Jonathan Blow, creator of the incerdible indie downloadable title Braid, spoke with PC Gamer about the current state of social games. Which social games? Generically, things like FarmVille, CityVille or anything like that on Facebook.
According to Blow, social games are downright evil. Not evil like monsters in a fortress evil, but more evil by the real world’s standards. Blow explains, however, that these companies try to dress themselves up to hide their wicked ways:
“It’s about using your friends as resources to progress in the game, which is the opposite of actual sociality or friendship…
…There’s no other word for it except evil. Of course you can debate anything, but the general definition of evil in the real world, where there isn’t like the villain in the mountain fortress, is selfishness to the detriment of others or to the detriment of the world. And that’s exactly what [most of these games are]…
…The thing about these games though is they’re made to look really light and friendly or whatever. So it’s very difficult especially for someone to think about games and how their design affects the world – which is most people in the world, they don’t think about that, right?
…It’s very difficult for them to see how this could possibly be detrimental in any way. They’re just like, ‘Oh, I’m clicking on the items, I’m having fun.’”
To a certain degree, Blow is right. These games encourage users to see their friends as a point of profit and advancement. The companies behind the titles take advantage of the willingness of friends diving into the action and then, hopefully, partaking in micro-transactions to better their friends.
But is that evil? Well, no. It’s a great business model. It’s not sketchy or maniacal, it’s just business. These games are free to play. Players can treat their friends like cattle, of course, but they don’t have to give into the need to spend money on the actual game.
This comes from someone who is genuinely terrified of FarmVille. Me.