As passionate gamers, I know we love to bash the fad that is Facebook gaming. Farmville, Mafia Wars, and all of Zynga's other offerings to most gamers are nothing more than shallow time-wasters for folks addicted to the e-stalking tool that is Mark Zuckerberg's college project. I would even be inclined to agree, except I'm also brave enough to admit that I'm a level 27 farmer with a huge plot of land in Farmville, thanks to the urgings of my fiancée to hop on the tractor. I would say “wield the hoe”, but then people might think I'm talking about her and I'd like to keep the woman as my future bride.
But what if these pointless little browser-based doodads are more than annoyances filling up your Facebook newsfeed? What if instead they are acting as the perfect gateway drug for future gamers? My fiancée, let’s call her Megoski in order to find out if she reads this (you’ll be able to tell by the welts on my torso tomorrow) was talking to a regular client about Facebook, when the topic of Farmville came up. The customer in question was espousing the virtues of tilling virtual soil while my Megoski simply shrugged and said, “Come on, really?” A born gamer, she is not.
And yet, her client’s constant stream of laudation for Farmville hit a curious nerve in Megoski. One night during her own stalking rituals on the Book of Face, I watched as she cautiously clicked on one of her client’s Farmville posts… the fall into madness had begun. Next thing I knew, upon her arrival home each day there was no more hanging out on the couch to talk about her day. Not right away, anyway.
Rather, when the front door opens these days, I watch as she says hello to the dogs, pecks me on the cheek and runs upstairs to her laptop to harvest about 200 bunches of grapes in order to save enough coins to upgrade her farm to plantation size. This from a woman who calls me a nerd (lovingly) for having a map of Mordor over my PC… okay, so maybe I am a nerd, but at least now I’m not alone.
I am beginning to see Facebook games not as some hindrance on the advancement of the industry, but instead as a wonderful new phenomenon that is going to bring more people into the wonderful world of online gaming. A few weeks back Megoski asked to make her own Xbox Live avatar. I took this opportunity to show her the demo for A Kingdom of Keflings, figuring she’d at the very least get a kick out of seeing her creation stomp around on screen and picking up villagers. Then it was two hours later, and I was grabbing my credit card to buy enough Microsoft Points to purchase the full game.
Does it matter that Facebook games are so simplistic, and relatively cheap and shameless in their ploys for money? Not if it helps bridge the gap between a hobby that was previously only my own and make it also my future wife’s. What started with Farmville moved slowly into Fishville, and onto the Xbox 360. I dare not show her what the Sims is all about; I would like to have her attention once in a while.
A former coworker of Megoski’s once nearly convinced her to try out Everquest 2. Had said coworker not turned out to be a dud and get herself fired, I suspect eventually that my betrothed would have caved in to the looming presence of the EQ2 box sitting in my office and asked to see what it was all about. But alas, maybe I’m just a dreamer. For now I’ll be perfectly content to use Farmville in arguments over whether or not I should be playing so much Global Agenda.
So next time you log into your own Facebook account find yourself affronted by a slew of updates concerning lost penguins, golden mystery eggs, or even whacked mobsters just take a deep breath. One day those vesting so much interest in their farms and mafias might wind up being your guildmates, or a competing soldier gunning you down from a nearby bell tower. Or more shockingly, you may wind up like me… intricately arranging your white fencing to keep your livestock in order and make your farm look presentable to the viewing public. That reminds me, I think I have a few mystery gifts to open. I hope they’re not a bunch of worthless white chickens.