264: How Social Games Ate Our Lunch

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How Social Games Ate Our Lunch

Game designers can be stubborn. Erin Hoffman points out how denying tools like audience-tracking metrics and decrying that games are too artistic for Facebook, as well as stereotyping FarmVille players, allowed startups to steal what was rightfully theirs.

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Very good article and it makes very valid points. When it comes to these social Facebook games I tend to side with the 'its their lives' thing. While I don't support Zynga for some of their less than savory business practices I can understand why so many people do. At its basic roots, Farmville can be fun, addicting and a great time sink. I played Farmville for some time, managed to get a farm up to level 25 which should say that I didn't ditch it right away. As I played the game though a few things, probably based on my own personal tastes, cropped up that ruined the experience for me.

The first was a story. Now of course Farmville doesn't have an epic of a storyline, hell it doesn't even have a story and playing the game for hours without making any progress save for a bit more money in the bank seemed too much like my job already so it began to feel like work.

The second reason was the spam that would crop up because of the game. Facebook messages promoting Farmville, Cafeville or something to that extent and now FrontierVille really annoyed me when I went on Facebook. I understand why people would send them out but it was an irritation I didn't want to put up with.

These were the two reasons I stopped playing FarmVille. Again I know that this game is highly successful. I also know if people love the game they will support it. Is this so wrong that games are being built for a crowd that perhaps wouldn't game in the first place? I don't think Zynga has the same quality control as say Valve or Bioware, but as your article said, they are a pioneer in this particular sect of gaming and it is foolish to assume otherwise

Erin Hoffman
What World of Warcraft did to Everquest's mechanics - making them smoother, faster, and more elegant, and so earning unprecedented millions of players - FarmVille, though we don't like to admit it, did to World of Warcraft.

Really? Well, let's compare the two shall we:

Story World of Warcraft: Yes FarmVille: No
Gameplay World of Warcraft: Grind FarmVille: Grind, but without any story framing to make it interesting
Graphics World of Warcraft: Full, though dated, 3D FarmVille: Isometric colorful minimalism
Social World of Warcraft: Guilds, chatting, meeting new people effortless FarmVille: No direct social interaction, meeting new people difficult.

So therefore FarmVille > World of Warcraft? I'm afraid I dont understand you reasoning, ma'am. How exactly does eliminating a storyline, monumentally downgrading the graphics, and hampering social interaction improve a game? Oh sure, the core conceptual gameplay of the two is fairly similar. I can even admit that FarmVille may have made grinding more streamlined (if less deep.) That is, until we consider that FarmVille lacks any kind of story, making the grinding even more tedious since it's all for it's own sake.

I agree that Zynga's games do serve a purpose, namely introducing non-gamers to the medium. However, keep in mind that this is not the way forward.

One thing I'd like to mention: You mentioned the sheer number of players playing Farmville.. I believe someone, maybe you (I JUST read a similar article on this week's issue), said 80 million? A player in Farmville doesn't count for as much as a player of WoW, or MW2. Farmville you can pick up, for free, instantly, and happens to be on a platform you'd probably check several times a day anyway. It takes MUCH less of a commitment than other games, at least in my opinion.

Oh, and I have a question. Do Zynga and other Facebook devs make any money off of ads, or do they have to work with the cash shop? I'm asking because if the money from ads goes to Facebook, I wouldn't be surprised if Farmville didn't make as much money as you would think from the amount of people playing. I know even if I DID play Farmville, I wouldn't be using the cash shop. I know people that do, though, and I've seen people that play FTP MMOs spend WELL over what a subscription would be. Are there any numbers on how Farmville makes money and how that's spread out among the players? (There's always a few that spend HUNDREDS...)

@Iron Lightning:
She didn't say Farmville was better than WoW, she said it refined the mechanics that made WoW unique, thus capitalizing on them even more than WoW does. Personally, I think it's more of a sideways move than a forwards, but that's me - someone who has no interest in playing the games.

I can safely say this after having played several social games for a couple of months, mostly with the same people I play WoW with, since we all figured, hey, let's fool around on our Facebook accounts with these silly things, as if Facebook itself wasn't intrusive and spammy already. We figured, hey, we're all gamers, we like to game, these games are getting big, let's check them out!

So, controlling for the annoyance factor (we all agreed to bug each other with requests), there was some novelty to the initial game, and Mafia Wars reminded me of those ancient BBS door games, so that's really nothing particularly new, but we all know that it's not how new an idea is, it's how you market and sell an idea. Everyone sold coffee for decades but it took Starbucks to be Starbucks.

However, after the weeks drug on, especially over the holidays with all the holiday related additions in the Zynga games, most of us (but not all of us) drifted away from it after we'd pretty much seen what the games had to offer, and in truth it's very, very little.

The social aspect of these games is terribly minimal, since Zynga wants to make it as easy as possible for you to click a button and spam everyone on your friends list, and then all they have to do is click a button back. It might as well be a collection of bots that has a random chance to send you something back or not, and by process of elimination you figure out which bots respond most of the times and which ones don't.

A perfect example of how useless a social vehicle these are is how you can create a dummy account on Facebook (or just use your own, if you really love spam), then go join one of the thousands of groups that exist simply to powerlevel your Zynga game of choice, or even all of them. You've then populated your 'Friends' list with people who might as well be bots, since they're all just there to get you to send them stuff, and you're there to have them send you stuff.

The act of giving items in most of these games is, too, problematic. Because these items you're giving aren't only not scarce, they're piling up all around you. You pretty much have to give people stuff, so that they'll give you stuff back, or you don't get the full game play experience. Those are even further removed from being gifts and once again fall back to the bot analogy, that you're just dropping widgets into your send box and receiving widgets back in a near-constant flow, a flow that you have to keep up in order to fully participate in the gameplay.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with most of these social (including all of Zynga's) games. There really isn't any gameplay, and by gameplay I mean there's no challenge to overcome other than remembering to click on the screen at a certain time of day to harvest your crops, cook your food, swap your gifts around, and so forth. There's little to no risk involved, no vital strategies to learn and absolutely zero skill required to get into these games and succeed, whatever success really means in this case. Of course, that's why they're so popular with so many people, because they fill a very important niche that so much entertainment does, and that's wasting time in a blandly pleasant fashion, usually at work.

They're the soap operas of gaming, with just enough cardboard characters, predictable writing and simple, emotional button pushing that appeals to enough people, enough of the time that they're a legitimate business model to pursue. But just as soap operas don't overwhelm and crowd out crime dramas and sitcoms, nor will they supersede more robust offerings. They're also no more an improvement on gaming as a whole than soap operas were to television narratives as a whole. To refine something is to generally improve upon something, and I think what Zynga-style social games have done is simplify, rather than refine, the elements of gameplay down to their most base forms that appeal to just enough people enough of the time that they're able to grow and become quite a force in their own right.

But, please, let's not write off World of Warcraft and Call of Duty just yet, okay?

I don't have any problems with the players of these so-called casual games; I can't stand the proprietors. The game is merely a device to create ad views. That's it. While every studio and publisher makes games ultimately to make money, the practices of Zynga are utterly transparently manipulative. The game is a means to an ad-infested end.

I don't know that it's accurate to say Farmville distilled WOW's mechanics - I could be wrong, but I don't think you run a virtual avatar around your farm like you would in Harvest Moon. Games, to me, are about interactivity, and it's hard for me to interact just with a menu, choosing option "A", "B" or "C".

In PuzzleQuest, for example, there's lots of levelling and buying skills, etc. all done through a menu, but what makes it a game is the PUZZLE part of it, the matching of jewels, using the skills you have equipped to thwart the other player (or computer). If all I did in that game was get points and level up, I would become bored very quickly, same with any other game - if all I did in Final Fantasy was buy/sell equipment and level up my character, my interest would be lost almost right away.

All the number-crunching, meta-gaming type of play found in all kinds of games is always the least fun part of it, for me. Mario is so much more than collecting coins and getting power ups! Call me a snob, but social networking games and console games are not even on the same playing field. Mario stomps all over Solitaire, in my books.

Minesweeper, though? Sudoku? Those are games I can get into! Just not texas hold'em. Or Mob Wars. It's just a different level of interactivity- I don't lay the cards on a table when I play solitaire on a computer, but I can make my Mario avatar do a handstand on top of a tree. It will always be different, in my humble opinion. I don't care how much money Zynga makes, they have yet to make a game for me.

This article seems to assume that the games industry is languishing the fact that they didn't develop these games first, but I am so immensely happy that game makers like BioWare, Valve, Nintendo, etc. didn't shift their focus to these games. Zynga doesn't make games for the previously exclusively labeled gamers. Of course there is overlap between those who play games Call of Duty, Mario Galaxy, Team Fortress 2, and Mass Effect and those who play games on Facebook, but all of them would agree that each experience is fundamentally different.

My understanding of it is that Farmville games are to "my idea of games", what YouTube is to feature length films. While YouTube is immensely popular and successful, I think we would all agree that we are better off that people still make movies instead of churning out low- or zero-budget videos on the internet. While I'm entertained by Piano Cat, that doesn't mean I want to see it replace movies like Toy Story 3. I'm not even sure how much the game industry has even been hurt by Facebook, since I don't think many consumers who would have purchased Super Mario Galaxy 2 wound up putting their $50 into Farmville instead.

Zynga has created a new type of product from various electronically based elements, but they haven't stolen the market from any of the others.

from suffragettes in the 19th century to furries in the 21st.

I am deeply offended by this comparison.

"It's unintuitive to think that games where you actually do not ever directly interact with another person could have a community"
Not really. Single player games have had communities for a long time. Dwarf Fortress has a pretty good community and it has no online component what-so-ever.

"But metrics-oriented development is like peeling back a shroud from the entire development process, and once your eyes adjust to the light, the vision and clarity are astounding."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylAsZQyOBMk

SaraPh:
"But metrics-oriented development is like peeling back a shroud from the entire development process, and once your eyes adjust to the light, the vision and clarity are astounding."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylAsZQyOBMk

I watched the video, but I'm afraid I don't see your point. Are you suggesting that metrics-oriented development is misleading? Or maybe a smaller part of the big picture?

Anyway, I've never played Everquest or WoW or Farmville, but I can tell you that in the RPGs I play, my least favorite part has always been character building, and more specifically, grinding. I could never even get on board with the stupid rank system in CoD:MW2; in fact, I noticed and despised playing with those that were simply trying to prestige before the month was out. I'm obviously a very different type of gamer, in that respect, so I fear I have little that is valid to say in this argument. However, the idea of metrics-based development appeals to me. Though I am not a statistician, I love math, and have long claimed it is useful to the layman in ways few people give it credit for. This appears to be something like that. As for "grinders" (anyone who is satisfied by such things as "leveling up" and collecting gold for the sake of it), I can say that I picture them as glib obsessives and look down on them for choosing the mental low-ground in their entertainment, but I am aware that this is probably an unfair, biased view, created by my association of the title "grinders" with people who are vapid, tasteless stooges.

TLDNR: Casual gamers, social gamers, role-players, thrill-seekers, dungeon-crawlers... just names. We are all one, and all none; no use getting in a bunch about which one none of us (really) are. Let it be.

Indeed, I do agree that social gaming platforms do have a strong basis in what it can do for the industry. It has revealed a very important facet about games, and gaming in general. Opening up a new frontier that is verily the example of what can make a great game. It is true that man hardcore gamers tend to stereotype Farmville players, but the many that do this, do the same with all casual gamers. It's a good thing that it has been pointed out that the mentality of attacking casual gamers for what they are, is no different than the mentality that some people have that Video Games cause violent behavior. The concepts are pretty complex, but all the same. This article made sense to me, as a person who does play a social game on Facebook. I'm not sure what other people, who have never played a social game, may think about this, but I know that it does in the very least reflect more truth in social gaming in general, than many other articles I have read. Thank you for posting this article ^~^!

The problem, or part of it, is that Zynga does have a 'fuck the players' system. That big bunch of scientific data you brought just proves that, if I force players to click this square every eight hours and not a minute sooner or later, they won't be so angry they won't do it. It doesn't mean they like it.

So much of the bile flying around social games (ew!) comes out of confusing what's bad about social games and what's bad about Zynga specifically.

There's a lot of fear around the games industry and gamers that social games will rush the AAA titles and cause games to be dumbed down for a broad audience. That's nonsense, the AAA titles will destroy themselves without the need of any outside agency. The amound of money spent on them and the amount of sales that are needed to make a profit make it self-defeating. I kind of hoped that it would be the indie developers that would pick up the torch, but that is kind of hoping that after the Twilight series ends people who enjoyed it would be reading Saramago. Expansion happens towards the unnaffected areas by definition.

There is always fear when something new comes out and seems to "threaten" the status quo. I'm with you, game developers should be looking into this new wave of casual gamers and make them allies rather then shun them.

The writer of this article makes pretty tremendous leaps of logic and in general the article is just bad. It should be titled "In Defense of Social Games," because that's all it is.

One thing I'll point out: it would be impossible for so-called hardcore gamers to do players of social games what the mainstream has done to them, because players of social games ARE the mainstream, and for the most part they still don't give a shit what the hardcore gamers think.

As for myself, I'm more annoyed by social games because of the fact that they're taking money, and talented developers, away from the projects that don't suck, and thus infringing on my favorite hobby.

I would also like to ask, when did the Escapist get bought by Zynga? Is it just a coincidence that all four articles of this issue mention the name in the articles and tags, and feature their games, or did they offer the magazine a slice of that huge, greasy, advertisment pie?

Escapist, I am disappoint.

I like that point: at the end of the day, we are all gamers. Ok, maybe Farmville players play a game I don't particularly enjoy; that doesn't make them non-gamers, just as a person who plays Madworld is still a gamer, even though I don't enjoy Madworld.

I don't get the hate on these people. Live and let live!

And the companies with their "distasteful" business practices - don't tell me "hardcore" games developers don't do the same where they can. Ubisoft's DRM? Bobby Kotick? Every games company has the potential for bad behaviour and exploiting players.

I think a lot of people think "social" means "Zynga". It doesn't. But they were the first, and the most successful to date. But if you don't like Zynga, that's not really an excuse to hate on social gamers, or to detract from the idea of a social game - best defined as cheap, fun, social and low-maintenance - being a valid part of a gaming experience.

Thank you for the article. I enjoyed it :)

Iron Lightning:

Erin Hoffman
What World of Warcraft did to Everquest's mechanics - making them smoother, faster, and more elegant, and so earning unprecedented millions of players - FarmVille, though we don't like to admit it, did to World of Warcraft.

Really? Well, let's compare the two shall we:

Story World of Warcraft: Yes FarmVille: No
Gameplay World of Warcraft: Grind FarmVille: Grind, but without any story framing to make it interesting
Graphics World of Warcraft: Full, though dated, 3D FarmVille: Isometric colorful minimalism
Social World of Warcraft: Guilds, chatting, meeting new people effortless FarmVille: No direct social interaction, meeting new people difficult.

So therefore FarmVille > World of Warcraft?

Uhhhhhhhhh...she isn't saying that. There's no qualitative analysis going on here whatsoever. She's saying that Farmville built off WOW's strategy of simplifying gameplay in order to gain more players. And the fact is that it did. Whether or not the game is "better" (or whatever your greater-than symbol is supposed to imply) is irrelevant.

I like to call social and casual gaming the "mom bet". Betting that "mom" will come back and buy your crap over and over again without losing interest when you know that most of the individuals from this "new market" have the attention span of small animals when it comes to gaming.

Sure the experience will teach us something to take back to the gaming scene but KNOW your target. The old category of gamers, the ones we call hardcore, the ones that supported the industry up until now, don`t have the same interests as "mom" thus you might fail when applying concepts from one world to the other.

I'm sorry but I'm not entirely convinced. You're allowed to like these so called 'casual'if you want, but you can't expect to receive any criticism. The "gaming commiunity" is also a web of forum trolling, tunnel-visioned human beings who are just as prone to fear of the new and unkown as anyone else.What do you think the foundation for racial discrimination is? Ignorance. Also I think a lot of gamers enjoy the added sense of identity that comes with being in a group of people that are generally looked down upon.

Anyway, gaming is purely about the individuals retreat to a place where they can forget about Real life, so whatever you choose is correct for your escapism.

dangthill:
I don't have any problems with the players of these so-called casual games; I can't stand the proprietors. The game is merely a device to create ad views...The game is a means to an ad-infested end.

Actually, the so called "social game" I play has, since early on, offered a way to play it ad-free. That way is to click a button... no cost, no side effects, no ads. Furthermore, you might as well say that facebook is a device to create ad views, since that is how FB makes money.

CitySquirrel:
Furthermore, you might as well say that facebook is a device to create ad views, since that is how FB makes money.

And youtube, and twitter, and google, and myspace, and yahoo, etc, etc...

also the reason ,IMO, core gamers detest social and casual games is they see it as the manifestation of the blandness that has begun to cripple the industry. We rely on indie game developmers to make a niche game without publishers hanging over making sure it's gonna make money. We have the most powerful machines but have mangaed to use all that power to make things not as pretty, creative, or appealing as things from ten years ago. We've gone from fifty new IPs a year to something like 10, if that. and instead we get blander (oblivion, fallout) schizophrenic (gears of war 2, god of war 3) shorter (halo 3, Mario galaxy) souless (just cause 2, anything after guitar hero 2) sequel games hoping on past fans to shore sales to something that puts them in the black. And social/casual games for all their social interaction and positive appeal are bland and mechanical. It's not that we have a problem with the people who play them but that they are supporting something we don't want to spread more than it already has. like it or not playing farmville is going to make zyanga money and that moeny is going to go into another social/casual game.

there's not a whole lot we can do to stop this becasue the casual game developers aren't going to go for the hardcore crowd with a fantastical RPG epic because no matter how good it is, people won't buy becasue hardcore gamers would only scorn it as a casual game from a casual game developer, and casual gamers wouldn't buy it because they have farmville at home on facebook for free. and hardcore developers aren't willing to sacrifice a part of their precious fanbase by making a casual game because those fans can be the difference between success and failure on their next project and casual gamers wouldn't play their game because they already have farmville.

so it falls to the big publishers to stop being so lame and worrying about their bottom line because it's gonna kill the industry. publishing a new game isn't gonna kill you. sequelling the same game twenty times might. especially if those sequels don't evolve. and again falls to the indie developers to start trying to muscle casual gamers away from farmville. lots of your games are devilishly simple, throw some up on facebook for free and shill the hell out of your not free ones to buy.

then agian the market and the world in the state that it is in right now i don't even know if this is even feasible.

Very interesting article. It seems to distill down to this: game developers and gamers have become a bunch of insular, hypocritical curmudgeons who are forever doomed to remain stuck in the past, never evolving or maturing, because they can't think past certain locked-in notions that no longer have significant validity in accord with reality. Is that about right?

In my view, a game is a game, and a gamer is someone who likes to play games. The kind of game is immaterial, be it "hardcore", "casual", or "social". In fact, much of this categorization of "hardcore" vs. "casual" vs. "social" is nothing more than a meaningless religious crusade cooked up by a bunch of elitist jerks trying to make themselves feel more important.

/flame-thrower off

Oops! Accidentally had the silly thing on.

...You do know furries have the vote, right? And that almost nobody outside of the internet knows they exist? And that comparing them to suffragists is really, really... non-applicable?

Okay I'll go read the article now.

Grand_Marquis:

Iron Lightning:

Erin Hoffman
What World of Warcraft did to Everquest's mechanics - making them smoother, faster, and more elegant, and so earning unprecedented millions of players - FarmVille, though we don't like to admit it, did to World of Warcraft.

Really? Well, let's compare the two shall we:

Story World of Warcraft: Yes FarmVille: No
Gameplay World of Warcraft: Grind FarmVille: Grind, but without any story framing to make it interesting
Graphics World of Warcraft: Full, though dated, 3D FarmVille: Isometric colorful minimalism
Social World of Warcraft: Guilds, chatting, meeting new people effortless FarmVille: No direct social interaction, meeting new people difficult.

So therefore FarmVille > World of Warcraft?

Uhhhhhhhhh...she isn't saying that. There's no qualitative analysis going on here whatsoever. She's saying that Farmville built off WOW's strategy of simplifying gameplay in order to gain more players. And the fact is that it did. Whether or not the game is "better" (or whatever your greater-than symbol is supposed to imply) is irrelevant.

You, sir, are quite correct. I meant to say that casual games are not, for the quoted reasons, an evolution in gaming. I'm sorry that I wasn't clear.

Iron Lightning:

Grand_Marquis:

Iron Lightning:

Erin Hoffman
What World of Warcraft did to Everquest's mechanics - making them smoother, faster, and more elegant, and so earning unprecedented millions of players - FarmVille, though we don't like to admit it, did to World of Warcraft.

Really? Well, let's compare the two shall we:

Story World of Warcraft: Yes FarmVille: No
Gameplay World of Warcraft: Grind FarmVille: Grind, but without any story framing to make it interesting
Graphics World of Warcraft: Full, though dated, 3D FarmVille: Isometric colorful minimalism
Social World of Warcraft: Guilds, chatting, meeting new people effortless FarmVille: No direct social interaction, meeting new people difficult.

So therefore FarmVille > World of Warcraft?

Uhhhhhhhhh...she isn't saying that. There's no qualitative analysis going on here whatsoever. She's saying that Farmville built off WOW's strategy of simplifying gameplay in order to gain more players. And the fact is that it did. Whether or not the game is "better" (or whatever your greater-than symbol is supposed to imply) is irrelevant.

You, sir, are quite correct. I meant to say that casual games are not, for the quoted reasons, an evolution in gaming. I'm sorry that I wasn't clear.

Ah. Evolution makes more sense in that context. Still kind of arguable though, but I see where you're coming from at least.

An awful lot of people saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but that doesn't mean it was any good.

You just blew my mind with this article. I don't really even know what to say. It's hard to really state my opinion when I've been completely incapable of being part of the mainstream of videogaming for more than 4 years now. Seeing as how I never got around to getting a next-gen console or a better computer, I just recently had to the chance to start playing the games that came out 4 years ago. During that time I've been lightly entertained by my aging PS2. More importantly though, not being part of the whole "new generation" thing was a real life saver for me. It gave me the beautiful opportunity to discover a whole bunch of games that really speak to me. World of Goo and Plants vs Zombies are my two new favorite games on the computer. Both of them are exactly what most games these days fail to be...you know... fun?

How an actual game developer, like the one who posted this article, can completely ignore the morality aspect of game development is beyond me. I gave Zynga games a try myself and was just disgusted. The plan behind the development of Farmville seems to be "let's start people off with a small manageable farm, get them and their friends hooked with compulsively maintaining it and making it bigger and prettier, and then have them reach the point where their farm is so gigantic that maintaining their crops requires them to painstakingly click hundreds of pixels one at a time multiple times a day... unless they pay us money to give them a tractor and speed up the process. Let's intentionally cripple the gameplay and make it unbearable, so that the social aspect of it will force our players to pay us to evade some of the torture of the actual game.

The fact that people actually do that instead of instantly quitting the game and blocking it from their Facebook forever should make you depressed, not enthusiastic and wondering how you, as a developer, can jump on the bandwagon as well. This has nothing to do with elitist distinctions between "hardcore", "casual" and "social". This is basic ethics. Zynga should be treated like crooks by the rest of the developers. This is a healthy reaction and I'm glad to see it's usually the case. Money are a necessary tool, but when you sacrifice every last bit of your integrity and self respect and make it your primary and only goal, you are, in my opinion, part of what makes this world such a shitty one to live in. I'd be curious to see what Erin Hoffman thinks of this, but she doesn't seem to be interested in joining the discussion of her own article. I guess she's too important for that.

I think the key point Erin hit upon was that Farmville and Zynga have hit on (and distilled) a very core motivation in our psyche -- the need to feel our ego is stroked. Most of the AAA multiplayer games are directly competitive. To be able to say, "I PWNED YOU BITCH!" is essentially telling the other person, "You're not as cool as me." Well, let's face it, some people suck at these type of games, and when they get continually pwned, they either have a masochistic streak or they stop coming around.

Farmville has figured out a way to say "Look at the cool thing I did!" without having that reverse effect of "You're not as cool as me!" And what's more important.. they simplified it to the extent where spreading that message is a snap, and everybody is sure to achieve a few of those moments now and then.

Of course, the really funny bit is, when you distill it to basic motivations, all of us here are Farmville players.. we just call it "Posting on the forums"

My1stLuvJak:
In PuzzleQuest, for example, there's lots of levelling and buying skills, etc. all done through a menu, but what makes it a game is the PUZZLE part of it, the matching of jewels, using the skills you have equipped to thwart the other player (or computer). If all I did in that game was get points and level up, I would become bored very quickly, same with any other game - if all I did in Final Fantasy was buy/sell equipment and level up my character, my interest would be lost almost right away.

I guess you're not a big Progress Quest player, in that case...

Carnagath:
How an actual game developer, like the one who posted this article, can completely ignore the morality aspect of game development is beyond me. I gave Zynga games a try myself and was just disgusted.

From the article:

More disappointing still has been the reaction of the game community to social gamers - not just developers, but their players as well. In spite of all our activism, all our proclaimed enlightenment, all our fury at a public that has feared and despised gaming for decades, the gaming community reverted to the exact same thinking: we don't like it, so there must be something wrong with people who do.

I know that you really believe Zynga games are morally reprovable and that it's games should be denounced, etc. Yet, mainstream anti-gaming activists really believe that video games are morally corrupting too; they are not doing this just to piss off gamers, you know.

So try to take a step back and think: aren't you judging social games just as anti-gaming activists judge "our" games? From the "outside", assuming what effect they have on people (even though lots of people like them), rationalizing your dislike by saying that there must be something wrong with this?

It's completely understandable that you don't like FarmVille or games of its kind. I don't like them too. But there's a long way from this to saying that they are morally bankrupt or have ill effects on gamers or its makers are crooks (anti-gaming activists say our beloved game developers are like drug dealers; gamers sometimes say the same about Zynga, curiously). It's exactly the same kind of prejudice the mainstream has with the "hardcore" games.

I say that social games like farmville and "our" games are pretty different.
And I, as a gamer, I'm still not happy.
It's like saying that a Twilight fan is the same thing as someone that reads Tolstoj.
Yes, they're both books. Written on paper, with... you know... fonts. That you read.
But one is pure marketing with almost no artistic value, the other is art.

Sure there's the chance that some farmville gamer will grow tired and will want more.
That's where he will find us.
We, as gamers, have already been through this, years and years ago from pacman, to arkanoid, to super mario...

Game industry should not regress to pacman.
At best, it could accompany new gamers through the next steps of their gaming life making more engaging and little more complex game.

I suppose one of the reasons FarmVille is bigger than, say, World of Warcraft is ease of access. For Farmville, all you need is a Facebook account and Flash. With World of Warcraft, however, you need to download the client, download the patches, install the client, install the patches and then you have to pay up after 10 days, never mind the expansions. Oh, and you probably need a Battle.net account too.

But then again, that doesn't explain why Farmville is so bloody popular over, say, Kongregate. Apparently, if you don't keep playing Farmville every day or so, you basically get chucked back to the start. Maybe it's this reason, as well as the "social" aspects of the game mentioned in the article, that Farmville's so popular.

Ultimately, discussing "social" games in a forum that generally considers 3D and motion controls as a fad is a futile exercise. People will just call it a fad and badmouth it. Personally, I doubt they are eroding the market for "traditional" games any more than Kong or Newgrounds (etc.) does, and I would imagine, like the Wii, they may be generating more customers for the "traditional" market.

tautologico:

Carnagath:
How an actual game developer, like the one who posted this article, can completely ignore the morality aspect of game development is beyond me. I gave Zynga games a try myself and was just disgusted.

From the article:

More disappointing still has been the reaction of the game community to social gamers - not just developers, but their players as well. In spite of all our activism, all our proclaimed enlightenment, all our fury at a public that has feared and despised gaming for decades, the gaming community reverted to the exact same thinking: we don't like it, so there must be something wrong with people who do.

I know that you really believe Zynga games are morally reprovable and that it's games should be denounced, etc. Yet, mainstream anti-gaming activists really believe that video games are morally corrupting too; they are not doing this just to piss off gamers, you know.

So try to take a step back and think: aren't you judging social games just as anti-gaming activists judge "our" games? From the "outside", assuming what effect they have on people (even though lots of people like them), rationalizing your dislike by saying that there must be something wrong with this?

It's completely understandable that you don't like FarmVille or games of its kind. I don't like them too. But there's a long way from this to saying that they are morally bankrupt or have ill effects on gamers or its makers are crooks (anti-gaming activists say our beloved game developers are like drug dealers; gamers sometimes say the same about Zynga, curiously). It's exactly the same kind of prejudice the mainstream has with the "hardcore" games.

I'm trying as hard as I can to find some sense in your analogy between ignorance-fueled prejudice towards gaming in general, and my informed opinion regarding the immoral practices of one developer specifically, but I can't. I don't think you understood my post. Let me summarize it in two sentences: Every game developer's mantra should be "I'm doing my best to make a fun game". Zynga's mantra is "I'm doing my best to interpret marketing statistics and figure out how much crap the average non-gamer can take, then present them with a shitty, buggy, ugly, compulsively addictive piece of shit, claim that it's free, practically force them to spam their friends until they are playing it too, and then ask them for money if they want the game to suck less". These people should be kicked out of developer conferences, they don't deserve to be seated next to the people who designed Bioshock or Portal.

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