UnCasual: A Different Take on Facebook Gaming
Posted by Jordan
I feel dirty. My name is Jordan, and I play Facebook games.
This all started around five months ago. Up until that point, I had been a fairly normal 20-something gamer, spending most of my time on the Xbox 360. Then, in August 2012, I took on a job as night security in a very quiet building. With little to do besides my rounds every other hour, I began to spend increasingly large amounts of time on the Internet. Facebook quickly becomes boring around 3am in the morning. I found myself refreshing my feed constantly. And then, one night, I found an invite to SimCity Social from my wife. ‘What the hell,’ I thought to myself. ‘It’s only one game, what could it hurt?’
Soon I was immersed. Grinn’s Tale followed SimCity Social. Next came Zuma Blitz, and then CityVille 2, FarmVille 2, and CoasterVille. I had sold my soul to Zynga for a little ‘entertainment’, which felt closer to addiction with every passing hour.
Rather than suffer alone, I have decided to share my pain with you, dear reader. The pain of spoiled crops and puking coaster enthusiasts, of missed shots and unfinished buildings (only for the want of one more business card!), the pain of false loneliness brought on by a lack of FarmVille friends (want to add me? Please? Just 2 more baby bottles for my lamb…).
Come with me, if you will, deep into the abyss that is Social Facebook Gaming. Hopefully I will help you navigate this bizarre corner of the gaming world by playing those games everyone is embarrassed to admit that they play. Along the way I’ll point out some games doing Social Gaming right, and laugh at ones doing it wrong.
I’m going to start this semi-regular column with a game actually doing things right (mostly): CoasterVille.
CoasterVille is relatively new on the gaming scene, having been churned out of Zynga only a couple short months ago. It is played in the pseudo-3D aspect of SimCity 2000 of yore, and bears a little resemblance to Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Of course, both of those (10+ years old) games are vastly superior to CosterVille, but that’s not really the point. The point is that this game is slightly better than the majority of the drivel that exists below that blue banner of Facebook.
There are a couple of things that CoasterVille does right. Well, maybe only one thing. It allows you to ADD PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FACEBOOK FRIENDS. Read that again. Slowly. My heart skipped a beat when I found this out. Yes, my CoasterVille friends list contains a couple actual friends (actually only one… my wife, because she has to, or else I quit FarmVille 2, and then who will feed her cows? No one, that’s who), but it also contains around 30 randomly suggested ‘friends’ from around the world. I have never talked to any of these people, nor do I intend to. But I will happily accept cowboy costumes from them.
Funnily enough, the game allows me to request cowboy costumes from strangers who happen to play the same game, but indian princess costumes need to be requested on my wall, for all my real friends to see. Yes, I have done this. Yes, it fills me with shame. No, not enough shame to stop playing.
Because of the faux-friends that I am allowed to add, CoasterVille feels like much less busywork than other games. My park expanded quickly, and unlike some other games (coughCityVille2cough), is not littered with half-finished buildings. Of course, even though this is ‘better’ than some other games, it is still not all that great. For example, I have no real control over my park. Sure, I can lay down paths and place rides, but when compared against Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, a game that, again, is over ten years old, all control I have is really illusionary.
I need random bits and bobs to complete anything in my park, and even when complete, my guests don’t really care whether I built a ladybug merry-go-round or a badass dragon coaster. It’s all the same to the little nameless dudes wandering around. I get little enjoyment from any of it, really, and only play to expand to the next plot of land and build more useless rides for even more imaginary bits of straw and jewels supplied by even more faux-friends.
This makes me wonder: Why do we bother with these games at all? How do these make money, and why don’t developers offer some more dynamic and involved game mechanics? I mean, I understand having some casual games, but there seems to be a total lack of Facebook games that have any meat to them at all, any strategy. The Free-to-play model feels very broken and empty to me. Despite this, I will continue on, fair reader, attempting to find at least ONE game out there in Facebookland which I can recommend without hesitation. Next week: ‘please water my wheat!’ – Adventures in Facebook Farming and Citybuilding.
Jordan Shaw is a photographer, gamer, writer, and adventurer based out of Vancouver, BC. Add him on Facebook if you want to be continually spammed with requests for Indian Princess Outfits.