Zynga and Maxis are from very different computer gamer times. Maxis came at a time when the game was the source of entertainment. You would build a farm, worry about pests and locusts, about fertilizing the fields and having enough income to build the next series of crop. Zynga on the other hand is a game that teaches you to behave like a machine rather than a human, where repetitive actions are the standard.
Simfarm, among other games was one of those games that you could play for weeks at a time. You would select a difficulty level and according to that difficulty level you would need to use knowledge you acquired through experience. If you put cows next to fields without a fence they would walk through and eat the crop. If you didn’t save enough money then if a crop failed your farm was toast.
With Zynga you can put pigs with crops, animals in barns and more. There is no intellectual aspect to this game unless you’re a garden designer. You plant the fields, you wait a while and then you harvest. This is great if life doesn’t get in the way. How many of you know what you will be doing in two hours, 8 hours or sixteen hours? i kind of do, but my life will not center around such a simple game.
What I liked about simfarm is that it was not mechanical. There was an aspect of game strategy. By obeying certain principles you could progress quite nicely in the game. Zynga has two ways for progression. The first is patience and the second is money. If you pay money then you can have everything immediately. If you spam your friends and they participate then you are rewarded. Do you really want to have to spam your friends to progress in a game? I don’t.
I don’t like this trend, that you encourage people to spend money for a mechanical rather than intellectual game and I think that game makers should take this into consideration. If Civilization V came to facebook then I would play it. I would pay an upfront payment and expect to have the full game.
And this reminds me of a recent documentary on the BBC called Coast. Do you, as a gamer, as a facebook user want games that are teaching you a different form of managment where right decisions bring profit or do you want penny arcade style games that require that mechanical put the coin in the slot type response?
I would like to leave you with an interesting TED talk to help you think about this topic. I watched it a week ago but it’s relevant to the question of time spent gaming and what we should expect to get out of it.