Last Thursday night I was in the middle of a really good book (okay, an okay book, but it was at an interesting plot point) when I realised that I had to go down to the basement to check on my cafe in Cafe World.
That’s when it struck me.
I am tired of games that create an obligation for me.
I love a lot about the Facebook games. I love that they bring a lot of basic creativity to you, that they give you the option to spend time making your farm or restaurant or city be fantastic. They are a sort of doll house, bringing creativity and control to people who sorely need those elements in their lives. There were a lot of very painful days where the Zen of farming or cooking was a peaceful way to concentrate outside myself and turn down the noise of pain. And I may yet find myself going back there for more of that Zen.
But, quite honestly, the timed element of those games has now officially worked my last nerve. You see, the basic gist behind them is that you have to come back in a certain amount of time to harvest your crops or serve your food or restock your store or fulfill your contract. Video game designers call it a Compulsion Loop; essentially, the game is nothing more than a compulsion to come back.
Lately it’s stopped reminding me of a Zen Garden and more of a Sisyphean nightmare. So I’ve “scaled back” (ie. stopped) playing for the moment. Already my days seem a bit longer, now that they’re not divided into 4- 8- and 12- hour “harvest crops” chunks.
When you look over the selection of games available for Facebook, they are all essentially basic Compulsion Loop models. There is little to no second-tier of strategy to them, which in the end will make them self-limiting I think. I’m curious to see if Facebook could support a gaming model that is both social AND more evolved. In the past that has worked within the framework of one game’s multiplayer interface (think World of Warcraft), but then you had a self-limiting social aspect. Everyone on the network was there solely for the purpose of playing WoW. The social appeal to Facebook gaming is that you are open to a larger cross-section of your friends and acquaintances. As it is, though, those games have a built-in obsolescence factor of about 8 weeks. (That’s when most people stop playing.)
I did meet a lot of new people and made some genuine friends. I’ll still stop by the farm from time to time and check on my cute animals. But I’m ready to find the next big thing.
Which, word to the wise, right now is Pocket Frogs. I swear I need to find some sort of Pocket Frog Methadone. But that’s another story.