I don't know why. I don't know what made me click on the invitation. But I just started playing Zynga's latest "watch plants grow" game, CityVille. I will freely admit that my wife and I used to play FarmVille like so many other poor addicted saps. But I quit that habit. I shook it and never looked back. We both did.
Zynga's games have a reputation for being mindless, requiring little actual thinking or skill, and also for gouging your wallet when you want to progress beyond your tiny little farm/city/frontier. I would normally say that this is all true, except now that I'm playing CityVille I find myself actually enjoying it.
It's not a title that's going to replace any of my normal games of choice. But I would actually say that with CityVille (and even FrontierVille if you've played it), Zynga's actually finally in the business of making real games. Do they still try to make you spend your hard-earned money on different colored theme decorations, or energy so you can play more than five minutes at a time? Yes. But you never really will find yourself needing to spend any money, and the building and maintenance of my city is perfect for killing a few minutes at work or at home when all I want is to kill just a wee bit of time.
Building your city is still just "harvesting" and managing materials like your goods and your funds. But it's also networking with other players/friends, and franchising businesses out to their city. The goal is simple: make your city as massive and as happy as possible. You will do some farming, which supplies goods to your businesses. You'll collect rent/taxes from your residents, and you'll keep your businesses supplied and your city pretty (which increases your payouts).
SimCity it is not. But as a casual game on Facebook, it's startlingly appealing. In fact, I think it's time I start filtering through Facebook's many games to see if there are some other quality (and perhaps more "core") strategy games out there.