SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
There are addictions that are hard to beat: smoking, gambling, Mountain Dew. Then there are addictions that are really hard to beat. I give you: Facebook games.
Well, I’m beating them.
Facebook is supposed to be a website where you can connect with other people. It’s a great place to find former friends and classmates, long lost relatives, those with similar interests, and creepy stalkers. However, like just about anything on the internet, it can also be an incredible time suck. It’s not uncommon to hang around there all night, then fall asleep at work the next day. (Assuming you’re not on Facebook at work.)
The owners hope you’ll look at, click on, or more probably curse the ads, and it’s stuff like the ads that gives them revenue so they can keep sucking your time. So, when you get tired of checking in on the school beauty who wouldn’t give you the time of day twenty years ago, or if you’re trying to hide from your mother’s friend request, you can escape to Facebook games.
There are over seven hundred billion Facebook games.
Seriously. I counted.
I got sucked in when I tried to help other people. On most Facebook games (we’ll call them FG for short), you can give gifts to other people who give you gifts in return, so there’s still another way in which you get a chance to be part of a community.
Heaven forbid we should talk to our neighbors.
In any case, they’re virtual gifts. They’re not real. Imagine, when you were a kid, having your father say on your birthday, “I’m giving you a bike.”
“Yay, a bike!”
“But it’s not a real bike. It’s an imaginary bike you can use to ride around on your imaginary farm, or maybe your imaginary island, or your imaginary frontier cabin. Is that cool, or what?”
“Um … or what.”
I got sucked into about half a dozen games. Some are a little different, such as Mafia Wars, which allows you to become a crime lord, battle against other bad guys, break many laws, steal stuff, and kill people. Wholesome fun.
Most, however, are pretty much the same. I didn’t realize that at first, but after awhile I learned only the surface stuff was different.
For instance, I used to make fun of people who were on Farmville, or Farmtown, or Farmapolis, or whatever it’s called. The game involved them – wait for it – farming. Yup. Planting fields, taking care of animals, building barns, watching your ungrateful brat kids move off to the city, complaining about gas prices – stuff like that.
It’s just like farming, only you don’t have to do the actual hard work, and you don’t provide a vital service to the community. Okay, maybe to the virtual community. Maybe the Mafia Wars people eat at restaurants that your farm sells to, or something.
I’d watch over peoples’ shoulders, and see those farms get huge, complicated, and time consuming. A dozen kinds of crops, a hundred different kinds of animals. It made me hungry.
Eventually I got a farm of my own, the people made me neighbors, and we gave stuff to each other and helped with events like harvest. It was like being online Amish, if you can imagine that mash-up.
The very first game I got on was Island Paradise. What a great idea – off on a desert island by myself, communing with nature, catching fish, finding fresh fruit on the trees – give me books (and, let’s face it, an internet connection), and I’m happy. Maybe being on a dessert island would be better: Chocolate trees, sponge cake growing in the ocean … getting soggy … okay, that concept breaks down pretty quickly.
You can get animals, some of which are pretty interesting and some not so much. A llama? Do they have a lot of those on tropical islands? Also, you can plant crops and harvest them, and use that harvest and the products of the animals to make dishes, which you sell so you can afford a bigger island and more crops and more animals and ohmygosh this is just like Farmville!
Then someone invited me to Frontierville.
That seemed different. You were out in, I don’t know, Wyoming or maybe Montana in the 1800’s, building a log cabin and clearing the land. Eventually, as you gathered items from friends and traded in return, you could clear enough land to plant crops and have animals and why does this suddenly sound familiar?
I was also on a Zoo game for awhile. Zooville, or Zoophile, or Zooey Deschanel, or something like that. (She’s an actress, let it go.) That was different. You had to actually build a zoo from scratch with the support of your neighbors, and eventually you’d have animals and places with food and …
Honestly, I don’t have any problem with other people playing the games. Being a writer, of course I’d prefer them to be reading, so there’d be more of a demand for writing, so I’d have a better chance of selling books. Still, if playing internet games keeps people from being bored, then I guess they won’t be drinking heavily, or trying to jump houses with their motorcycle, or going to law school. Heaven knows we have enough lawyers, and the world would be better off if they were jumping motorcycles.
So more power to you, Facebook Games. Keep everyone out of trouble. But me, I’m bailing out: I’ve got books to write, not to mention a huge list of books to read, not to mention columns to write – and at least there I’m getting a paycheck.
I think, most of all, I’ll miss the Island. It always seemed warm there.