for beating a "boss," a tough guy, at the end of a particular stage, for instance, or for finishing a game in its entirety. Game Center automatically tracks achievements. You can visit a menu for each game to see what your score is and what achievements you may be missing.
Game Center can compare your achievements with those of your friends and automatically rank everyone, adding a competitive edge to each game.
How do I find friends?
Finding your friends is as easy as entering their handle, if you have it, or doing a search on their real name. Then you can invite them to be a friend. Of course, they can do the same for you.
Some games can pair you up with random players. Afterward, you can track whom you've played and ask any of them to be friends, should you feel like playing them again. The "Infinity Blade II" game, for example, has an extensive list of players. So it shouldn't be a problem to make new friends.
What can I play?
Most newer games work with Game Center. What's more, it doesn't matter what kind of player you are: whether a fierce warrior in "Infinity Blade II" or a casual gamer who prefers "Angry Birds."
Oh, and if you see someone named TheDCD tearing up the charts, don't be afraid. It's just me.