Thursday, December 2, 2010

The concept of "friends" in Farmville.

Farmville is stupid game. It's a stupid game that I enjoyed for a little over a year before I decided that it was all becoming a chore and pointless, and so I stopped playing it.

But yeah, for a year, I enjoyed planting virtual crops, decorating my farm and helping out my neighbors, all with the clicks of a mouse.

It was fun game when everything was new -- you plant, you harvest and then you level up, and then you unlock more types of crops, get your achievements and ribbons, buy special items with the coins you earned etc.

I've always liked farm sims. In the days of Win95, one of the first computer games I played was Sim Farm, and then there was the Harvest Moon games on the Gameboy Advance and Playstation 2.

IMHO, Farmville is very simplified farm sim with very little punishment. The worse thing that can happen is crop wilting, which happens if you don't harvest them within certain time frames. There's no bad weather or disaster to worry about, no foxes that might kill your chickens, nor do you have care about budgets, profits or any kind of farm management issues. There are no elements of exploration or discovery. You plant, you earn, you get stuff by buying or from neighbors. It's its simplicity that makes it accessible to millions.

The concept of "friends" in Farmville

The game is designed to be played with many active friends as "neighbors" or else it's a very frustrating and slow game. Neighbors can help with crop fertilization and building projects through gifting of "building materials".

There might be over 50 million Farmville players but most of their real friends don't play it. So, in order to fix that, most players go to the Farmville forums and start adding people (complete strangers) who have posted their profile links in specific "add me" threads. 300 neighbors is the limit, but you could just add more so that your news feed is constantly moving with farmville postings of redeemable gifts, collections and other goodies. (And you can say goodbye to ever seeing the status updates of your non-farming friends ever again.)

Most of these forum-sourced friends-for-Farmville neighbors have no interest in any kind of friendly interaction -- they just want the stuff off your Farmville posts and you to return gifts and the occasional click-to-help. They are kinda like bots -- no thank-you, no "oh I got this ___ from your collection/egg/etc". Judging by the number of neighbors they have and the intensity of their playing style, I don't think they have the time to respond. But I have to say that it's disturbing when your real life friends or family start acting boorish or lose their manners when they play. I'm like Who is this?

I count myself lucky to have found neighbors from these Farmville forums who are helpful and personable, and some of my real life friends have been awesome neighbors. It is such a joy to play with people like this. We would ask each other what was needed and help each other out. Really great. Even though I stopped playing the game, I hope the strangers that I've added from the forums and that I've played with for over a year continue being my FB friends. Or maybe not, in which case, I might be dropped from their friendlist. There will be no hurt feelings.

One friend remarked how disposal friendships seem in these social game alliances, but she fails to understand -- when a person "friends" someone for a game, there is no expectation beyond the game. For a lot of folks, they feel it's just safer to keep that stranger on the other side of the screen a stranger. To put it bluntly, you are only friends because of the advantages that come with having that many for this game. And that is perhaps what the game teaches, is that you'll do better if you have as many friends as possible. And no, you don't always have to be real with them, you just need to keep them on your watchlist, help out every now and then, so you can share in their rewards when they reap it.

Cold? Maybe. Reality? Yes.

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