It started out innocently enough. An old high school friend of mine recounted to me the joy she got out of building her very own farm on Farmville. I wasn't convinced, but figured I would give it a try. I click the link on Facebook and pressed the little blue Allow button to install the application on my page. I started setting up shop, or farm, as the case may be, right away. They strategically allow you to burn through the first few levels of the game rather quickly.
Plus they tease you with what you will be able to unlock if you keep playing. I planted some strawberries, but forgot to come back and harvest them in time, and they withered on the vine. This was my first hint that something sinister was happening. See, they keep you coming back because no one wants to lose money, real or virtual, money is money and no one wants to lose it.
I didn't listen to that little voice inside my head that said I was being hoodwinked. Instead, I vowed to remember to come back and harvest those suckers next times so I didn't lose my shirt in this venture. Soon the gifts and neighbor requests started rolling in. I accepted them all of course. Who doesn't want a lot of neighbors? Who doesn't want a gift? It didn't matter that I had no idea what to do with my plank of wood or my harness; it was a gift and I wanted it. Of course, when you receive a gift, the neighborly thing to do is send one back, right? Thus begins the never ending cycle of receiving/giving/receiving gifts that I probably had no use for, but I didn't want to appear stingy or like I didn't like my neighbors, so I had to press the Send a Gift Back to Neighbor button. Etiquette demanded it.
Once I got the farm well under way, I needed to branch out right? Maybe I should try Yoville, and Petville and Treasure Island and Cafe World? Pretty soon there were new games popping up. Since I had already set up all of these homes and farms and stuff, I probably needed to a new challenge. Tackling the wild frontier on Frontierville seemed the next logical step to me, so I went to breaking ground on my own piece of what made America what it is today. I was a Sod Buster, hear me roar!
It was exhilarating to watch the money pile up. I rejoiced at each new level achieved on each game. Of course I had to remember what I planted, cooked, fed or buried on each game and at what time, so I could come back and tend to my work. I found myself thinking - No, I can't plant those raspberries, because they will ripen right in the middle of school pickup time. I had better go for the squash instead. And there were those obligatory visits to neighbors too. That helps you move up the level-ladder quicker. Plus if someone takes the time to visit my farm/island/cafe/home to tend to my business, the least I can do is return the favor.
Then there are those items, usually the good ones, I couldn't purchase unless I had Zynga bucks. I swore to myself I would never, ever spend actual money to play these free games. But, I started to envy my neighbors because some of them has some of these premium items and I thought they would look really nice at my place too. So, I took some surveys and got my hands on some of those covets bucks. They don't go very far though, and the offers are few and far between. To my ultimate shame, I broke down and bought some Zynga Bucks. I thought I would have such fun shopping for things I had never had access to before, but I found myself feeling less that spectacular about the whole thing. I guess the bloom was wearing off the rose.
So, I quit visiting most of my games. I let my farm land lay fallow. I allowed weeds and wildflowers to overtake portions of my piece of wilderness. I no longer cooked or dug for buried treasure. I hung on only to my most favorite games, Yoville and Petville. They were low maintenance, and I loved decorating, so they would satisfy me. The only problem was not as many of my friends play these two games. I had to resign myself to less chances at free gifts and bonuses posted on my Facebook wall. *sigh*.
The other games are still taking up some of my time though because I can't bring myself to actually block the applications, so I still continue to receive gifts and gift requests from friends who play the games I have now abandoned. I have to take the time to Ignore each and every gift/request, which doesn't sound all that time consuming, but it takes longer than you would think. Plus, I feel so guilty when I don't send a friend something he/she wants for their place. I know it is only virtual, but declining a request from a friend is still hard for me, so I let them pile up and before you know it, I have hundreds of gifts/requests to ignore. I have to remove them at some point or risk missing a gift or request from Yoville or Petville that I really want.
I have to give props to Zynga they know how to hook you and they know how to keep you coming back. What drives us as humans, at least in part, are the very things they use to their advantage. Greed, competition and guilt. We are ambitious by nature, we want to conquer new frontiers and we sure as heck don't want to be shown up by our neighbors. And we want to at least give a pretense of giving back to those neighbors we are desperately trying to one up. Oh yes, they know exactly what they are doing.
Maybe soon I will get to the point where I can just block them all, but I think of all the hours I spent tending those crops, pulling weeds and harvesting things and I shudder at the waste, of time and virtual money, of just letting it all go. . .
Oh, excuse me, I have stop this post now. I must go feed my pet. No, not my real live dogs, Delphine, my virtual dog. Duh.