Farmville: Cash Cow of a Distraction

Farmville, from Google Images

You’ve probably noticed on your Facebook News Feed little, annoying notes about how “So-and-so found a lonely black sheep!” or “So-and-so found a lonely pink cow!” or “So-and-so gets a ribbon!” All of these little space taking tidbits of information comes from a Facebook flash game called FarmVille.

For those who never played it, FarmVille is a game where you farm, harvest vegetables and apparently find cattle that wander onto your farm. It’s apparently an addicting game – I’ve seen people talk strategy behind it, and I’ve seen people leave class to go harvest strawberries or something like that. As a result from this addictive gameplay, it’s one of the most played games on Facebook. This isn’t just on Southwestern, I remind you – this is all over the globe. Even digg.com co-founder and technologist, Kevin Rose, accidentally revealed that he played it.

So, everyone is playing FarmVille, because the game play is so simple. It’s like the SNES game, “Harvest Moon,” but without all the deep farming or social aspects – you simply just plant crops. Its gameplay anyone can get into. What this means is that the people behind the game are making mad amounts of cash. If they included some sort of micropayment payment system into the game (like paying 99 cents for a special orange cow that can be used to make fertilizer that makes your crops grow or something).

I will say I don’t play FarmVille, but not for stupid reasons like the fact that it’s a casual game, or it’s a game where you play as a farmer. I don’t play it because it’s creepy. See, I’m a rather private person. When I do game, I don’t want the world to know all of my accomplishments. I don’t really care if I let my girlfriend know if I found a pink cow, or even the editor-in-chief of this newspaper whether or not I upgraded my farm. What is he supposed to do? Be happy for me and buy me a beer?

That’s the problem for me is this trend for the merger between social networking and gaming. The problem is that I don’t think it is done well. FarmVille, for instance, just lets people know of your accomplishments, but that’s about as deep as it goes. It’s similar to fixing a leaky drain with duct tape – you fixed the leak, but it’s a short term solution. If FarmVille’s social networking was better, and was actually interesting instead of being a single player game that simply annoying alerted your friends how awesome you are, then yeah, I would play it. The Facebook API with what it can allow you to do in terms of people and their profiles is pretty amazing and should be used more often.

I’m waiting for a day I can play Risk with a big group of friends without moving an inch (think of Scrabulous but with Risk!), or even with just people on Facebook – I don’t want to play “Risk” by myself and then simply alert my friends that I got 10 new units and am the supreme overlord of Australia. One’s an analog to an existing social activity that is made 10 times easier, the other one is simply just depressing and lonely.

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