Sunday, January 17, 2010

Facebook games: I don't get it

Facebook is a menace. It ensnares you with its promises of social interaction without the hassle of actual social interaction. It's like Twitter, but with more features. It's like Myspace for people who don't do all their shopping at Hot Topic.

But the part of Facebook that I really don't get is the applications, or "Apps." They range from the mildly entertaining, like the numerous personality tests and quizzes, to the utterly worthless, like functionless "gifts" you can give people, or things that calculate how much time you spend on Facebook. But what really gets to me are the "games". What is the point of these things?

These games, especially the simulation games like Farmville, have a reputation for being addictive. Maybe it's just because I'm used to real videogames, with challenge and design and ACTUAL GAMEPLAY, but I've actually tried several of the more popular games on Facebook, and none of them have hooked me. And by "they didn't hook me" I mean "they bored me out of my skull."

The most notable thing I discovered upon trying several of the simulation-type games was, that they are all the same. They're all the exact same sort of SimCity/Rollercoaster Tycoon clone. The only difference between many of these games is the settings, and it doesn't matter if it's a farm or a cafe or an aquarium or a theme park or outer space, at their cores they're all the same. The fact that they are derivative of actual, already existing, and popular games makes it all the more pathetic. The only thing these "games" have over their originators is the fact that they are free.

But guess what? THEY AREN'T. Of the games of this type that I saw, many were really nefarious money-making SCAMS. In these games, there are really three ways to gain experience, unlock content, and move forward. You can either A) solicit friends to join the game with you B) play the game for ridiculous amounts of time until you eventually move forward, and of course the last option is C) pay real money to unlock in-game content. And with option A, you're of course luring more people to the game so that the creators can make more money. SNEAKY.

The actual gameplay goes something like this: you buy things, and them place them, and then slowly wait for something to happen so that you can make more money, buy more crap, and place that. Much like you might apply a coat of paint to a wall and then watch it slowly dry so that you can apply the second coat. Because these games really don't have any real end or actual goal, that's supposed to make them more additive... but to me, that just makes them pointless and dull.

Another prominent genre of Facebook games are the RPGs like Mafia Wars and others. Imagine a console RPG with all the interesting bits stripped away: no animation, no music, no exploration. Basically you just click on a button over and over to gain experience and/or money, until you have enough experience/money to unlock the option to click on a more different button. THRILLING! Oh, and also, in some of these games, you can only click on the button so many times before you run out of stamina and have to wait an arbitrary amount of real-time before it becomes active again.

So, really, I don't see what the big deal is. I don't see why I should waste my time on something so pointless and vapid. If I'm going to put time and effort and thought into a game, I want to know that the the creators put effort and thought into their game while making it. Not just, "Hey, let's make a Facebook game, they seem popular." Sorry, but just give me Mario or Mega Man or Final Fantasy or Ace Attorney any day. Those are MY addictions.