When I first saw FarmVille on Facebook, I immediately shunned it. At one moment in time, it felt like all of my female Facebook friends were doing it, so therefore I wanted to have nothing to do with it. I took the saying “If all your friends are doing it, would you?” to heart. I am a skeptic of the unanimously popular.
I freely admit that as a grown up, this now makes me a jerk. What can I do though? It’s my initial gut reaction. Also, inside my head, there’s a 15 year old male gamer, scoffing at the farm game, and probably questioning my sexuality. Real gamers don’t play FarmVille, right? Even if you’re playing for an hour a day, every day, you could never EVER be a “gamer” because you played Farmville. Those are the facts of gaming life, I am pretty sure.
A couple days ago, I happened to read “Nice Guys, Stressed Ladies, And The Curious Ways They Play Video Games” by Leigh Alexander, and it made me want to play Farmville. It was this quote, in particular:
“It just feels really good to know that I’m on top of things,” she tells me, chewing on her straw a little nervously as she explains why she’s so into FarmVille. “I like to know my farm is in good shape and, like, everyone can see it.”
The article goes on to mention how games are used as escapism, or control, or a coping mechanism, or some other psychological reason proving we are still so tortured despite our tremendous technology…. (except, I added the weird philosophical wane on technology at the end). What I am trying to say is, I too, want to feel like I have my shit together….and with FarmVille, I can knock out being social, AND get that the fake accomplishment/satisfaction feeling from having an orderly farm. And everyone seeing that I have an orderly farm. I have healthy cows. My chickens lay nice eggs. My crops are fertile. I have accomplished something very important today.
… But then I pull up the FarmVille website, and I am instantly terrified. I can’t click on anything in the page. This is a game…? It doesn’t look like a game. The website tells me nothing… Except… if I want more information, I must sign into Facebook.
Here is the other part of the dilemma: I can’t sign into Facebook, because then everyone will know that I am now playing FarmVille. I am a proud member of the ”I dont care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia!!!” Facebook group. Or, at least that is what I tell myself, the “myself” that has been influenced by gaming males…. But enough about males: either way, can I go back on my digital word? Do I need to create a fake Facebook account so I can play FarmVille? Why do I even care that much about FarmVille to consider making a fake account!? (Why, FarmVille, why have you eaten at my psyche like so?)
As if on cue, last evening I stumbled upon this NPR story on older female players and “Bejeweled” (…which also happened to mention FarmVille):
“What you find is a lot of women who are both working and raising children just have no time for relationships,” says Misiek Piskorski, who teaches about online social networking at the Harvard Business School. “But it’s not like they wouldn’t want to spend more time having these relationships. It’s just really, really hard. And this allows them to basically sustain these relationships.” Piskorski says the games aren’t taking away from face-to-face interactions. They’re just replacing time these women would’ve spent watching TV or some other media. And for busy King, that’s good enough.
I played Bejeweled (and Mah Jong tiles, JT’s Blocks, Text Twist and many many others) during my free periods all through high school, so I am all Bejeweled out at this point in my life. But NPR, mentioning FarmVille when I am already wrestling with my decision of the game? Are you listening to my thoughts, NPR?
I do like that these social networking games are the new way of “doing lunch”, or “grabbing some coffee”, but should I replace actual face time with digital time? I can reach more of my friends by interacting with them digitally, but do I lose something when sacrificing actual face to face interaction? Is this a trade-off I want to make? As I age, I wonder if I really need to keep up this “gamer cred”. What is the point in impressing the “young male gamers” in my head when I am in my mid-20′s? If I play a game to relax and unwind, does it matter what kind of game it is?
My boyfriend jokes that he will break up with me if I got addicted to FarmVille, so I guess gamer cred still lives on at my age… Maybe I should stick to Team Fortress 2 as my “coping mechanism“…..