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Fluff Gaming: dumbing down of gaming begineths

September 24, 2010

Fluff gaming is a term I use to describe games you play casually, but keeps track of your progress and so over time your investment in the game becomes substantial. I’m talking about third party games for social networking sites like myspace or facebook.

Some of the popular games include:

  • Mafia Wars
  • Vampire Bloodlines
  • Farmville

There are also pure browser based games like Travian or Kingdom of Loathing (one of my favourites).

Now, there is a fundamental flaw to all of these so called “games” where it forces you to play it. This is an abysmal trend and a major flaw in these games. When I say force, I’m not using the term lightly. These games literally require you to login daily and spend your allowance of moves or bank your money or whatever. If you don’t log in, your points will max out and stop coming in. There is little to no room for saving up your moves.

Travian was the worst culprit, requiring you to literally sit at your computer queuing army builds or responding to attacks. If you didn’t log in once every 8 hours, your account would get smashed by all the other players who are actually advised that you haven’t been active in a while. You literally become a farm that everyone ravages.

I used to play Mafia Wars everyday and I invested a huge amount of time into building up a reputable gangster. Yet, once I went on holidays and away from my computer, I realised it was asking me for too much time and with very little pay-off. It becomes like heroin and you don’t even realise it. You get your daily fix and move on to the next day.

So why do it? I’m curious as to why programmers would actually try to chain their users to their game? Once they play it long enough, they’ll realise how bad the game actually is when compared to the time investment and leave. People have a life outside of gaming (well most people), and being forced to sit in front of a computer screen is not something anyone will respond favourably towards.

A recent article shed some light on why. The games are designed as games, they are purely developed as revenue streams. They aren’t made for innovation, entertainment or substance, but simply addictiveness in order to sell subscriptions. It seems strange that you can buy a video-game for a console that’s cheaper and worth more entertainment wise, yet these social market games are raking it in just because of the mass audiences they draw.

I recently read an article about farmvillians and their insidious methods of chaining users to their computers. Perhaps this is the future of gaming due to the vast revenue stream available now. Is this because the pop media phenomenon has moved the typically nerd dominated internet market into the realms of the vapid and stupid?

In a word: yes.

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