Social Media Games

As I was playing Tiny Tower yesterday, I was thinking about how similar it was to Farmville. You have floors of your tower that take a certain amount of time to build and restaurants, retail stores, and recreational facilities that need stocking and collecting. Similarly, Farmville has crops that take a certain amount of time to grow and need to be collected within a certain time frame. Playing Tiny Tower reminded me about the whole Farmville craze- how fast it rose and how fast it fell.

Here is a graph of Zynga games’ Daily Active Users, measured from Dec 12, 2011 to June 12, 2012:

Farmville’s previous success has been attributed to many factors, with the main reason being that Zynga had launched it on Facebook. As a platform with millions of users of all ages, Facebook had the biggest possible market for Farmville. Through Facebook, people could easily rope their friends in to help on each other’s farm and trade gifts. Farmville created a virtual world with real life emotional attachments between people, as well as attachments to virtual property. But, as Richard MacManus puts it, Farmville users grew tired of “meaningless games”, the frequent crashes, and the increasing prices of special items.

Cow Clicker is a game that satirizes the Farmville-type obsession that some people experience. Users click on cows every six hours and the cow moo’s. They can also pay “Mooney” through Facebook credits to speed up the timer. Although the game was a parody of The Ville games, it ended up becoming incredibly popular. In June 2011, Cow Clicker’s creator, Ian Bogost, made an event called the Cowpocalypse. The Cowpocalypse featured a timer that counted down to the apocalypse, where the game would be terminated. However, each click on a cow and each dollar spent would delay the timer. Enough clicks and money was made where the game lasted until September.

I still find the psychology behind these games to be very peculiar. This phenomenon is very interesting and I am especially intrigued by the results of the Cowpocalypse event. Bogost did not hide the fact that the game was a parody on Farmville games, and yet people still played them. Why are people, including me, inclined to keep playing them when they know that they gain essentially nothing from them?

About sharleeism

Is mayonnaise an instrument?
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3 Responses to Social Media Games

  1. aserafim says:

    I’m one of the many who did not participant in the Farmville phenomenon because I thought it was utterly stupid and a waste of time. I, however, did play Words with Friends and Draw Something on my iPad for a little bit until I got bored because my friends made me join. Social games are a way to mine data and money from players with no gain of accomplishment because the games never end. Being an actual gamer (PS3, Xbox, Nintendo), I purchase a game only once to play it for hours, and then complete it. After completion, I feel like I didn’t waste 8 hours of my life playing a game because there was a story and a sense of progress whereas Farmville you are planting crops for your whole life. As a society full of people who are more interested in Kim Kardashian’s dying cat than the politics going on oversees, I am not surprised that people would find entertainment in the most meaningless things.

  2. philippark says:

    This is a very interesting topic that you bring up. What brings people to keep playing the most meaningless of games? I think that a large part of this is the whole social aspect of the games. For example, if Farmville were to a single player game and the objective was to see how big of a farm you could maintain, there would not be many players. However, because people are able to compare their farm with those of others, there comes a competitive aspect that people enjoy.

  3. sterlinc says:

    To be honest. I feel that we play these games in order to exercise a natural trait we have as human beings. Our imagination. Sure other games such as word with friends and texas hold um will have a steady rise on the amount of users because there is a practical use for them such as learning words, and counting numbers. Yet the other part of our brain muscle is our vast imagination! Even though we live a sometimes mundane routine lifestyle focused on practical and tangible results, we still have the innate desire to play! By watching young children in church and in my community, they remind me of the times where we make our own games with our own rules, and we teach older people how to play them with us. So even though we get a traditional gain such as money, something that is received is the feeling of enjoying life as is.

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