Social Games

What’s so social about “social games” anyway? I speak of the likes of Cafe World, and Farmville. I keep hearing that they are the next big thing. I hope that isn’t true.

Sure, you might play them on social media sites, but they’re more antisocial games than anything else. The only real interaction with other people that you have in most of the ones I’ve tested is sending constant spam about lost sheep to your friends list. An MMO is vastly more social, as you actually get to see and talk to people. You may not actually like any of those people, but it still counts as socialising.

I’m not sure that some of them even deserve the compliment of being called “games” either. Spending half an hour tending crops that don’t do anything at all isn’t my idea of fun. There are no, so far as I can tell, any problems or difficulties to overcome. No real strategy or tactics to it. Just making more food to sell to NPCs, or growing more crops for no reason other than to be able to buy more crops. Progress Quest has at least as much real decision making, and doesn’t require us to click things for half an hour every day.

I suspect the real reason developers consider them the next big thing is that they’re impossibly easy to make, compared with most commercial games. Although I can’t find the fun in them, they are played by millions of people daily, and some of those folks go so far as to spend real money on decorations for their farms that pretty much nobody else is ever going to see. Though it boggles my mind, it seems that there is a demand for these things, and capacity for profit.

Now, by all means there may be second generation ones coming up that actually have some gameplay. There are developers such as Raph Koster and Richard Garriott working on social games, both of whom I have profound respect for. I can’t imagine either of them creating something as mindless as Farmville, so perhaps they will redefine the genre. Even so, I wonder if good developers are giving up on making MMOs for something easier and more profitable.

For now, get back to me when I can invade my neighbouring farms with my goat army and sow them with salt.

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