Anyone who has a Facebook account has seen them - games, games, everywhere games! Some choose to ignore them, some choose to play them, some make them a lifestyle. Out of curiosity, I decided to try some of the games and explore just what makes them so addictive to some and so ... ignorable ... to others.
Farmville The first game I tried was Farmville. You'll recall my post on it, here. I started playing it because my sister was having fun with it, and I needed a way to distract myself for a little bit.
The basic premise - you are a farmer with land to cultivate. You plow the land, plant a variety of seeds, and harvest them as they ripen. You can obtain animals, build houses, coops, and barns, and visit the farms of your friends to fertilize their crops. You send gifts back and forth to strengthen everyone's farms. The higher in level you rise, the more opportunities you have to earn prizes. My favorite out of those I earned: The Spaghetti Sheep.
I enjoyed interacting with my neighbors, rearranging my buildings, and having something to look forward to. I harvested rice while I sat at my father's bedside during his last battle - it helped me through some pretty rough moments. But after I expanded my farm to its biggest possible size, I realized that I had done pretty much everything I had come there to do, and I shut down the farm. I had played it for about a month.
Country Life Country Life is like Farmville Lite. The premise is the same, but it's much simpler. I confess, my attention was not held and I only had my Country Life farm for about three days. In that game, you really need to have a lot of friends to start out with, as it's hard to accomplish anything without them. The graphics are a lot better than Farmville's, though - it's fun to start a farm just to see how cute everything is, and then you can shut it down.
Cafe World In Cafe World, you are the owner/chef of a cafe. You start out with a couple of stoves and a couple of counters, and people come in to buy the food you've made. You can choose what to cook from a list, and each dish takes a certain amount of time to prepare. You need to determine what you need to cook to be ready by when so you won't run out of food, and so you won't have food rotting on the stove while you're waiting for room on the counter. You can only serve food from the counter, and if it's full, well, you're out of luck.
When I first started my cafe, I admit, I didn't get it. Cook food? Okay ... but as I established my business, I really started to enjoy it, and I liked the challenge of timing the food so I never ran out and so food didn't spoil. I wasn't always successful, but it was fun to try. I wish Facebook provided recipes for the food made in the cafes - some of it sounds really good. I played this game for about three weeks before shutting it down, which I did because I needed to concentrate on other things.
Baking Life Baking Life is like Cafe World Lite. I started my bakery, looked around, became bored, and shut down my bakery in the space of about fifteen minutes. I probably didn't give it enough of a chance to make a well-balanced evaluation, but it wasn't grabbing me.
Frontierville Frontierville has the same basic structure - you have goals, you ask for neighbors, you attain points - but it has some fundamental differences, too. You have to build up energy points in order to function. If you run out of energy, you essentially have to stop until you can get more. You can't visit all your neighbors in one day - you are limited in how much visiting you can do. You are also given tasks to perform in the course of your other chores. In this game, crops aren't the object. They're helpful, but ideally, you're only planting a few at a time, as it takes energy to harvest them. You earn coins for each task you perform, so you aren't dependent on those crops for your survival, like you are in Farmville.
It's a very fast-paced game. One minute, you're chopping down a tree, and then you're faced with a snake you must defeat. Once you've done that, you go back to the tree, only to be told that you need to go find a lost sheep. You come back from that to finish the tree, and then you're told you need to build a cabin. You can honestly spend all your time flitting from chore to chore without really accomplishing anything because of all the distractions. I played this game for about a week. I enjoyed it, but I felt I had enough of a feel for the game to responsibly blog about it and didn't necessarily feel the need to continue.
Treasure Isle You go to an island, dig, find stuff, and then go to another island, dig, and find more stuff. When you get tired, you eat fruit, and when you get really tired, you go back to your own island to rest. Then you go dig some more. I know several people who really like this game, but I didn't develop an affinity for it. I played it for two days.
The game which only saw five minutes from me was Petville. You design a pet, you dress a pet, and you decorate the pet's house. I think it would be a really fun game for kids, but for me - not so much.
I didn't try all the games, not by a long shot. There are tons to choose from, and if I were to play all of them, it would become a life-long occupation.
Ranking my favorites:
#2: Cafe World
The rest were also-rans, but didn't make the cut for me.
So ... why do people play them? Here are my thoughts.
Playing a game takes you out of reality for a little while. There are times when you need to shut down your brain and allow it to cool off before presenting it with life's next huge challenge, and that's something I badly needed. However, the danger that exists in that is the temptation to shut the brain down altogether. It's very, very tempting ...
It's a way to feel like you're accomplishing something. Moving up to the next level, becoming a master chef, earning the bi-plane - it's progression when you might otherwise feel like you're not accomplishing anything in your life at all.
There's a feeling of community with your online friends and neighbors. You're working for a common goal, you're sending each other gifts to reach those goals, and you understand where everyone is coming from. The danger there is in becoming more focused on your online friends and paying less attention to the people right next to you.
Final thoughts: online games are fun. They're the most fun when you can keep them in perspective and not allow them to take over your life. I got upset with my husband one Sunday afternoon - I had a new puppy on Farmville and you're supposed to feed your puppies at regular times for two weeks. I needed a nap, so I asked my husband to feed my puppy, and he forgot. I was genuinely upset at him, and I realized that I was taking my game way too seriously. But then, I have a naturally addictive personality, so it's good for me to learn how to balance my activities.
I'm glad we have ways to de-stress when life gets overwhelming. But if we use games as a way to hide from life, we then begin to resent life for interrupting our games, and that's how we know we're getting off balance.