Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facebook Farm Town and Social Gaming

While I typically only consider writing about "real" games like morgs and table top games, I have spent a bit of time fooling around with small Facebook games. I realize now that these are having a large impact on game playing in general and so I thought I'd at least give them a mention.

I'll use Farm Town as an example. A simple graphical game designed to kill time and leverage social networks. The idea is to plant various crops, harvest them, and sell the proceeds for "coins" to buy more virtual objects for your farm (including more crops). The game has aesthetic satisfaction as you try to put together both a profitable and visually pleasing farm. It has a nudge of mathematics as you will look for ways to maximize your profits. Even shop-a-holics will enjoy using the “store” and showing off for friends. The game rewards social behaviour by granting more coins to the farm owner when someone else harvests their corps. So if harvesting “corn” got you 180 coins solo, then having someone else harvest gets you 200. The harvester also gets paid (by the game, not the farm owner). Thus there is no downside to asking others to come to your farm and harvest.

These mini-games encourage more game play and may entice more “mainstream” digital users in to gaming. You could call them ‘gateway games.” Hehe! There are now hundreds of them on Facebook and I’m sure hundreds more on other social sites. So far I don’t know of any that cross boundaries between social sites, but I’m sure it could be done. I’m also sure there are a slew of hidden issues in these games regarding privacy, spyware, and other weird things that could happen. But too many folks play them now for them to ever disappear. They are a newish game form loose on the market. It will be interesting to see how far it goes.

By the way… I could use a few more neighbours. If you’re playing Farm Town on Facebook, send me a note!

Game On!

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