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FARMVILLE: LOVE IT OR HATE IT?

It is known that Farmville is the most popular game on Facebook at the moment. What I didn’t know is how passionate – positive or negative – can people get about it. Until a few weeks ago, when two incidents made me think about it.

The first incident was a conversation with my colleagues about Farmville and its players. I was surprised to see how negative they were, complaining about Farmville posts on their newsfeeds.

A few days after, a friend asked me what exactly is Farmville and I showed her the main features of the game. Although she is not a person who would spend time playing Facebook games, she got excited about it.

So, what makes Farmville such a popular game and why are people so interested in it, in a positive or a negative way?

To answer this question I asked my Facebook friends:

Farmville: Do you love it or hate it? Why?

From the answers I got I came up with the following conclusions:

• People who enjoy playing the game see it as a way of spending some time relaxing and interacting with their friends. According to the 2010 Social Gaming Research by Information Solutions Group, the average player of social games is a 43-year-old woman either single without children or married with children at home. It is interesting that the majority of players (41%) have a full time job. It seems that that these games are an easy way of getting away from every day problems for a while as they are free and they don’t require any equipment, such as dedicated gaming console.

• What makes social games so engaging is that they are social. Players not only enjoy a relaxing game that doesn’t require a lot of thinking and effort but they also feel part of a community where players help each other, interact and compare their progress.

• Games like Farmville also involve creativity as they are customisable. As the game progresses and players go up levels, decorating items get unlocked for them to use or send to their ‘neighbours’ and more features become available.

To sum up, interaction with friends, customisation, comparison, competition and achievement are the most important elements that make Farmville such a popular game. But these elements also exist in other games, such as Fishville, Pet Society, Cafe World and many more.

Why Farmville?

The answer seems to be the object of the game, which is farming. Nature is missed by people who live in big cities. Having a farm, planting, taking care of animals are activities which have been replaced by a modern way of life in cities with only small green spaces, full of big buildings, small flats without gardens or even balconies, roads, cars and pollution.

Why not?

On the other hand, anything has many fans, also has many haters. During my small survey, I got many responses of people who hate Farmville. Most of them were men. It seems that the elements of the game appeal more to women than men: there is no set goal, it involves decoration and customisation and there is no action. The story and the presentation seem to be designed for a more female audience, which is understandable considering that the majority of Facebook users are female users.

Another reason for not playing the game, pointed out by both women and men, is that it is too simple and doesn’t require any skills or knowledge, so after a while it becomes boring and pointless.

Since the question was “Why hate it”,  I tried to go deeper and find an answer. A convincing explanation I got was: “I feel left out because all my friends play this game, even though I don’t want to be involved in it.” Thus, it may be that the community aspect of the game is so strong that people who are on Facebook and don’t want to play feel left out.

It seems that Zynga has found the secret recipe for the most engaging social game! There are more than 75 million active ‘Farmers’ at the moment. In only two months since it was launched it managed to engage more players than World of Warcraft, which is the largest multiplayer game. Recently, Facebook signed a five year deal with Zynga, which means that, as long as we are on Facebook, we will keep farming!

 

Thanks to everyone who participated in my research, especially WunderclouddRuantia and Chris Day for our long conversations about Farmville!