According To Whim

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(Chris McGinty's Weekly Column)


February 22nd, 2010

Some Thoughts about Farmville (Part One)

 Introduction to the App-osite Sketches.

    I walked into my home one day, and my roommates said, “Hey you gotta play this Farmville game.” At first I was reluctant, but I started playing. I have since quit my job, my farm is expanded as far as it will expand, and I’m climbing through the experience levels.

   I should probably clarify that my quitting my job had nothing to do with Farmville, and if I was any sort of editor I would remove that statement now, so I don’t have to waste a paragraph explaining it.

   The truth is that I actively avoided apps on My Space, and had every intention of avoiding them on Facebook too. I didn’t even really want to come over to Facebook, but everybody I “spoke” with on My Space had bailed, and would only show up to say, “Hey, when are you coming to Facebook?” After a while My Space started seeming like a ghost town.

   That would be a great app. Call it “Repopulate My Space” and it’s impossible to do, no matter how long you play.

   The oddest part of the My Space mutiny was the alleged reason for the migration. “My Space has been overrun by teenagers. Facebook is more for adults.” I always laugh, and think or say, “Then don’t add anyone under 18 on My Space. Problem solved.” But it’s become the accepted reason.

   A better reason I’ve heard is that since My Space allows layout changes, it makes you more susceptible to viruses and wares. Good reason.

   How about me though? Which do I prefer? Glad I asked. It seems like people are more active on Facebook. The updates on My Space are more complicated to skim through, sort of. My Space has the blog feature, which while a pain in the ass to post sometimes, is still a main feature. Facebook has Notes, but no active blog features that I’ve seen. The last time I posted a blog, I posted it to My Space, and linked it from Facebook, which got me thinking. If I have to link to another site anyway, then why not post my longer blogs on AccordingToWhim.com and link to them. And that’s why I’m here now discussing…

   Farmville! This was supposed to be about Farmville. So my roommates are like, “We don’t even have to do it, just put it in a little.” No. That’s something else entirely. They were like, “You don’t even have to play, just sign up and add us as neighbours, so we can upgrade our farms.”

   And that’s how I started playing Farmville, but I told them, this is the only app I’m doing. I’ll join your little Farmville cult, but I’m not doing Farmtown, or Country Life, or Farmitopia, or Happy Tree Fish, or… I’m just making things up now.

 Full Disclosure

    I have allowed a total of four apps access to my Facebook. Castle Age and School of Wizardry I simply added to give my roommate’s the equivalent of neighbours, and in each case I thought perhaps one day I might actually try them out. Apparently, they are even less challenging than Farmville, which is sad, so I haven’t worried about it.

   I have also added Scrabble. I love word games, and Scrabble is set up in such a way that you can either play a turn or so a day, or actually play the game in real time. This versatility on a game that I love anyway made it irresistible even to my app hating ways. 

Challenge Levels Ranging from Whatever to App-athy

    The Atari 2600 had a “Difficulty” switch that I don’t remember many games taking advantage of. They usually just used the “Game Select” to give you harder games to play. If there was a difficulty switch on Farmville it would say: Relaxing/Sigh. There is no challenge to this game whatsoever. Sure your crops might wither, but even if you’re broke after such a devastating loss, you just click on a few Wall posts from your friends that gain you a bonus, and you’re in the money again.

   So what about this? Is it wrong? Am I just expecting something out of this game that I shouldn’t. I mean the Bookworm even sometimes perishes in flames. The answer is no. So what about this? No. Glad I could clear that up.

   The truth is that not all games have to be a challenge. There was an old DOS program called Dope Wars, and it was sort of fun, but by no means challenging. And for more full disclosure, if they adapted that game into an app, I would play it.

   So thoughts about the game as it is. The first is that you “help” your neighbours, but you aren’t really doing anything. I think it’s Farmtown, or Fishy Cheeseburger World, (one of them) allows you to pay your neighbours to do your farming for you, so I understand it. Further, Country Life, or Yo Mama Chillin’ Ville-n, (one of them) is all like, “Hey come to us. We don’t let your crops wither. We’re friendlier than that other evil farming game.” And apparently this matters, because Farmville now offers this “Unwither” spray. It must be their way of competing without just doing away with the wither function, which at this point, whatever.

   So my roommates have jumped ship from Farmville over to, what was it? Jungle Pirate Monkey Shipville Wars. Oh, Country Life. I mean they still check in with Farmville, but they prefer Country Life, and the reason he gave was, “I was starting to feel obligated to sign in for the apps. That’s why I like Country Life. Your crops don’t wither, so you don’t feel obligated.”

   I was so taken aback that I couldn’t even state the obvious, “You feel obligated to check in because you have more apps than your age in years.”

   If I’m not going to check in with Farmville for a while, I plant four-day crops. Crops last twice as long as their harvest time before they wither, so I can take a whole eight days off. If it’s going to be longer than that I just don’t plant anything. No obligation at all. Your chickens don’t explode if you don’t collect their eggs, though it would be cool if they did. I suppose that next he’ll be telling me that he left My Space cos there were just too many teenagers. 

App-troversy… Hmmm, Doesn’t Really Work… I’ll Just Stop that Now

    I don’t know how long Farmville has been going. I think I read it once… arrgh! I have to go do research. Hmmm. Only since June of 2009? Damn thing hasn’t even been around a year. This means that I started playing a measly six months after it started, and it was already at craze status. How dumb is that?

   I started playing in November 2009, and I presumed it had been around for a while. I went and read a little bit about the game, and discovered that it was already the center of controversy, as any good craze should be, right? If you’re not under attack for something stupid, you ain’t popular enough yet.

   Problem is that the first controversy wasn’t stupid at all. Zynga are the creators of Farmville, and they are worth a lot of points in Scrabble if they ever get included in the dictionary. The ad client that Zynga were using, Double Ding, was pumping ads into Zynga’s games, and some of them were called outright scams.

   In the game there are two types of currency, one that is standard to the game, and another that you don’t really use much of unless you purchase it with real money.

   Coins are part of the game play, and you cannot run out. I mean you can spend all of them and then never sign into the game ever again, but what I’m saying is that you don’t have to go fill out forms at the Department of Agriculture… ah, I get ahead of myself.

   Farm Bucks (or whatever they call them) are much less available. You start with five, and get one every time you level up. Since at the time of this writing you can only get to level 70, in game play terms the most you will ever have is about 75 Farm Bucks, unless they do some sort of weird promotion in the future. You don’t need them, but there are optional items and such that you’ll never be able to get without them. You may either spend real money on the game (which for purposes of full disclosure, I won’t, won’t, won’t) or just realize there is some stuff you won’t get.

   Or…

   That was ominous, huh?

   There were in game offers. Some were valid: you sign up for Net Flix, for instance, and you were going to anyway so why not, and you get some “free” Farm Bucks. The problem was that some of these offers were scams, and people were getting signed up for cell phone contracts when they were supposedly filling out an informational survey.

   When I started playing they had just removed all the in game offers.

   The second controversy, uh yeah, controversy… Allow me to just bite my tongue and keep typing. And if you’ve seen my mouth recently, it’s not too easy to bite my tongue. Or that might just be a character flaw.

   They made some flags to decorate your farm with, and some were national flags, like the United States and that one, you know, with the health care thing. So there must be at least a dozen or so countries in the world, a baker’s dozen or so if you count Texas, and… arrgh. I’ma have to research again.

   According to About.com there are 195 countries, and I guess Farmville designers were just too lazy to design flags for every single one of those. And in the same way Nathan calls me to the carpet for being lazy, so did India call out Farmville. The whole country, all 1.17 billion of them, got upset that there was no flag of India available.

   This just in: It was actually about 20,000 or so people and they weren’t even all from India. My tale just lost all its spunk.

   The point is that they were upset that there was no flag of India. This is why, no matter what rationale people use, sometimes I just can’t take every perceived slight that comes across the desk seriously. Here are 20,000 people who are upset that India isn’t represented in the game, and if anyone should be upset, it should be the real farmers. In the game you just point and click, and all the work is done. This isn’t representative of real life where farmers not only have to point and click, but also have to fill out forms at the Department of Agriculture when they run out…

   This just in: We’re going to just stop Chris now, before he really makes an ass out of himself. 

Effects on the Live Feed, What’s a Live Feed?

    Facebook has this thing called a News Feed. It takes all the messages that your friends have posted, and shows you the ones with comments and stuff like that. This is fine, but it means that you miss the stuff that your friends post up that no one has seen or commented, which would happen frequently if folks only used the News Feed. It’s that whole “you need experience to get a job/you need a job to get a chicken egg” thing.

   I think they have that function so one could conceivably sign in real quick to see the major talking points, and then click back over to the screen with the profit margin spreadsheet and/or EKG monitor before anyone noticed.

   I decided to use what was not long ago known as the Live Feed, because it showed you all posts, and would occasionally refresh to show you things just posted. I spent the first two days blocking every app based post in existence. Luckily, you block the whole app; and therefore, every message from that app, so you never have to worry that Uncle Larry just requested tuna crack for his Piranhas on “Vampire Zombie Aqualung, Yo” again.

   It still took a lot of blocking.

   I allow the Farmville stuff, of course. When I sign in, I go to Most Recent, formerly Live Feed, and click the bonuses and “please help me” posts, and as I scroll down through the mess, I also read what my friends have posted that might have actual substance. I rarely miss anything, and I guess that’s a good thing.

   There is something else that I do, which I’m not sure too many other people do. I go to my profile, and remove my old Farmville posts, just to keep my Wall clean. Maybe I’m just silly, but if I ever have to go back to find something I posted, I don’t have to wade through the mess. One day, please make it soon, I’ll be just as organized in real life.

   I need to go down sometime soon and file my taxes for 2006 and 2008. I was having a good day when the whole 2007 filing thing happened. 

brb

    Hmmm? Ugh. Where the hell did he go? I can’t stand when he does this. I don’t have anything to say. I’m an inner-censor. I try to avoid letting things be said…

   So, how’s the wife and kids?

   Oh, what is he doing? Couldn’t he have gone to the bathroom before he started this? If he would just write something short for a change. He always has to overdo things. I mean, a review of a stupid, mindless app doesn’t have to be this long does it? I bet he’s almost done. Let me look at these notes.

   WTF!!!!

   How did all this get past me? He’s going to have to do this as at least two parts. There is no way. No way.

   You know what? I got to get some things off my chest. My high school counselor, my teachers, my parents, they all said, you should get into the inner-censor market. There is so much uncertainty and low self esteem going around that you’ll never be out of work. By the time I got out of Psyche-Tech Vocational though, everyone was an inner-censor. And many of them are doing well. I know a few, and most of them only get breaks when their employer walks into a fast food joint, and suddenly feels powerful enough to be atrocious to the person behind the counter, but only because they know that the person behind the counter can’t talk back for fear of losing their jobs. I need a gig like that. Heck, just to work for someone that works at a fast food place. Those inner-censors are highly trained though. I’ve heard horror stories where they stop censoring for just a moment, and whew! Minimum wage worker, horrible job, people taking out their every frustration in life on getting shorted a pack of ketchup… BOOM! And so what do I end up with?

   Your little author here.

   Mr. I Don’t Know How to Keep My Mouth Shut.

   I work part time at best. He’s always writing. He doesn’t understand the concept of tact. I don’t even work enough hours to get benefits. The best I have is there’s this woman he has a crush on, and every time he’s around her he clams up. He talks to her, but he never says what he’s actually thinking. I get bonuses on those paychecks. I can actually make my house payment whenever he gets around her. I got a call one night during my shift, and I shouldn’t have answered it. I realize that now. He almost said everything. If he ever tells her how he feels, I’m out of a job. At least until he finally cheats on her, but my house will be foreclosed on by then, so I can’t let it happen.

   Wow. I feel so much better. I can’t believe I’ve been holding all that in for so long. It’s almost like we inner-censors are actually overdoing our job. I wonder if the world would be better if we could all be more honest with each other. Not in the “let me point out your faults” way, but in the “being clear about things” way. But if I let that happen I’ll have to be a pizza deliverer, or a freeloader, or something bad like that. But at least I could live an honest life. I think it’s time that she found out what he really thinks of her. I’ll have to quit being an inner-censor, but I’ll feel better about myself. Here goes.

   Hey there… 

I Wonder What the Fish Games Call Mastery

    Ok, I’m back. Whew. When I sat down. That felt weird. Like there was some sort of presence or entity already sitting here. Sorry about that. I had to go harvest my farm. Let me look at my notes. A lot of ground to plow here still. Ha ha. Sorry, wasn’t that funny. I should have plenty of space for it though. Wow. How did the word count get so high already? My inner-censor must not be doing his job again.

   Oh well. I guess I’ll just do a quick section here. And do a part two later. I’ve got some entertaining stuff still to talk about. Maybe I should have used some of the entertaining stuff this time. Eh. Not worth it.

   Anyway, I remember at one point looking at the ribbon achievements thinking, “Wow I’m going to run out of things to do in this game pretty quickly.” Then around Level 9 I unlocked the Mastery function. Suddenly it seemed like I might have something to do for a while. But then it seemed like I got through the mastery of one of the crops pretty quickly, so I started worrying again that I might “complete” the game too quickly. So I looked it up, and it turns out that in order to master every crop it takes about a year. So I guess I’ll be at it for a while. Whew! Wouldn’t want to have to find another game to play like everybody wants. But I’ll discuss that next time, along with Christmas, and sex on the farm. Not what you’re thinking, I promise.

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