"Clearly, even people who play Farmville want to avoid playing Farmville."
March 9, 2010 2:38 PM   Subscribe

This doesn’t sound like much fun, Mr. Caillois. Why would anyone do this?

posted by never used baby shoes at 2:41 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I liked this:

Citizens must educate themselves in the use of sociable applications, such as Wikipedia, Skype, and Facebook, and learn how they can better use them to forward their best interests. And we must learn to differentiate sociable applications from sociopathic applications: applications that use people’s sociability to control those people, and to satisfy their owners’ needs.
posted by feckless at 2:41 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am not a Farmvillain. I've never touched the game, and I ended up Hiding it from my news feed to allow me to continue using Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing something.

....if you plant a field of pumpkins at noon, for example, you must return to harvest at eight o’clock that evening or risk losing the crop....

Apparently I am not.
posted by gurple at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I played Farmville for a while, and I think it's much better described by this Cracked.com article: 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying To Get you Addicted
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:47 PM on March 9, 2010 [16 favorites]

Cultivating a plate of beans?

But yeah, what a friggin' timesink. WoW-level addictiveness + casual-game production values and accessibility? Might as well be selling drugs.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 2:54 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, gurple, you aren't. I played for a while...and then realized I was scheduling myself around the game, to make sure that I got my crops in, and badgering my coworkers to join Farmville so I could expand.

I went on vacation one week, and came back to over 200 gifts. As I was spending hours going through them, sending gifts back, and planting my fields, I realized what is in my first comment - this was no fun, it was obligation.

So I quit. As of yet, none of my neighbours have shown up with pitchforks in hand to gut me.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:54 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

My girlfriend plays this sometimes. Maybe more than sometimes. She says she will never spend real money on it.

Now I see that I may have to kill her.

To save her of course.

Of course...
posted by Splunge at 2:57 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Saw the FPP, looked to the right for the "hide" button.....
posted by HuronBob at 2:58 PM on March 9, 2010 [21 favorites]

Nice article, and good to see that other people are worried about the path that some games are leading us down. Self-plug: I wrote about this topic in a blog post called Can a Game Save the World?

(spoiler: the answer is 'No')
posted by adrianhon at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2010

> ...if you plant a field of pumpkins at noon, for example, you must return to harvest at eight o’clock that evening or risk losing the crop...

Now I kind of want to start playing just so I can have a farm consisting entirely of desolate, empty fields and the skeletons of animals who starved to death.

Kind of like how one of my university housemates carried around a keychain with a "dead" tamagotchi, complete with adorable little 'X's for eyes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Interesting to read. I'm not on Facebook and never plan to be, yet I have watched at least three people that I care about basically gut their lives in order to keep up with FB and the games and other nonsense it provides. They claim they've never been in better touch with people in their lives, yet they never leave their houses for recreation anymore and seem to be happy to have given up interaction in meatspace for status updates and Farmville on FB.

I'd forward this article to them, but I don't even know if they read email that arrived outside of FB anymore. They certainly stopped responding to me when I told them that I wasn't planning on joining.
posted by hippybear at 3:04 PM on March 9, 2010

The article is a bit breathless in the way it categorically condemns Farmville as not a game at all, which does nothing to forward the overall conclusion that Farmville is a "sociopathic application," which has some merit.

Even Zynga’s designers seem well aware that their game is repetitive and shallow. As you advance through Farmville, you begin earning rewards that allow you to play Farmville less. Harvesting machines let you click four squares at once, and barns and coops let you manage groups of animals simultaneously, saving you hundreds of tedious mouse-clicks. In other words, the more you play Farmville the less you have to play Farmville.

Actually, what this does is allow experienced players to focus less on the entry level tasks they were learning when they first started playing, and focus more on metagame tasks, like beating their friends or achieving goals that require multiple harvests, etc. It's nothing terribly new to game design. The more you play Farmville, the more the meaning of "playing Farmville" changes.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2010

Sadly, Card Cheat, the animals don't starve. There are no slaughterhouses in Farmville either.
posted by box at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2010

While playing Farmville might not qualify as work or labor, it is certainly a productive activity, as playing Farmville serves to enlarge and strengthen social capital.

It is? It seemed like a massive time sink when I was involved with it, and, as the article indicates, a game whose main return is if you spend so much time on it that you acquire enough goodies and gewgaws to enable you to spend less time on it.

As for "social capital," if by that the article means the capital of being antisocial and hunched over a laptop dragging images of cows and trees around with a mouse, then yes, there's lots of social capital there.
posted by blucevalo at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2010

Aw, shucks. Well, at least I can still kill pumpkins.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2010

That said, I have a lot of friends who work at Zynga. Please give them all your money so that I can start a hip indy game company with them after Zynga goes public and they all retire on their stock options. Thank you.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:14 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

As for "social capital," if by that the article means the capital of being antisocial and hunched over a laptop dragging images of cows and trees around...

I think what the article means by "social capital" is the ability to pull more and more people into activity that generates income for the company (and could potentially do other things, e.g., Haiti relief). There's no positive social value attached to "social capital" by the author; rather the opposite.

How many people did you pull in while you were playing, blucevalo?
posted by gurple at 3:16 PM on March 9, 2010

I want to design a Farmville boardgame. You have ten thousand little plastic pieces on a playing board the size of your house. Each game takes around 24 hours to play to completion, and can be played singly or in a group. If you don't keep an eye on your schedule, I, the gamesmaster, come in and kick all your pieces of the board. "Your crops have failed!" I will bellow.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:17 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

A fun facebook game is Toy Soldiers, though. And the XBLA version is amazing.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:19 PM on March 9, 2010

Something must be wrong with me. I belong to Facebook, and I use it mainly in a casual kind of way, to see how my friends are doing.

Oh, wait, now I remember. I was once addicted to something online. I think it was in 1990. It was CompuServe's HOM-9 Star Trek forum.

Do you think this obsessiveness could just be a common entry-level phenomenon?
posted by Peach at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I definitely started playing this. It was a terrible idea and I have no desire to go back. I just can't bring myself to care enough about it.
posted by scrutiny at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2010

I'm a Cafe World escapee. For a while, it was fun. There were enough things to make that I could schedule my "cooking" schedule around my real life. "OK, these will be done at lunch time, so I can spend 15 minutes and set up the next round of recipes." I played the game to see if I could expand faster than the few friends who were also on CafeWorld, and I did.

But the game started pushing more real-money only advancements, and I realized CafeWorld was spamming all my contacts/friends with updates on my status (flt just cooked extra pasta! Come and get some! flt made too many salads! Get your free servings!). I cared too much about the game, but didn't get anything out of it except more in-game goals, so I quit.

To me, FarmVille, Cafe World and other such simple games that seem like "real life" activities are not like real life. The responsibility and routine is not as if you were really running a farm or operating a cafe. It's simplified, idealized versions of real life, much like first person shooters are simplified and idealized versions of battle. In Cafe World, there is basic math (Recipe X costs Y points per stove, and I earn Z points per serving), but no balancing the books (Oh crap, insurance costs are increasing, time to adjust the cost of meals). Kids play with toys and pretend they're farmers or they have a restaurant, is it so strange that teens or adults would do the same thing online?

Many of these complaints about Farmville could be made about other games. If you are fine with the repetition of faux-farming and enjoy it, great for you. If you don't, ignore it. Same for FPS, RPGs, chess or dominoes. But if you're addicted to the (slow) progression, pull away and find something that allows you to balance your life. Farmville, WoW EverQuest and Second Life shouldn't be the whole of your being.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2010

I was addicted to alt.books.stephen-king and alt.fan.nin back in the day, and kuro5hin.org about eight years ago. Now I'm not addicted to any websites.

*clicks profile to check Recent Activity*
posted by infinitewindow at 3:38 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I always wanted Farmville to allow growing of illegal crops with DEA helicopter flyovers and penalties when caught. Certainly would spice up the game.

On the other hand, there are a lot more reasons to play Farmville than simply because users feel they have to play. Given that the Farmville currently attracts 83 million users per month (per figures of a few days ago, the highest Facebook game participation by, uhh, a lot), it is a game worthy of serious study rather than scoffing dismissal. I've given a lot of thought to how it works myself these past couple of months, since I've been working more towards implementing social media features in my app programming

But I do think Zynga must be inflating their monthly figures somehow. A third of the FV friends whose farms I've peeked in on have withered crops, or other signs of abandonment.
posted by mdevore at 3:42 PM on March 9, 2010

when someone designs "MetaVille", I'll play...
posted by HuronBob at 3:44 PM on March 9, 2010

"brundlefly just flamed out in MetaTalk and is offering free popcorn to his friends for a limited time"
posted by brundlefly at 3:50 PM on March 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

I have been trying to explain to my farmville playing friends why it isn't a game, and failing. So now I can show them this. And they will roll their eyes and go back to spelling out stupid things with their crops.
posted by Biblio at 3:51 PM on March 9, 2010

I was addicted to alt.books.stephen-king and alt.fan.nin back in the day

I never thought I'd ever see another Ninnie here. Wow, the memories...

And I've avoided games like Farmville like the plague. I've had my share of addictions like WoW and Morrowind, and now I really have no desire to possibly get sucked in. I'd rather just browse forums.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:52 PM on March 9, 2010

Yeah, Farmville is pretty evil. I played it for a while because it was satisfying in an addictive monkey press the button to get the treat sort of way.

I was aware of the weird social obligation part of it from the beginning and even had my own version of fun with it. But any joy had pretty much worn off after a few months, then around Valentine's Day Farmville put the icing on the evil cake when they started sending teasers with how few Valentine's you had compared to *this* neighbor of yours.

That's when I razed my crops and built a maze covered with snow based on the one in The Shining. I spread a few hatchets around and wait for the fun.
posted by jeremias at 4:11 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did farmville once, but then my animals rose up and had a proleteriat revolution, but soon their marxist paradise turned dictatorial under the leadership of the pig class. Another revolution is set to come... I know cause I traded my neighbor for the seeds.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

The idea of a sociopathic application is very apt, I think.

I can't speak for Farmville, and I'm sure that for many users it's a fun experience and just one other way of interacting with friends.

But - I wouldn't go near that game with a ten foot pole. I'm no stranger to the addictive nature of games; I've stayed up all night playing Civilization, felt that weird empty feeling when the game closes and I'm again in the world of 3-d objects, typed for days on end on MUDs, scrambling to retrieve that special armour or sword or whatever the fuck it was that I dropped when my character drowned, and have resorted to cheats to rush through a game I've suspected may have started to ruin my life. (Why couldn't I have just deleted the program and moved on?)

For much of high school I was in front of a computer instead of hanging out with friends, doing homework, etc., and the only positive moments I can think of were at the beginning of the games, when I had to actively figure out what was going on. Those were sincere and powerful moments of learning. Something clicked and I had internalised a way of thinking and doing, the same feeling someone gets when a new language starts to make sense and you can feel your brain using these new grammatical pathways.

These days, I'll only play games that offer this sort of experience. I found it with Braid, which was a game that seemed to dissuade repetitive play. You'd play it for a few minutes, reach a dead end, and leave. The next day, you pick it up, and AHAH! you've figured it out. Another game that does that (although with a dark, depressing atmosphere and completely unforgiving game world) is The Void, by Icepick Lodge, which actively lies and misleads you, and you desperately try to figure out what the hell is going on like the prisoner in Kafka's story who tries to figure out the nature of the crime he's being punished for by reading the pain of the crime being carved on his back.

It's good to see people talking about the ethics of game development. From one perspective, these games are parasitic organisms that latch onto and monetise human interactions. Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, gave a great presentation comparing World of Warcraft with McDonald's.

The one positive thing I gather from this article is the possibility these games offer for mobilizing human behaviour (in this case, raising money for Haiti relief). It'd be great to more of these incidental, positive effects from these games. Some sort of positive externality to these parasites that sells themselves as play but in reality ends up being just another job. Surely there's a way to sneak in some language learning component to a game like this; people have reported learning English from World of Warcraft.

Personally, looking back on all the games I played when I was younger, I wish they had been infused with French vocabulary drills, historical trivia, logical puzzles, just like the medicine your mother would put in your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
posted by mammary16 at 4:19 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

My hobby is bonsai. I keep my little trees alive by remembering to water and fertilize them. I also have to trim them and protect them from pests. When spring comes, I will be able to sit outside and watch the leaves unfurl and the flowers bloom. Explain to me why I should play "Farmville"?
posted by acrasis at 4:38 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

"Do you think this obsessiveness could just be a common entry-level phenomenon?"

You might be right about that, Peach. I had my own sociopathic gaming experience last year with Evony, and so far it seems to have immunized me to other time wasters like Farmville. The hook can bite pretty deep, but most people should get sick of the game after awhile, when it takes up too much of their time and effort. And when everyone who might want to play the game has already tried it and is sick of it, Zynga will experience a pretty steep drop in revenue. There'll always be a stream of new converts just discovering Farmville for the first time, but it won't be anything like the gold rush profits of today.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:38 PM on March 9, 2010

It's almost like, "Hey! We've got the Internet and all these powerful computers... Someone should invent a game so that we'll have something to do. Because something is better than nothing."

Not that there's all that much wrong with Fb as a basic idea - it's just that after the initial rush of fooling around there's not much in the way of easy gratification to be had. Umm, for me, anyway.
posted by sneebler at 4:39 PM on March 9, 2010

straight has just posted a devastatingly witty comment in response to an ignorant troll! He only needs 32 favorites for the troll to feel decisively beaten and crawl away in humiliation! Click on the [+] to help defeat the troll!

"C'mon guys! We can still win the thread! Just a few more clicks! All favorites will be reciprocated! Let's do it!"
posted by straight at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Now I kind of want to start playing just so I can have a farm consisting entirely of desolate, empty fields and the skeletons of animals who starved to death.

That's what Animal Crossing is like if you don't play for a while. Except the skeletons.
posted by smackfu at 4:42 PM on March 9, 2010

My Pork Knights can beat the hell out of those skeletons
posted by qvantamon at 4:47 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I played Farmville for a while, mostly while I was working. It was a great way to waste a little time when Metafilter wasn't very active. When it started to encroach on my time at home, and I realized that I had to time my crops to coincide with times I would be available, it became less fun. I wasn't too put of by the money-grubbing nature of Zynga - I knew that they had set up the game as a money making enterprise and that most aspects of the game were set up to 1. suck you in with easily achievable goals and fun little play house activities; 2. once you had invested sufficient time and energy into the game, entice you to spend money to advance further; 3. invite more users to play the game. I knew I would quit well before then, and I did.

It's interesting though, how the negatives stated in the article are the very things that have enticed people who are not "gamers" to play Farmville. Most of the people that I know who play it are hard-working professionals who have advanced in their professions due to a lot of time and dedication. They are experts at obligation, routine and responsibility. They are successful in real life and feel no need to escape from it. They aren't huge fiction fans, and tend not to suspend their disbelief. For these people, Farmville is a game they can understand - where hard work and a little money will guarantee outcomes that are not guaranteed in real life. It's more of a sugar-coated sim for them, rather than a game and they like it just fine that way. Perhaps it's the discomfort that many of us (including myself) have with this satisfied mindset that has generated so much ire against Farmville, but I think it is fun for enough non-gamers to ensure it, or it's offspring's survival.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:57 PM on March 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

posted by bam at 5:02 PM on March 9, 2010

Previously, Farmville is the Soviet Union.

Also brings to mind the old Eastern Bloc gag: "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."
posted by gimonca at 5:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't wait for the great laugh we're all going to have when everyone gets back off Facebook to the real internet the same way they did after myspace, friendster and orkut.

That or the end of civilization when no one harvests the real crops because of Farmville addiction.
posted by DU at 5:28 PM on March 9, 2010

All video games are skinner boxes but some boxes are skinnier than others...meanwhile it's time to play some Super Puzzle Fighter II with the wife.
posted by aydeejones at 7:17 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I "play" farmville a bit in order to give things to my wife, who enjoys the game. I think she likes the "cute" aspects of it. Because she doesn't have but two facebook friends who play, she's never going to get very far, so I imagine it will lose her interest after awhile. She played "pet society" pretty religiously for awhile but that also lost its luster.

I think for a certain segment of people playing games like that, the fact that you have to spend real money after awhile removes it from being interesting to being annoying.

I can't say I find farmville interesting at all, really. I'm especially unimpressed with the performance of the game.
posted by maxwelton at 7:52 PM on March 9, 2010

Whew, for a second there, I thought I was on the wrong site! Farmville is best to be ignored. If you relent and join up to get your plot of land, you'll be dodging invitations to be neighbors with everyone all day. I mean, how many neighbors can you actually have? And people take this application really seriously. If you send someone an apple tree, they start complaining about only wanting oranges. A ridiculous waste of time!

... Uhh, btw, does anyone here want to join my Mafia? I need help with a job. Thanx.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:02 PM on March 9, 2010

I thought this article was just as mindless as it claims FarmVille is. While I would be fascinated by a discussion of 'what is play? what makes a game?', this article quoted a couple of glib definitions (that I disagree with) and then whined about evil technology being used for money and ruining society.

One particular point that occurred to me, is that if realism ruins games, why is The Sims so popular? There's no social obligation in that.
posted by jacalata at 8:06 PM on March 9, 2010

I quickly caught on that it wasn't "fun" or even much of a "game" -- as noted the major complication is making sure you can be there at the right time to harvest. Otherwise it's just endless clicking. I wasn't even really revolted by the cuteness, even though it was turned up past where I'm happy. Ultimately it was the fact that it's intensely social and therefore you're running around begetting reciprocity with everyone, often people you don't interact with in daily life. Send out two pomegranate trees, get back seventeen plum trees in your inbox. Then you have to actually accept them in-game AND place them.

I don't think it's quite accurate to say that the tools allow you to play Farmville less, but they do allow you to be more effective at playing it in the same general level of effort. Something like real farm implements. You don't stop farming the back half acre because you got a new plow, you plant a crop that will make you more money.

Anyhoo, if you get into this you're not getting into a game in the sense of a game per se, you're getting into the social aspect of the game, just like board games used to actually be the thing to pull out for an adult party, or just like contract bridge. Still, even as flawed a game as Monopoly is endlessly popular and has mavens and strategists.
posted by dhartung at 8:12 PM on March 9, 2010

I "play" farmville a bit in order to give things to my wife, who enjoys the game.

Yeah, this. This is exactly what that dude in TFA was talking about.
posted by gurple at 8:19 PM on March 9, 2010

I like The Light Fantastic's comment: that the players are experts at obligation, routine and responsibility.

I know one person who plays Farmville. She is a very hard working special ed teacher. Even older than me: 60+

Me, I was a Tetris addict for a while, and a Galaga addict twenty years ago in Tokyo. That's about it. I don't know what it's like to grow up playing video games. Or computer games. Or, especially, the really hard-core stuff, like what....I dunno...Warcraft? Although this makes Farmville sound particularly evil, creating a little cognitive disconnect for me given the benign title and my one-friend-experience with the game.

Obviously, the idea of what a "game" is seems to have morphed into some kind of capitalist monster, if these posts are an indication of what Farmville is about. Of course, playing roulette, or even marbles, were always an uncomfortable mix of socializing and risk. And, yes, Risk was/is an awfully strange mix of the fictional and the real. (Of course, the real is now all spectacle, n'est pas?)
posted by kozad at 8:20 PM on March 9, 2010

This is a terrific find. It brings up the social obligation aspect of these games and ties in nicely with the Skinner box described in the Cracked article. I have avoided Farmville and Mafia Wars simply because I knew that if I enjoyed them no good would come of it. Now I have some justification for my paranoia that extends beyond my own personality traits.

I'll be fine as long as they don't release Steam for the Mac...
posted by chairface at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2010

One nice thing about Farmville is that more people play it then use twitter. Which kind of takes some wind out of the "OMG TWITTER IS THE FUTURE!!!" Hyperbole out there. Of course that means farmville is the future instead, which is kind of discomfiting.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

This essay would have been a lot better if the author had taken the time to understand the definitions he uses. He quotes six criteria for defining games (they must be free from obligation, separate from ‘real life,’ uncertain in outcome, an unproductive activity, governed by rules, and make-believe.) and then goes on to claim that Farmville satisfies none of them - except it satisfies all six criteria:

1) It is a free activity, in that whoever plays the game does it from their own free choice. It doesn't matter if it's "defined by obligation, routine, and responsibility", as this is a part of absorption in the game. Planting, harvesting etc are in-game obligations; not obeying them would mean not playing the game.
2) It is separate from real life, as it obeys a different set of rules.
3) Is it certain or uncertain in its outcome? I'm not really sure, as I've never played it, but from what I read in the essay, it seems that the results depend on the actions of other people, which would suggest a degree of uncertainty.
4) It is an unproductive activity, in that playing the game in itself doesn't produce anything of direct material value to the players.
5) It is goverened by rules. Some of them are actually described in the essay, even though the author either knowingly or unknowingly ignores the fact that they are rules, calling them 'obligations' and 'responsibilities' instead.
6) It is make-believe, in that noone actually believes that they are running a farm; they are only pretending to be doing so and they know it.

If Farmville satisfies the definition of a game, does it mean then that it can't or shouldn't be criticized? Of course it can and of course it should, but rather than trying (and failing) to prove that it somehow fails to meet some criteria of a game, it would perhaps pe more fruitful to show how it abuses them. Maybe make a stronger distinction between game and play, showing how by abusing some of the defining criteria of a game, playing Farmville no longer qualifies as play.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:57 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why would anyone do this?

Why does anyone do anything? They get some kind of pay off from performing the activity.
posted by Solomon at 3:35 AM on March 10, 2010

seems to have morphed into some kind of capitalist monster

If you don't put any real money into the game, the core of the game is really about finding ways to convert one asset into another. You get 'coins' easily, points and fuel more slowly, and 'cash' only very slowly. You restore a very limited amount of fuel each day, which is like rent-seeking, collecting interest on the side, or maybe like rationing. You get coins through the tedious labor of planting crops, or much more slowly through trees, animals, or helping on someone else's farm. With a few exceptions, most of your points will come from planting crops. Reach point totals very slowly to get to another level, and you get 'cash', which is a rough, not-perfect analogue to 'equity'.

Buy crops with coins, reap coins and points, which eventually get converted to cash, which very slowly can be converted into special items that can only be purchased with cash. The mental part of the game, such as it is, is around "how can I maximize my profits faster", and specifically how can I convert asset A, which is plentiful but not spendable, into asset B, which is hard to get but needed for premium purchases. It's third-world capitalism, where campesinos earn nearly worthless local currency but need to get dollars or euros to climb out of wage slavery.

Fuel in the game is rationed out daily, but a day's fuel is never enough to plow or seed a properly-sized farm. The game has gotten around this by magically gifting fuel on holidays or letting you 'find' it in places. But no matter how much you hoard, it's never quite enough, and your fuel hoard slowly shrinks day by day. You know that someday you'll face a James Kunstler future, where you'll be harvesting most of your crops by hand because there's no fuel left, but you hope that some magic stash will appear to save you. And sometimes it does...but still, you wonder if it will be enough to fuel the bigger farm you're about to finally earn in cash/equity. It's peak oil in pixels.

The most disturbing development in Farmville is that you can now get a 'farmhand' in your gift box. I don't think further comment is necessary there.

Hellish? Maybe. But it's hellish in some of the ways 'real life' is, and in real life you can't pump your 'real world' dollars through PayPal to purchase FV Cash and Coins. Maybe that's the attraction for some people: they get to stand outside the game, use their credit card, and play the role of the World Bank or IMF.
posted by gimonca at 6:27 AM on March 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are no slaughterhouses in Farmville either.

Abattoirville anyone?
posted by morganw at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2010

It's almost like, "Hey! We've got the Internet and all these powerful computers... Someone should invent a game so that we'll have something to do. Because something is better than nothing."

Funny you should say that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:02 AM on March 10, 2010

I play Farmville but it has gotten boring for several reasons. Several things could improve the game:

1. Range Wars
2. Bestiality or abuse of farmhands
3. Where is my pickup truck?
4. Killing varmints
5. Nudity
posted by Ber at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2010

One minor point: "Farmville" (and Farmtown, a clone that I started playing first) is one of those games that counts everyone who has ever signed up as an active player. Not all these people actively play the game.

I still have a farm, and a massive list of gifts from friends -- I started playing last summer, largely because I could on-line chat with a friend in Toronto while she harvested my crops. I've stopped, mostly because it, like most FB games, eventually reaches the point where there's zero return for the effort: I will not give them money so that I can plant orchids, or whatever the new gewgaw is. I've stopped playing Metropolis because I became annoyed at the hate mail I'd get when I missed 'populating' people, and I'm going to drop My Zoo because there hasn't been new content release for ages.

I am, however, a happy Mousehunt addict: sue me. I don't spam people to join, since it's not necessary to have friends or neighbors to progress in the game, and the developers are good at releasing interesting additions to the game. Yes, it's mindless and pointless -- it functions like solitaire or Scrabble, something to plonk away at during lulls in the day.

The article is both right and wrong: yes, FV and MH and Mafia Wars and Cafe World and Fish World and...and...and...etc are annoying as all heck, and they're not video games in the classical meaning of the term. That said, passive games have a different end in mind than fully-fictional games. Yes, they're an outgrowth of and supplement to the social network obligations implicit in FB -- you may not want to chat to old Dan from high school, but you can exchange gifts in YoVille or kill enemies in Mafia Wars. It's the FB equivalent of watercooler small talk, and this isn't a bad thing in and of itself.
posted by jrochest at 1:01 PM on March 10, 2010

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