There’s a funny old side to the internet, and in particular gamers that reside on it, in that instead of showing our united support for one cause (i.e. Gaming), we always have to splinter ourselves off into separate groups and disassociate ourselves with certain other factions of gamers, based solely on what types of games they play. Possible the biggest tiff of the lot has to be the people who play social games, and the people who don’t.
Now I don’t know why it seems to derive so much hatred (just look at any article on Kotaku that has to do with FarmVille and you’ll get my point), so I decided I’d take a few days over on the other side of the fence, to see what the view was like. And to harvest their crops* for some extra EXP. More on this after the jump.
* denotes that I haven’t actually played FarmVille or any other farm spin-off titles.
What it boils down to, is the age-old classic “Casual vs Hardcore” debate, that’s only ever reared its head these last few years. Namely, since everyone found the internet and found out that being relatively anonymous gives you free rein to be a douchebag. I don’t know who coined the labels as such, why they’re so vague, and why one always seems to hate on the other just because of the group others put them in. (Kinda reminds me of the whole Goths/Gen.3-Emos in the musical world in a way, but that’s a story for another time)
Well, almost 6 months after abandoning it, this last week or so, in light of my PS3 still not being replaced, I found myself back on Mafia Wars, killing some time before meeting a few friends for a drink or 2. Now while I hadn’t this corner of the net on the go at that time, people who know me know that I’ve knocked these styles of games before, the ones where you have a very loose kind-of a plot, you click to do something, you don’t see the action, but your stats go up as its “done”. A game of Mafia Wars’s liking could have been made into a proper action game – much like 2K Games’ Mafia actually is – but given its place as an add-on for social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, its nature as a click-and-go fits the bill rather nicely. The thing that I don’t like about it is, is the seriously competitive nature that’s involved in it by certain players. Facebook has exploded with groups where people can add each other – majority of cases they’re total strangers – as friends, just so they can bolster their numbers, and team up on bonuses. While yes, that’s the aim of social gaming, it can sometimes alienate friends from each other as one or two go power-levelling with their new trading club buddies and leave their real friends in the dust, sometimes not helping them at all. The game (and its many re-skinned clones) gets a lot of flak from everyone else as there’s apparently “no skill involved”, “it’s click-and-go”, and “it’s on Facebook”, and while yes, in some cases they’re right, but bashing an entire classification of games based on that’s rather harsh. Remember, Sid Meier’s bringing Civilisation to Facebook, and we all know how great of a game that is, right? Protip: if you don’t, shame on you. Go download any of the series now. Or wait until Civilisation 5 later on this year.
Casual gaming doesn’t have to be limited to Facebook applications though: There’s many more sites out there that also cater for that market, places like Miniclip, Kongregate, and other various Flash game sites with high-score leagues and whatever else have you. I’m going to go back on one that I’ve highlighted before on here, but Canabalt is great for the casual gamer that likes keeping up with their friends. While the iPod version has its own separate score charts for it, the Flash version doesn’t, but it doesn’t really need to either. It has the option, however, to post your score at the end of any run to Twitter, and you can do so at your disposal, like after a particularly good run. Your followers there can then see your score in your status update, say “I want to beat that”, and the link’s already there for them to go and play the game themselves. Of course after that, you can also hook your Twitter account to Facebook so that tweets also get posted there, and you’ve got even more people playing the game after that, and it multiplies exponentially. Boom, instant casual game.
I don’t really see why people put the blinkers on in regards these sort of things though. I mean, even their own favourites on consoles operate on the same basis (i.e. Keep playing so your ranking improves, so you can brag to your buddies), just that there’s a lot more meat to console games. Sure, we can all look up our Rock Band score leaderboards online, compare our kill:death ratio from Uncharted 2 and whatever else, so doesn’t that also make it a social game? After all, it’s the notion of playing games whilst interacting with friends that make it social, not whereabouts you play it. So by that logic, that means Modern Warfare 2 is as much of a social game as FarmVille. How do you like them apples?