Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Eighty-Fifth One: Facebook Addiction Chronicles, Entry Three: Farmville

Introductory Note: Back in the day, I made two posts about Facebook in general, ranting about how obsessive and addictive things can get. For some reason, people enjoyed these posts and I still occasionally get requests to revisit this subject in more detail.

Because I always strive to satisfy my three fans, aided by the fact that I’m sitting here trying to compose my nightly post and nothing is coming to mind, I’ve had the sudden inspiration to do a series of posts, each of them focusing on a particular application or function in Facebook. This is a risky move, because it could be really fun or it could prove incredibly boring, with hate mail cluttering my inbox and nasty commentary placed on my wall.

So we’ll just see how it goes. With that said, let’s proceed with the first attempt, wherein I spill all about my personal experiences in the land of Facebook…

Application: Farmville

Basics of the Game: You have a farm. You plow, plant and harvest to make money. Rinse and repeat.

Current Level: 34

Current Cash on Hand: $1,620,410

Current Number of Neighbors: 70

Number of Gifts in My Inbox When I Signed in: 37

Message displayed when I started the game just now: “Wanlin Hung fed your chickens!”

(Seriously, when would you ever hear that in real life?)

Now, there are a number of farming applications out there. This one happens to be my favorite, simply because there are more optional things to do when you get bored with the damn farming. You can raise critters, who lovingly proffer up things for you to collect every couple of days (chickens = eggs, cows = milk, pigs = truffles, etc). You can pick fruit from the trees and plant flowers.

You can visit your neighbor’s farms, where you can fertilize their crops, feed their animals, and assist them with chasing off evil crows that swoop in from time to time. You can add buildings and accessories to customize your farm.

It’s all very cute and sweet. At first.

Then things start to get on your nerves.

Let’s start with the farming. At the beginning of the game, you really don’t have any money and only a relatively tiny parcel of land. You can only plant three or four squares of some cheap crop like beans, and then you’re done until they grow and can be harvested. You have to increase your funds substantially until you can buy bigger chunks of land and can afford the more exciting seeds like Green Tea or Sugar Cane.

The first few weeks you only spend about three minutes a day farming until you’re out of money. You don’t yet realize the excruciating burden that comes with actually having enough land to plant hundreds of crops. You’re still in the “cute” phase, but it’s cute enough that your personal seed of greed has been planted. You WANT that bigger property so you can grow more and earn more and buy more.

As the money finally starts to roll in, you purchase the first of many property expansions that allow you to plant more stuff. Wow. More room! Trouble is, more room actually means “more work”. Clicking on all those little squares to plow them, then clicking on those same little squares again to plant the seed, then coming back later after an appropriate period of hours or days (depends on what you plant) to click on those same squares AGAIN to actually harvest starts to become a little taxing.

But you can’t stop now. You have to keep plowing and planting and harvesting, because you want to make more money to buy bigger and more impressive things. Couple that with the fact that you can get prizes and bonus points for harvesting ungodly amounts of crops, and before you know it you are spending hours at a time clicking on those same freakin squares. Over and over.

My farm currently has 252 squares where I can do my little farming tasks. This means that for every plow/plant/harvest cycle, I’m clicking 756 times. This is madness. What does it say about my mental state that I would sit in front of a monitor and click a mouse 756 times? I don’t even want to do something that feels GOOD 756 times. Yet there I sit, clicking.

Oh, but the developers pretend to be your friend about this. Why, if you just make enough money to purchase these cute little plowing, seeding and harvesting machines (and they are NOT cheap), you can greatly increase your productivity. Each click clears FOUR squares instead of just one. Oh my God! It’s a miracle!

Trouble is, you must have GAS to run these fancy farming machines. Each day in the game, you are only allotted a small amount of gasoline, nowhere near enough to run all three machines as long as you need them. In my case, that free gas only runs the plowing vehicle long enough to care for two-thirds of my squares. I still have to manually finish the rest of the plowing, and all of the planting and harvesting.

But wait, say the developers, there’s more! You can buy additional cans of gas using Farmville Bucks. Of course, the only way you can get those Farmville Bucks is to pay “real-life” money. Which means it would now be costing you actual income in order to play the game that way. But won’t it be fun and exciting to have all the gas you need?

No. It would not, Mr. Developer. Can you see what this finger is doing?

So I only use the free gas, and then start clicking away on the rest of the crap, over and over, sometimes nodding off and waking to discover that an unsupervised click managed to sell half of my livestock. Oops. Sorry guys.

And get this, my amount of clicking is nothing compared to some of these other players. Granted, I have the biggest amount of land that you can currently purchase, but I don’t even use half of it for farming. The rest is devoted to the animals, the trees, and all the pointless but interesting things you can buy in the market, like houses and fencing and gazing balls.

Some of my peeps have their entire big-ass farm covered in crops, with maybe a little shed shoved in one corner, all alone. These people must be clicking 2,000 times a day. That’s just WRONG.

But they want to get to the top level in the game, and I understand that, so more power to them. But don’t expect me to have all that much sympathy when your arm rots off. I’m addicted as well, but I fully realize that you have got to get up from the PC every once in a while and at least change your underwear.

But while we’re sort of on the subject, let’s talk about those damn animals.

Most people get their animals as “gifts” from other friends. If you have a lot of friends, chances are that your farm will soon be overrun with thousands of creatures. You start running out of room, and you have to cram them into piles, shoving them all together in conditions that would have the ASPCA up your ass in the real world.

Now, as mentioned, you DO make money from these animals. Every so often, they get a little pink symbol above them to indicate that they are ripe and ready with something you can sell. (Side note: Back in the day, they didn’t have the pink symbol thing with this app. You had to personally check each animal to determine cash flow opportunities. You newbies have no idea how savagely cruel this game was in the beginning.)

So, there IS some incentive to keep the animals around. But when you have thousands of animals, meaning every single space on your farm is occupied and you can’t even squeeze in a thimble, you get a little crazy.

Several months ago, an immoral situation took place on my farm. I’m not proud of what happened, but I had reached a breaking point. My farm was a sea of goats and ducks and rabbits and elephants. I couldn’t take it anymore. I mentally snapped.

I started selling off the animals.

To minimize the damage to my karma, I did keep 4 of each animal. Which sort of sounds like Noah’s Ark, and therefore I can pretend to put a biblical spin on it, but really, I was basically sending most of my livestock to the glue factory. I was an evil man, indeed.

At least things looked nice and pretty when I was done. Four of each animal lovingly placed in their own little pens, spaced far enough apart so that I wouldn’t be making any animal rights violations. The farm was peaceful, except for the tiny little fact that I had just killed most of their friends and loved ones.

So what happened then?

Two days later the FarmVille developers decided to introduce “barns” where you can store up to 20 cows in one building, in a much smaller space, thereby freeing up the crowded farms.

This was the day that my appreciation with the developers upgraded from slight irritation to outright hatred. You couldn’t WARN me that this was coming so I could hang on to all my animals? You forced me into acts of carnage? I’m sure that Clarice can still hear the lambs screaming.

At least my farm now looked cute instead of a furry version of Grand Central Station when the trains are all late. Then a few days later the developers introduced the “chicken coop”, where you could store 20 chickens in a tiny place. Now I was in limbo. I didn’t dare sell any more animals, because who knew what communal housing was coming next?

And what DID come next? Nothing. No more group homes. But still, I’m leery of decimating any more of the animal population for fear that it would be a pointless slaughter. And once again, I have animals crammed in every corner of my property, patiently waiting for more group homes. Hate those developers.

Speaking of hatred, lets talk about this whole “gifting” process in FarmVille. The concept on its own is kind of neat. Your friends send you things you can use on your farm to make money, and you send things back to them, with everybody climbing up the financial ladder.

But complications quickly arise, because FarmVille, on its little “Send a gift to a friend” page, offers up a lot of useless crap that nobody wants. And yet my supposed friends will send me some of this crap as if it’s a gift from God. It’s not. Let me repeat. Don’t send me something that will not make me money.

Yes, some of the non-revenue items are cute, and look pleasant when placed on your farm. But none of these things are cute enough that I need 20 of them. Did you NOT go to my farm before you sent this gift? If you can see that I already have 15 Elf Gnomes, and I have them shoved in a corner behind the potting shed, which clearly indicates that I’m over the Gnomes, why would you send me another one? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

And the trees. Quit sending me trees. I don’t want them. Yes, a couple of the higher-end trees produce fruit that is actually worth something, and I can make a few bucks. But really, the majority of the trees are useless. I am not going to click on something just to harvest the damn thing and make 12 coins. I’d much rather click on a watermelon plot and make 348 coins. Do you see what I’m saying here? I. Don’t. Want. The. Trees. I don’t care if I never earn the Merit Badge for harvesting 5,000 trees. It’s not in my life plan.

And finally, we have this whole concept of the FarmVille developers doing everything they can to make us want to invite more and more friends to the whole FarmVille experience.

I don’t want any more friends. I already have 70 Farmville friends. And as you keep reminding me, I have an additional 100 Facebook friends that are playing the game yet I haven’t invited them to be my “neighbor”. There’s a reason why I haven’t done that, you morons. I already get 50 useless Farmville gifts in my inbox every day. Why in the world would I set myself up to receive even more? I DON’T HAVE ANY ROOM ON MY FARM. Where am I going to put another gnome?

Thank you for caring about my neighborhood status. But shut the hell up and let me click in peace. I don’t get in your face and remind you that you have 74 friends that haven’t started following my blog, do I? Have some respect. If you can get off your ass and send me some followers, I just might be inclined to buy some of your overpriced gasoline. But probably not. Because you made me kill all those animals for no reason.

And for that unforgivable sin, you will have to answer to a higher power. And based on the current world economy, that higher power is most likely Bill Gates, in some way or another. He probably knows exactly how many times I’ve clicked in the last 24 hours.

And I’ve clicked a LOT.

But I’m not ashamed. I’m a little tired, and I’ve lost the ability to read the fine print on anything, but it’s all good. I’ll get this bitch of a farm to the top level at some point, no matter how many roadblocks you throw in my way or how many friends I have.

I will triumph.

But seriously, people, don’t send me any more trees or gnomes. I will cut you.

With love, Brian.


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