My great hate of Facebook gaming

Back when Facebook was newer and less cluttered by a gazillion clueless numpties, it was both fun and useful. You could keep up with your friends. There were some neat applications, and few fun games to play with people. Scrabble was a particular winner for me.

What the hell happened?

I could see the shape of things to come when my father joined facebook. He had Burmese friends and was very interested in campaigning for human rights in Burma. So before too long I started to get the invites. Join the  “March for freedom” group. Join the “Aung Sun Suu Kyi” support group. Join the “random group about Burma” group. It was cool, somewhat spammy but I could get behind what they wanted to do, and I do agree with it, so I joined. The groups didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them. I went on a couple of marches.

After that, things spiralled out of control. The friend invitations spiralled in and like a fool I agreed to facebook-friend the guys I actually did know, however vaguely. What happened then? They started to send me quizzes and random virtual junk and invitations to groups that anyone with half a brain would have realised I had zero interest in. (Clue-by-four: I do not care about your favourite football club, I do not care about some random TV programme that I’ve never heard of, I do not care about the group you started just because it had a comedy name.)

It was after the guy I only vaguely knew sent me the (virtual) furry handcuffs that I stopped using facebook.

What is it about facebook that turns normal people into crazed spammers?

  • I suspect that it is far too easy to select ‘send to all’ and spam your entire friends list.
  • Too many of the games and quizzes encourage you to send their junk to your entire friends list.
  • You are rewarded in facebook games for the size of your friends list and the number of them who respond to the virtual junk.
  • When starting a new facebook group, you are also rewarded for the size of the group — it is displayed prominently.
  • There’s no record of who didn’t show interest in the last round of spammage. If facebook sorted out its ‘send’ list firstly into the set of people who habitually replied or responded to the game spam and let you ‘send to all facebook gaming friends’ then the non-interested people might stop being bothered by it.

So Facebook really does reward people for spamming, and doesn’t offer any sophisticated methods for only spamming the people who want to be spammed. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a social gamer these days? It’s a shame, Scrabble was cool.

Many of the social games also offer RMT options for players. They make a lot of money. So getting people to spam their friends with invites (and virtual junk) is clearly a winning scheme.

The Farmville Problem

Farmville is a facebook game where you run a farm. You send virtual farm animals and stuff to your friends who also play and they respond in kind. You are rewarded for how many friends become your virtual Farmville neighbours. Further down the line, there are RMT options to buy things for your virtual farm.

This one came to my attention when I was out drinking with a friend last week. He lives in Argentina. He commented, with surprising verve, that he detested Farmville. It isn’t because he’s a player, it’s because his wife is addicted to the game and Farmville also requires you to water or tend your crops regularly to stop them dying. His wife was arranging her entire schedule around making sure she could log into Facebook when her plants needed to be watered, and giving him absolute hell if for any reason she missed one of the session. (In an amusing ironic way, she also owns an actual real farm.) Now steady on, I thought, this is just a social Facebook game, right?

Wrong. These games make more money than most MMOs. They have millions of players. And some of those players are being jerked around by utterly irresponsible design decisions like this.

Who thought it would be a good idea to force players to log on at regular set periods. Isn’t that the opposite of casual? And of course, if you go for the RMT option, you can buy virtual farm machines which will mechanise the crop tending so you can escape that horrid mechanic.

If this happened in an MMO we would all be screaming bloody murder.

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21 thoughts on “My great hate of Facebook gaming

  1. You can turn off notifications from most facebook apps, I think, if you don’t want to see them. I’ve done it with almost all, just have to update when a new one takes hold. Played Farmville to rescue a lost black sheep. It lasted a week till I couldn’t care less and let everything die.

  2. Sounds absolutely horrible. I’m ever so glad that I don’t have a Facebook account. I’ll stay away from that crap. But mind you, don’t we see resembling mechanisms in Wow, for the holiday achievements? some of those are driving me nuts, since I really can’t play every single day and you need to do that if you’re unlucky with the RNGs.

    • You could always just not do those ones ;) (But actually, this was the core of my dislike for the whole holiday achievement protodrake thing – I just don’t like games that make me feel as though I must log on when they want me to.)

  3. I rarely do anything on Facebook these days and when I do, I NEVER send anything on to any of my friends, I always click the skip bit, after all, why would they really care that I took this quiz or that quiz? I sure don’t when I get notifications from them… Also, you hit upon the head about why some people have problems with things like WoW. Although it doesn’t ever force you to log in, people (myself included historically) have arranged their entire schedules around WoW and playing. Rather than making intelligent decisions about what should actually be a priority and using the downtime to play, people get suckered in to making it the most important thing they can do. Sometimes it is hard to make that realisation but mastering yourself in this regard is quite liberating.

  4. I have a Facebook account because it was an up-and-coming gaming platform a few years ago. It had a few small success stories, where some silly little game used the API and got fifty bajillion players by references. People got dollar signs in their eyes and figured out if they could get people to pay a bit, they’d get rich. Well, they were right, but then people got sick of being spammed. Even as bad as it is today, it was worse just a little while ago.

    The problem is that some games have made a lot of money from it. Farmville in particular brags about having a whole ton of people playing the game (11 million people per day) and spending money. But, you’re right, they’re ignoring the lessons we’ve learned over the years with MMOs. People are still in “gold rush” mode trying to get as much money as possible out of people. Facebook just makes it easier for people to spam their friends, thus getting a few more people to play.

    It’s just like email spam: the reason it’s there is because it works. Even if you’re sick to death of a thousand invites on a regular basis, enough people are excited to try out this “brand new game!” to make it all worth it.

    Or, to use WoW-style logic: “11 million people play the game, so it must be awesome!”

  5. Yes, yes and yes!!!! I have to comment on this. I completely agree.
    I have a Facebook account and it has all totally spiralled out of control. People are throwing plants at me, and sending me llamas constantly. I have endless threads made by perfect strangers commenting on posts from people I hardly know. I’ve been told I can switch things off but I don’t know how. I ignore it now and just hope somehow it will all go away if I pretend it is not there.

  6. Facebook: Fine for keeping in touch with friends you dont see very much; awful for people wanting to be your friend even though you have never met, and of course all the drama that often ensues when people start telling tales about each other or not keeping personal stuff off the screen.

    Farmville sounds painful. The best farming game has to be Harvest Moon; tell her to buy a DS instead!

  7. Like arbitrary, I ignore all new spam as it appears. Facebook has gotten pretty good about allowing you to hide the different apps once, and then never be bothered by them again. It *IS* amazing how often new junk appears, mind you.

    On that note, I’ve shared this blog post on Facebook. =P

  8. Have managed to keep my friends list trimmed down to mostly people I know RL/long term in games though there’s a few very tenuous ones.

    My wife has a Restaurant City addiction which I’ve caught a case of – thankfully it just stops you progressing any further if you don’t login rather than penalising you.

    You can turn off notifications by app or by person (so if you have particular people that spam all the apps you can block them, or if one person is posting usually useful stuff you can just block that one app that keeps spamming you.

  9. I keep my list of ICQ contacts short, and I hate the constant bombardement of friends of friends of friends of friends who want to befriend me just to have me in their silly list.

    It is about as dumb as the many Twitter auto-followers and bots and all that. Hm… I guess I should again do a major purge of my followers.

  10. Random “friends” spamming you with real life nonsense about their TV shows? Random “friends” inviting you to their groups? Loot cards… oh wait, RMT?

    Are you a psychic and looked into the future of WoW?

    BTW I don’t have facebook, I don’t have twitter and I guess my WoW playing will last until they introduce the Steam-like “get annoyed by people who are not even playing” chat (unless someone comes up with an addon that automatically blocks every non-player chat)

  11. Hmm, I haven’t tried Facebook but I do play Eve where they are introducing a social network soon.

    I wonder how (if) CCP intend to stop Farmville clones on their in-game app.

  12. How Facebook can ruin friendships

    The 12 most annoying facebookers

    I’m in total agreement with the farmville and farmtown and yoville apps being extremely non-casual. They start casual at 1st, but once you actually build something up, then the time needed to care and tend it all is rather large, and as noted, it requires you to be logged in at a certain time to boot.

    There is 1 casual farm one where you don’t have to rely on other people and your farm can’t get very big, so it takes maybe a minute or 2 every so often to check on it. No “dying” if you can’t water or harvest in time either. I still hit that one up every few days, but that’s it. Other than that, it’s just a matter of catching up with friends. I’ve got too many other things going on to waste my time all day on FB.

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  14. I will admit to planting crops that I know will finish growing in time for my next log in, eg don’t plant strawberrys before going to bed.

    I deleted soriety life for its similar annoying like behaviour but farmville.. is um.. but I grow things!

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  16. First.

    THANK YOU.

    I always wondered why all the annoying power point attachment e-mail SPAM ended up. I falsely assumed the world grep up… stupid me…

    So, thanks for keeping e-mail clean by using Facebook. :-)

    > If this happened in an MMO we would all be
    > screaming bloody murder.

    No, we wouldn’t. We shut up and do the fucking stupid dailies.

    I hate dailies. It forces you to do something on a daily basis or you fall behind and you can never ever catch up.

    Plus, the holiday event. I plan around these events to get the drake.

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