Haters Keep On Hating (Women's Games)

Haters Keep On Hating (Women's Games)

An article criticizing Farmville got some buzz over the holiday weekend.  SUNY Buffalo professor A.J. Patrick Liszkewicz makes the bald - and completely unfounded - accusation that "Farmville is not a good game." 

He elaborates on this by explaining how Farmville works and then offering the analysis that "This doesn't sound like much fun […] Why would anyone do this?"

It's okay to say "I don't like Farmville" or "I don't understand why anyone would play Farmville."  But just saying that it is "not a good game" washes all his credibility down the drain.  If 26 million people are actively playing a particular game every day, out of an overall user base of 76 million (7 times the number of World of Warcraft players) it is by definition a good game.  

Just because you or I don't like it, that doesn't mean it's not a good game.  

Farmville suffers from the same problem as the Sims franchise.  Because most of its players are female, it is dismissed in both the mainstream press and by "gamer culture."  The criticisms leveled against both Farmville and the Sims games are the same ones that get leveled against other female-centric forms of entertainment, from "Sex in the City" to toenail painting.

Many people profess confusion at the appeal of casual games.  Personally I like to define a casual game as "one where you don't have to kill people."  If you look at the overall gaming market, it's mostly about killing people.  From World of Warcraft to Assassin's Creed, it's all about guns and strategy and splatter effects.

But what - okay, let's step back and take a deep breath here - what if you want to play a game, but you don't want to kill people?  You're left with Portal, the various Mario games, and casual games like Farmville and Peggle.

One benefit to most casual games is that they are played in a browser.  Which is to say, you can play them at work.  I dare say if Warcraft invented a version that you could easily play on the sly at the office, the Warcraft user numbers would increase dramatically.

It shouldn't be any surprise, then, that Farmville is so huge.  You don't have to kill stuff, and you can play it at work.  And since you play it from Facebook, it's being offered in a format (the Facebook site) which is familiar to the audience.  You don't even have to visit another website and try to figure out where to log in, it's all right there.

The only real surprise is that people continue to criticize Farmville without having taken the time to play it, or to think about what people might like about it.  

Liszkiewicz then goes on to explain at length about how Farmville's main appeal is in the social obligation aspect.  All this tells me is that he has no idea how MMORPGs work, because that's pretty much the deal. Social obligation is something that Everquest may not have invented, but it certainly perfected.  It's also 95% of the reason any given player logs into Warcraft at any given time.

Won't someone please save us from uninformed, snotty pontificating masquerading as journalism or social commentary?

Photo credit: Flickr/sabrina.dent