So I get a call from someone asking me to log on to Facebook and sign up for this game called Farmville. I’m not going to say who the call was from because it isn’t relevant here, but this person wanted me to play the game so I could send them in-game gifts so they could grow their virtual farm. Well that’s fine, shouldn’t be a big deal, I’ll just treat this the same way I treated Mafia Wars, I’ll log in every now and then, sucker punch someone that robbed me, do a few jobs, and forget about the game for a week. But no, this game requires you to log in anywhere from every 2 hours on up to harvest crops and to plant new crops. Again, not that big of a deal if you plant things that take several days to grow. There was a catch however, and that was the large number of people that started playing the game.
About half of the people I am friends with on Facebook were playing the game, my status page became clogged with notifications about who advanced up a level in the game or who had just won some award for playing a lot. What it succeeded in doing was turning a social site that I used to keep up with friends into a bragging area for in-game accomplishments. My wife started to play the game and quickly became addicted to the point that she would ask me to make sure and harvest her crops if she couldn’t be at the computer.
Aside from the annoyance of having this silly game take over Facebook, it isn’t even that good of a game. You can spend money on things like barns and fences but none of that matters because the animals never move and your character never requires sleep or a toilet. The only reason to play it is to make virtual money and expand your farm and fill it with useless decorations in some sort of weird attempt to out-do your neighbors farm. I know this because the game lets you take snapshots of your farm and then post them in a status update for all to see.
Maybe that’s the draw, maybe people like accumulating virtual toys that have no purpose, in game or out of game. That might explain the success of games like The Sims or Second Life, creating a virtual world where you can buy all the things you really want, where you can set up a virtual life that might be better, or at least more organized, than your real life. Although who in the world is secretly longing for a pink barn and a covered wagon is beyond me.