For those lucky few who have thus far managed to avoid the privacy invasive, information mongering sit that is Facebook, you're probably blissfully unaware of the existence of Farmville - one of many games by Zynga
which can be played through Facebook. If you're an active Facebook user and don't play it yourself, you've probably blocked Farmville and other Zynga games already just so you can see something else in your newsfeed other than lost animals looking for homes and crops that need fertilising.
Which is the first major problem with Farmville - it can actively annoy every single one of your Facebook friends if you choose to play it. Not just in the usual 'I'm-trying-to-talk-to-you-and-you're-too-busy-gaming' way, but in the 'stop-shoving-information-and-spam-from-your-stupid-game-in-my-face-already' kind of way. Which brings us on to the second major problem - players mostly have to do that to get anywhere in the game. This is not a single player game. To get anywhere you have to add neighbours, fertilise their crops, send them gifts and hope they'll send you gifts in return. Most of which require you to publish posts to your newsfeed or send you requests/invites telling people you have animals that need homes, etc.
However, despite it's probable annoyance for non-players, I'm actually quietly impressed by the cooperative aspect of the game. Despite not being a hugely social person myself, I like the friendly help-each-other-out attitude it can generate. I'm not a huge fan of the idea that to get the biggest farm, I have to pester most of my friends to play as well, but you can still enjoy the game for a while even with a smaller farm - or use Farmville cash to get a bigger farm instead. Farmville cash can either be bought with real money (which I wouldn't advise, it's not that good a game), or saved arduously through levelling (each new level you reach gives you 1 Farmville cash).
I first started playing a few weeks after my mother hijacked my Facebook account to add me as a neighbour so she could get a bigger farm (up until then I had been blissfully ignoring the 160+ request I had from friends playing Farmville and hundreds of other apps). After a few weeks of ignoring it, I finally starting poking around on it, and realised that actually, it's not that bad. It's not hugely time-consuming, you can plant your crops then toddle off and do other stuff for eight hours - or even four days, depending on what you plant - before coming back and spending a few minutes harvesting your plants and taking care of your animals. Obviously, if you're really bored or looking for something to do instead of work you can put more time in decorating your farm and making it pretty, but in terms of time-commitment, it's still a casual game by far. There's enough stuff to unlock to keep you interested for at least a few weeks - levelling up allows you to plant different types of crops and buy different accessories for your farm, and the 'collections' and 'ribbons' can give you some sort of goal to aim for. They also run lots of limited edition and seasonal things that can keep you playing if you want that cute green sheep that's only avaliable round St. Patrick's Day.
My second problem with Farmville is essentially: you can't pause it. You can't turn it off, come back tomorrow, and resume where you left off. Crops grow even when you're not playing. Whether you've spent the last two hours decorating your farm or in a business meeting, those strawberries need harvesting now, else they'll wither. This produces an annoying 'responsibility' aspect to the game that most other games don't suffer from. Either you end up tailoring everything in your life around Farmville, or you end up choosing crops that will be ready when you're free this evening, after a hard day's work. But you'll have to harvest them this evening, even if you realise you'd rather not touch the computer that evening, else they'll wither. Of course, you can always choose to just not plant any crops for a while, and that's fine. But what you can't do is just play it for a little bit, then turn it off and forget about it until you feel like playing again. You have to make a commitment to go back in 2, 4, 24 etc. hours to harvest crops. Ultimately, it can start to feel more like a chore than a game.
Whilst I'm not convinced it has much long-term playability, in the short-term it's simple, kinda' fun, it'll pass a few hours, and you can reduce the annoyance factor for all your friends by customising any Farmville-related post you make so that only your friends who play Farmville can see it.
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