The past few months have kept me away from Second Life, as so many of you have noticed — and from blogging in general; there is simply way too much for me to deal with on a daily basis that there has been little time left for anything else!
Well, not quite. Against my own better judgement, I’ve been using Facebook a bit more, on my three accounts. Yes, three 🙂 They have different uses and different audiences; one day, I’m sure that Zuckerberg will delete them all, and I’ll be a much happier person.
I’ve long since explained how I find Facebook one of the best game distribution platforms ever created, specially when thinking about community/socially-enhanced games. They’re free and most are addictive. Well… for a while, at least. Not being really a “gamer” type, I turned to Facebook games because they’re not really demanding. There is just a little that you can do every time anyway; all of them have a set “energy” limit, so you can just play for, say, half an hour, and then you either have to “buy” more energy (and that means a real sale; companies making those games, like Zynga, expect players to “power up” and pay for the privilege), or wait several hours to “recharge”.
For a while, this can be very fun and entertaining, because it’s a different experience from pre-Facebook games. I’ve pretty much grown up when computer games were something you bought on a tape, and you’d pay for a copy, which you could then play for as long as you wished. This model endured for decades; it’s still what most “serious” gamers would be familiar with. BBSes and later the Internet brought the “shareware” variation: download the game, play for a few hours or days, and if you like it, you just buy (online) the full version. It’s a variation of downloading a “demo” (popular in the late 1980s) and only then buying the game. Shareware games, under whatever new and fancy technology has been devised to deliver them, are still very popular.
Facebook games introduced the concept of “pay-to-cheat”. There is a twist: if you’re insanely popular and get zillions of friends to play the same game with you, as part of your “team”, you can cheat without paying. If you’re socially impaired (which in Facebook terms means that you don’t add every other person popping up on your page), you only have the option to pay to “power up” your own gaming experience.
As a novel concept, I think it’s actually very interesting. I don’t like it, but I recognise the appeal of that business model. After all, as an old-time Second Life user, doesn’t SL work in a similar way…? If you’re good at creating content, you can buy other people’s content with the money you earn. If not, you can exchange US$ for L$ and buy content as well. So it’s similar, with the difference that Facebook games don’t really require any skill, talent, or creative abilities, just the “skill” to bring over as many friends as you can.
My current problem with those games is, in my opinion, that the game designers behind them are really limited. Most games are appealing at the earlier stages; but after a while, it’s just the same old grind. More levels, more items, more things you can add, but it’s always the same mechanism, a