Okay, so it really isn’t a gaming platform. But, what Facebook, as well as other venues such as Myspace and even the iTunes App Store, offers is quick, easy gaming. These social games are easy to jump in to, play and get back out of, as long as you don’t go overboard with the number you become involved with. With huge fan numbers, these games must be doing something right, and doing it hand over fist.
Zynga, Playfish, SuperPoke!, these are just a couple of the publishers you can find applications listed under. The games range from restaurant management, fish care, farm sims, mafia control, word and puzzle games … the list of genres is endless. But what is it that makes them so popular? The fact that they are free? They can be played with friends and strangers alike without need for a pricey membership? They’re simple and easy to step away from without missing something? I’d say all of the above and more!
These games do not come without the established community, either. There are fan pages where players can get together and join each other (friend or stranger) as neighbors, crime family members, servants, etc, to help build your status, wealth and power. The games aren’t all shallow and simple, either. There can be complex, multi-level games with “add-ons” that expand your regular game play to new areas with matching abilities and items to find, win or purchase.
Allow me to take one example that happens to be my favorite. Mafia Wars, by Zynga. In Mafia Wars, you are basically playing something along the lines of an rpg. You do quests, known here as “jobs,” to gain experience, money, sometimes loot and eventually level up so you can do more complex jobs for bigger rewards. Add to your party, or “mob” and you can take on even bigger jobs and puchase more powerful items. It all sounds very complex and involved, but in reality, you have a set number of moves you can do per visit.
You are limited to your actions based on your Energy, one of the three main components your actions are based upon. The other two are Health (hit points) and Stamina (how many times you can fight). Each time you gain a level of experience, you are awarded 5 points to distribute among these areas as well as two others, Attack and Defense. But, back to Energy. You may log in to play Mafia Wars, but how long you play in any particular session will usually depend on how much experience you have and what jobs you are doing to consume that energy. If you have 100 Energy, and each job costs 25 energy to perform, then you are only going to play for 4 turns. A turn, mind you, consists of simply clicking a single button. There is no action to this particular game. It’s text-based. You read it, click a button and it displays the results of your actions.
Maybe I’m not doing this game justice, but it really can become addicting. The Mafia Wars game itself has seen two expansions. One taking you to Cuba and the latest to Moscow, Russia. Each has its own currency and jobs you must perform to expand your influence and outfit. But this isn’t the only type of game. If you aren’t into mobsters, you can be a hero, a dragon slayer, a race car driver, a band member looking for the perfect gig … the imagination is endless in these games! You have to try it for yourself to really “get” it. But you should at least try it once.
This may not be the next generation of gaming, but it does give the casual player a bit more of a feeling of being a “gamer” and gets them involved in a large community of players that more hardcore people are already experiencing. And, it also lets hardcore gamers step away from their shooters, action rpgs and hack n’ slash adventures to relax in a simpler world that doesn’t require as much button pushing and foul language.
It’s just fun. And, really, isn’t that what gaming is all about?