264: How Social Games Ate Our Lunch

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Carnagath:

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.

The thing is: the people who are prejudiced against gaming in general don't think their position is fueled by ignorance. I'm not saying that you are ignorant; you tried the game and all. I just think that you may be rationalizing your dislike for the game.

Despite what Zynga sets out to do, it seems lots of people find their games fun. So you are failing to consider the fact that lots of people get enjoyment out of these games, the same way that people who are prejudiced against videogames don't consider how a lot of people in the hobby are pretty sane and having fun with it and not going out in killing sprees. If Zynga is fooling people into thinking they like FarmVille, the same can be said about hardcore game developers. "They use neuroscience-based techniques to make people addicted to their games" is a claim you hear or see around the web against game developers.

So yes, I think you're prejudiced against Zynga games the same way people are prejudiced against "our" games. But I won't hammer on this anymore.

By the way, even though you responded quite reasonably and I don't think you have taken it badly, I just want to make it clear that there's no attack intended when I say you have a prejudice against Zynga. We all have our prejudices, after all.

Good Article. I like to think however that the attitude towards social gamers from the more mainstream (hardcore) gaming community is due to the fact people are frustrated with certain people they know who for years may have shuned gaming as a waste of time and now have taken up casual gaming. They then feel that these friends are not getting the full experience of a good game, a "real" game.

A lot of the people playing these casual games are still hugely against any "real" games. There is always the hope they will make the jump but in a lot of situations this is hugely unlikely. Then eventually the day comes when they become bored with their casual game and leave with their only view of "gaming" as a couple of months spent on farmville. This then actually impedes them taking up real gaming at a later date seeing as they will assume all games are similar in gameplay to these casual games.

Harvey_Danger:
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.

Hey, you might have noticed once upon a time that we have weekly issues with something called a "theme." The articles are all about the given "theme." This week, our "theme" is social and casual gaming. Guess who the most relevant player is?

tautologico:

Carnagath:

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.

The thing is: the people who are prejudiced against gaming in general don't think their position is fueled by ignorance. I'm not saying that you are ignorant; you tried the game and all. I just think that you may be rationalizing your dislike for the game.

Despite what Zynga sets out to do, it seems lots of people find their games fun. So you are failing to consider the fact that lots of people get enjoyment out of these games, the same way that people who are prejudiced against videogames don't consider how a lot of people in the hobby are pretty sane and having fun with it and not going out in killing sprees. If Zynga is fooling people into thinking they like FarmVille, the same can be said about hardcore game developers. "They use neuroscience-based techniques to make people addicted to their games" is a claim you hear or see around the web against game developers.

So yes, I think you're prejudiced against Zynga games the same way people are prejudiced against "our" games. But I won't hammer on this anymore.

By the way, even though you responded quite reasonably and I don't think you have taken it badly, I just want to make it clear that there's no attack intended when I say you have a prejudice against Zynga. We all have our prejudices, after all.

I have a prejudice against companies which try as hard as they can to be dishonest, and skirt the very edge of the law, when they aren't falling over the line.

Zynga would not exist without the scams that were run, with the *FULL FAITH AND CREDIT* of the developer, on early Farmville players. Hell, this is a company that *KNOWINGLY SUPPORTED THE DISTRIBUTION OF SPYWARE THROUGH MALICIOUSLY-SCRIPTED BANNER ADS*, so my question is: Why *DON'T* you have something against them?

John Funk:

Harvey_Danger:
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.

Hey, you might have noticed once upon a time that we have weekly issues with something called a "theme." The articles are all about the given "theme." This week, our "theme" is social and casual gaming. Guess who the most relevant player is?

I've said it before, and above, but I believe the underlying question is the equivalent of "Would you start running positive articles about malware vendors if they distributed social games?" Sure, Zynga is the *biggest* player, but why are the three main articles *all about* Zynga? Someone skimming them would be under the impression that there were *absolutely no other social game developers in existence*. The problem with the articles as presented is that there are a sea of social developers out there, but none of them can compete with Zynga because Zynga is given 99% of the coverage.

And giving Zynga 99% of the coverage reinforces the "anything goes, including scamming our users" attitude they took to get there.

John Funk:

Harvey_Danger:
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.

Hey, you might have noticed once upon a time that we have weekly issues with something called a "theme." The articles are all about the given "theme." This week, our "theme" is social and casual gaming. Guess who the most relevant player is?

So then you're saying, "yes, they offered to give us money."

It's entirely possible to make an issue on social gaming without devoting every article to painting Zynga in a positive light. Don't kid yourself, that is what your magazine has done. By your reasoning every issue on strategy games should be about Blizzard, every issue on music games would focus on Activision, and every issue on washing machines should be all about Maytag, because each one is "the most relevant player."

That's fine, I understand it's hard to make an online magazine and distribute it freely to readers. I'd just prefer that instead of naming it the "social gaming issue" you were honest and just called it the "Zynga is awesome here's why" issue.

I guess journalistic integrity goes out the window when you let everyone and their mother write for you, though.

It seems that Game Informer is the only magazine worth reading anymore.

Harvey_Danger:

John Funk:

Harvey_Danger:
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.

Hey, you might have noticed once upon a time that we have weekly issues with something called a "theme." The articles are all about the given "theme." This week, our "theme" is social and casual gaming. Guess who the most relevant player is?

So then you're saying, "yes, they offered to give us money."

It's entirely possible to make an issue on social gaming without devoting every article to painting Zynga in a positive light. Don't kid yourself, that is what your magazine has done. By your reasoning every issue on strategy games should be about Blizzard, every issue on music games would focus on Activision, and every issue on washing machines should be all about Maytag, because each one is "the most relevant player."

That's fine, I understand it's hard to make an online magazine and distribute it freely to readers. I'd just prefer that instead of naming it the "social gaming issue" you were honest and just called it the "Zynga is awesome here's why" issue.

I guess journalistic integrity goes out the window when you let everyone and their mother write for you, though.

It seems that Game Informer is the only magazine worth reading anymore.

No, they didn't, and I'd kindly ask you to actually read how our editorial calendar works - where authors pitch us the articles they'd like to write - before making such grossly inaccurate and deeply insulting statements.

"Grossly innacurate and deeply insulting"

I'm sorry, Mr. Funk, but you are the only one that has been insulting here. Your previous post was quite condescending. If the magazine really did not take money from Zynga, then I apologize, but forgive me if I don't believe you based off of the last issue.

I've read how to submit articles before. Am I somehow wrong in saying that anyone can send you an idea (from *your* editorial calendar) or that anyone can write for you? Am I somehow wrong in pointing out that every article in your last issue that mentioned Zynga talked about the company in a positive light and essentially served as an advertisement? The articles sure were written nicely, but in no way were they journalism, as is to be expected when most of your writers are not journalists. Editorials in defense of Zynga are no good, and I would expect anyone working in this industry to know that. Your rationale for them being the "most relevant player" is broken, and I honestly am disappointed in the magazine.

I had expected better from The Escapist, but now I'll know to set the bar low.

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? 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.

So... let me get this straight.

Do you consider SimCity less of a game than Populous? Because your reasoning for saying Farmville is less of a game is related to a lack of story--but aren't some of the most lauded games of all time completely devoid of a story?

Please. Relate to us the story of Civilization. Let me know... what is the major antagonist of The Sims? What, exactly, is the plot behind DoTA?

Which main character is the good guy in Pong?

Your assertion that story is necessary to make a good game is absurd--made even MORE rediculous when you consider that FarmVille is a sim-game... if there is a story, it is through emergent gameplay, not through scripted events.

Your argument is invalid, if you start applying it to games of the same genre as FarmVille.

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