I have a small problem with video games, in that once I start one, I can’t stop until it is finished. For this reason, I cut myself off from buying anything other than exercise games for our Wii (because I never have a problem ending exercise). If I didn’t, instead of working or writing or keeping my world organized, you would find me 100 pounds heavier; eyes wide as saucers, surrounded by cupcake wrappers, covered in Cheetos crumbs, and happily shooting flesh-eating zombies or playing 80’s throwback games 20 hours a day.
Then, shortly after I joined Facebook, I had some downtime and noticed a game called Mafia Wars. For some reason I didn’t make the leap in my head that this was just another game. I thought I’d try it, and that would be the end of it.
One year later I had probably spent at least an hour a day, EVERY DAY, playing Mafia Wars.
You have maybe made this error in judgment yourself. Maybe you’re raising pigs on Farmville or serving up meals in CafeWorld. Maybe you can’t stop shuffling those damn jewels on Bejeweled Blitz. Maybe, like my mother, you’re like a heroin addict, shaking and scratching until your Scrabble nemesis (me) finally makes her move and you can play that Q you’ve been holding on to for four turns.
Pop-up on Facebook Scrabble: ***You’ve just played all your letters! Would you like to notify your friends of your high score?***
Ah, no. Leave me with some dignity please.
I am proud to say, I quit Mafia Wars last month, cold turkey. I had a level 830 character and I abandoned it like Jimmy Hoffa in a cement piling at Giants Stadium. I can’t tell you how liberating it was. I feel like I’ve tacked two extra hours on to my day to get things done, which, effectively, I have.
I’m not going to go on and on like some self-righteous ass who just quit smoking and has to yap about how much smoke stinks and how it is going to kill you, and how its been proven to give Tourettes to lab mice and how he’s pretty sure a pack of Camels once told him to kill his family. But if you’re on the fence, you might want to consider quitting some of the more time consuming games. Here are some reasons why:
1. Time Suck
I literally spent close to two hours a day clicking buttons for no reason except I was hoping to get my imaginary character a new weapon that would make me marginally more powerful and therefore able to get other cartoon weapons. I wasn’t learning a new language, making money, sharing time with my loved ones (who sat on the sofa angrily staring holes through me because they wanted me to watch the TV show with them and not drool all over my laptop as I whacked imaginary mobsters.) Game playing offered nothing to be gained except some warped sense of accomplishment because I brought down a Mob Boss anyone with a mouse and an index finger could have killed. At the time, I thought of it as my “peaceful mindless downtime,” but in reality it became more like a job that never paid.
2. Zynga is Evil
Zynga, the company responsible for Facebook’s most popular games, like Mafia Wars and Farmville, is clearly evil (allegedly). Their CEO, Mark Pincus openly admitted to stealing ideas, running deceiving ads to trick people into spending money, and other just generally evil things (allegedly). (just Google “Zynga is evil” for plenty of details.) Does this make him any different than a lot of CEOs? No, but it doesn’t mean I have to let him put my character in positions where I feel the sick need to spend a few dollars to continue playing past my ability to do so naturally. Maybe “naturally” isn’t the best word there, but you get the idea. My games shouldn’t suggest I maybe use my mortgage to buy an imaginary AK-47 with mounted grenade launcher every time I turn it on (even if it is bundled with a real live (not really) ninja warrior with rage issues).
3. Farmville and Mafia Wars are turning YOU evil.
I’ve heard people say things like “I playFarmville because it makes me feel good to tend to a garden, even if it isn’t real.” That sounds almost noble. But then there is this factoid: The number one Google search for Farmville is “Farmville.” Number two? “Farmville cheats.” You expect gangsters to cheat, but organic farmers? Shame on you, ya dirty hippies.
4. You don’t have to be connected to loons you wouldn’t talk to on a bet in real life.
One of the particularly evil aspects of these games is they make it almost impossible to do well unless you get people on your team. This means unless you are the most popular person in the world, you end up having to befriend hundreds or even thousands of people you don’t actually know on Facebook. They do this, of course, to pull more people into their games.
While my Mafia of 1200 seemed comprised of largely nice individuals, I did occasional acquire a crackpot whom I had to quickly “de-friend” because they wanted me to see their naughty pictures or kept “tagging” me in photos of monkeys and hookers.
5. You can actually see good posts by people you actually know.
Once you quit and DE-friend all these strangers, you’ll see that suddenly you notice a lot of posts on Facebook that you had been missing. Posts from actual friends. When the clutter of mafia wars was gone, I found out all kinds of fun things. And nobody kept trying to post gibberish and advertisements on my wall page, so I could once again open up the ability for friends to post to it.
6. It is totally dorky and makes it really easy for people to tell you to “get a life,” leaving you with no real logical counter argument.
Come on. Playing these games is REALLY dorky. I am already really dorky in many other aspects of my life; I don’t need another.
So there you have it. Six really good reasons to stop feeding your chickens on Farmville. They won’t really starve to death. I swear. Or at least notice when what used to be fun starts to feel like a chore. That is the first sign. That and your face on the milk carton in the kitchen that you haven’t seen since you hit level 50.
Your family misses you.
***Facebook, Scrabble, Zynga, Bejeweled Blitz, Tron, Mafia Wars, Farmville, CafeWorld, Cheetos and all other trademarks are the property of their respective owners, evil or not.