I am my mother’s child. My mother, who never went to college, schooled us – ten children of her own, nieces, nephews and neighbors’ kids – in the analysis of our actions. We should not be content to celebrate holidays simply because everyone else did, she taught. At home, my siblings and I were assigned – yes, year in and year out – to research the history of Christmas to understand why we, as a black nationalist-oriented Muslim family, did not celebrate it. Each year, back before the advent of the Internet, we also searched through encyclopedias and other scholarly books to understand why our Christian relatives and friends shouldn’t celebrate Easter either.
It’s no wonder, I now find myself analyzing why for more than a year I’ve enjoyed not a mere ten minutes a day, but three, four – some weekends SIX! – hours a day “playing” Farmville2.
Just a few weeks into this new hobby, I realized it was an addiction – not yet as widely understood or acceptable as, say, playing golf all weekend or playing in a bowling or tennis league in your community. I happened upon online gaming through recommendations from facebook friends, and was instantly hooked on the instant gratification. I so loved the sound of cartoon characters cheering for me, yes, for me. I think it was the game Scramble with Friends, where I first heard the intoxicating “Hooraaaaaay!” and “Iiiiiin-cre-di-ble!” each time I scored big words. In Farmville2, I loved that I could complete tasks and “level up.” I loved watching the gold coins accumulate in a bar atop the game, and loved the virtual fireworks display you get when you complete one level.
When I was unemployed, I considered the time I spent in Farmville2 practicing setting goals, planning, executing the plan, and reaping the rewards was time well-spent – between completing applications and re-writing resumes and networking and reading newspapers and harassing potential employers (I mean lobbying for positions), of course. It had not occurred to me that a potential employer might see on my facebook page that I was spending hours at play and that potential employer might consider me too playful to employ.
It was brain-training. Plan-plant-produce-sell-repeat. I think this process is sufficiently cemented in my gray matter now.
Also, I was discovering (ok re-discovering), my strengths and weaknesses in Farmville2. I found myself scribbling notes about what to plant, when to plant – in order to maximize harvesting between my real-life daily to-do tasks. I calculated how I could accumulate that first $1 million in gold coins needed to expand my land. I planned, plotted, and produced to accumulate the second $2 million to purchase more land. I repeated the process and bought more land, a mansion, decorations and furnishing. I sold off old stuff, traded favors with friends. I was reminded that some tasks I could complete alone, others I could complete faster working with friends. I was reminded that sometimes to get four people to show up at an event – like building a Farmville2 ice cream stand – I’d need to invite 300.
I discovered that I could be goal-oriented and results-driven even while at play. I liked that. (Of course, the game designers knew this about me before I did. They built the game to attract and keep players using the thrill of results and cheering. More on this later.)
In January, I made a New Year’s Resolution to play less because now was not a good time to make up for playtime denied in my childhood. (Poor, poor little me. I was forced to learn the value of disciplined action and intelligence sooner rather than later. Poor, poor me – NOT!)
As a child I was not allowed to “play” for hours at a time. We had educational games and puzzles. I was allowed to make arts and crafts to share and use as gifts. I was allowed to enjoy hours reading a book or piecing together a puzzle, but four or six whole hours of running and yelling in mindless play with friends was out of the question. We could go swimming for a couple hours, go to the library a couple hours, watch an hour or so of TV, but that was about it. I envied my friends who played all day. Even a treat to the movies meant we’d end up discussing the character values in the movie, determining whether they fit our beliefs or not.
Yes, I needed Farmville!
Besides, Farmville2 helped me grieve my aging grandparents. At 93-years-old their health began declining rapidly, they grew weak and I realized they may not live another ten years. How could I keep their memory alive? They were gardeners! They loved planting and growing real food. I learned life lessons spending time with them in their gardens. Farmville2 seemed like a fun way to keep their love of gardening alive.
Farmville2 is fiction farming, and I love it. In Farmville everything I plant grows, every seed I plant grows exactly one or two veggies. That doesn’t happen in real life, of course. In real life – whether producing in soil or an office setting not everything we plant and nurture grows. Fiction farming is a welcome relief from reality. In Farmville I can water the land predictably and get free fertilizer and farming help from friends.
According to a website Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/177090/Does_Zynga_really_need_a_FarmVille_2_You_bet.php) a lot of effort went into designing and marketing Farmville2. The company should be happy to know at least one gamer has gotten a lot out of it. (Oh, it’s worth noting that although I spent a lot of time in Farmville, I did not spend one real dime.)