My 8 y.o. homeschooled, only child son has a difficult time making a connection with his peers. He plays well enough with them and they usually have a good time together but it takes him ages to remember their names often referring to them as "Buddy". I usually set up a few play dates a week, something he would never ask for but is happy to have happen. Other kids like him a lot but he seems to not care very much about them. Is that odd? Any suggestions on helping him forge a relationship?
Children with difficulties with social skills often need to be taught social skills in the same way they need to be taught math, point by point. They may not just learn by watching. You want to look at what areas he has trouble with:
maintaining a conversation
answering questions appropriately
engaging in play apropriately
and the like
DOes he like the play activity itself? Have yout aked to him about this? 8 year olds know themselves better than one might think in this area actually, I am sure he recognizes something is different.
It appears so far he has trouble intiating with friends (you are doing it) and showing interest. He may not know the appropriate way to show interest. If you give me more information maybe I could help you a but more, I'm a speech therapist who works a lot with social skills.