Many people all over the world enjoy the benefits of social networking sites like Facebook.com: past school friends can chat about the old days, people can meet others with common interests, college students can kill time between classes. However, all of these aside, many users end up spending large amounts of time on a less obvious way: social gaming.
One of the most popular games Facebook offers is Farmville. Farmville is a game where Facebook friends can “be neighbors” on virtual farms. Users plow and plant, raise barns, and tend to the livestock, earning coins all the while. Coins can be used to buy more land, tractors, or other virtual farm necessities. Sounds alright, a little fun, but something that would garner a cult following?
According to Farmville,com, the game has over 22.5 million fans. The fan count is in no way representative of people who play the game, but rather a group that some players choose to join to get updates and, sometimes, perks. A November press release from Zynga, makers of Farmville, states that FarmVille “is the largest social game with over 65 million virtual farmers, 26 million of which play the game every day.” Twenty-six million people get up every day and log on, whether to waste time while a page is loading or simply to harvest their virtual crop.
In addition to free gaming, many users also invest in “Farm Cash.” Farm Cash can be gained several ways. Every time a user levels up, he or she gets one Farm Cash dollar. The second option is completing advertising offers. Some examples: “Sign up for 2 months of Netflix, get ____ Farm Cash dollars.” Some of these are alright, but others are a little shifty and have a lot of fine print. The third and fastest option is to pay for it using real money. This may seem silly to some, but to others, the need for that premium item is just too great to pass up. Some users take this route, others choose to keep their respective games free.
Now, this does have some positive points. Recently, Farmville alone generated $487,500 towards a Zynga-created Haitian disaster relief funds. Users of Farmville, as well as other Zynga games, exchanged Farm Cash for special game items. Farmville users gave up their money to purchase special “Sweet Seeds for Haiti.” The initiative was quite successful.
I will admit, I do enjoy Farmville. Now and then, I do sit in class and wonder if my corn will wither before I have time to harvest it. For a while, I got a little to into this game and I realize many other people do the same, but does this really signify a problem?
Here are some signs:
(this list and more information can be found at the Media and the Family website found below)
For children: Most of non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.
Falling asleep in school.
Not keeping up with assignments.
Lying about computer or video game use.
Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends.
Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports).
Irritable when not playing a video game or on the computer.
For adults: Computer or video game use is characterized by intense feelings of pleasure and guilt.
Obsessing and pre-occupied about being on the computer, even when not connected.
Hours playing video games or on the computer increasing, seriously disrupting family, social or even work life.
Lying about computer or video game use.
Experience feelings of withdrawal, anger, or depression when not on the computer or involved with their video game.
May incur large phone or credit bills for on-line services.
Can’t control computer or video game use. Fantasy life on-line replaces emotional life with partner.
Carpal tunnel syndrome.
Back, neck aches
Failure to eat regularly or neglect personal hygiene
There isn’t an issue with games such as Farmville unless the users creates them. Farmville is a fun game for some people, but when players spend hours and hours and invest their money into a bundle of pixels that awards only a sense of self satisfaction and no real tangible accomplishment, it may be time to log off.
Zynga Press Release page: http://blog.zynga.com/press-releases/
National Institute on Media and the Family page: http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_gameaddiction.shtml