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Games on Facebook – a psychological experiment II April 11, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

OK, I recently ended this experiment, more or less, by stopping play on Farmville and Mafia Wars. This followed quitting FarmTown, Zynga Poker, Farkle, Farkle 2, Mobsters 2, and a few other games over an extended period of trying them out. The result? I now am burnt out on the hardcore ones, the ones that millions play avidly. The reasons are many.

First, most people take these things too seriously. They are no longer time fillers, nor even time wasters, but time dominators. Many people start planning their schedules around the reward times or such in the games in order to get maximal bonuses and such. It is easy to fall into this pattern. The game designers put that into the games. You lose if you do not do it, less rewards in some form or fashion.

In a game like Mafia Wars, the designers also give incentives for you to have lots, hundreds or thousands, of fellow game players as “family” ot “neighbors”. But they also include features where you have t attack, go to war, only with a “friend”. They want to generate rancor. Some people bite the bait and get angru if you do go to war with them, not accepting that there are rewards for doing so – they adopt an unwritten “code of honor” that says you have to warn someone – even though there is no penalty for being in a war and losing (other than a bruised ego for the overly sensitive).

In Mafia Wars, the friends’ directory is intentionally designed so that finding a particular friend is very, very difficult. It is set up to contain only a couple of dozen members per page. Each page is individually alphabetized, but overall the pages are not in any arrangement. New members get inserted into pages more-or-less randonly, so that you cannot just go and find Joe Smith. He might be on page 10 or page 57 or page 92. So telling someone a war is coming can take lots of time and effort.

There are low and strict limits on helping others. There are lots of “events” that require others to give you gifts or help you out. When there are several of these events going on simultaneously, your friends help are never enough because they can only do so much. The result is the cash option. Players can buy items or points or whatever to get the bonuses or complete sets of collectibles. That is the gamers’ ploy. Getting players to pay to play on a “free” game. Vulnerable players abound because the games are designed to be addicting and people (especially those outside the US, Europe, Japan, have few other gaming alternatives and think paying is not so bad.



1. psi*psi - April 11, 2010

Most facebook games are horrible time sucks. I pretty much only play Scrabble (the Lexulous version) and, more rarely, Bejeweled. Much quicker and more compatible with having a life!

2. fetzthechemist - April 11, 2010

I ought to look at those. I’ve always loved the OC games with enbedded puzzles or games in them – the Zork series, 7th Guest and 11th Hour, Pandora’s Box. On FB now I only play Treasure Madness because it has the puzzle games in it and it is not so time oriented or competitive in nature – or at least I take it that way.

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