I'm at work, spraying off dishes in the dish pit, when a thought occurrs to me. Could the immense popularity of games on social networks be credited to design models that emulate a workplace?
At most jobs there is a system in place that creates a workflow. This allows for an easy to remember, streamlined routine. I think most would agree with me that games like Farmville
, The Sims Social
, etc. use the same design in their games.
For example, in The Sims Social
you are allotted a certain number of energy points to use for a given period of time. You must use these energy points to make your Sim perform activities. These activities will reap rewards for you, the player, which can be used to buy more virtual bling for your online pad. When you run out of energy your Sim can do nothing; you must wait for more energy to be replaced over time. At this point you either stop playing, or you purchase more energy using your real life dollars.
To compare this to washing dishes in a restaurant: There are a certain number of dishes to be washed at any given time. You spray off the dishes; place them in a rack; run them through the dishwasher; then put them away. You, then, must wait until there are more dishes to repeat this process.
Based on this comparison, it seems that these kind of games have taken the basic concept of a job, added virtual rewards, --which, technically, cost nothing and hold no value in the real world-- and made it appealing enough to the average user that they would spend their hard earned dollars to keep playing. Is it the guise of a cartoon farm; the familiarity of a work routine; or just pure entertainment, that has MILLIONS
of people around the world shelling out cash for these social network games? It would be hard to dispute that anyone who plays Farmville habitually is going to eventually reach for their credit card to extend their play-time.
So, if this is like a job, it is a job that you actually spend money on, rather than make money from. Are your virtual rewards really worth your time and money? Are they worth your child's life?
It can be argued that this type of game-play stems from the traditional grinding
that we've seen in RPGs, and the like, over the past 30 years. Is there anything more repetitive than leveling up in WoW or a Final Fantasy title? Yet, these games can be beautiful, with large worlds full of things to discover; there is usually something around the next corner which satiates our desire for exploration and progression. "Zynga-ville" games just don't offer the same allure to me.
So, my question for you:
Are these games, or just another job hiding under the veil of a game?