Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do we really want our lives to mirror video games like Farmville?

Farmville is a very popular Facebook game. Game players build virtual farms they have to constantly tend and grow. And if you look at the game, it mirrors a lot of the things we get addicted to in real life.

One of the reasons for Farmville's popularity is their thorough knowledge of game mechanics. Game mechanics is a fancy term for a collection of things that game designers know people enjoy doing and get addicted to in games.

For example, game designers understand that people love to Level Up. That's why games have levels. We get addicted to constantly trying to get to the next level of something.

Game designers also introduce concepts of collecting coins, points, gifts, and treasures. People also love to show these collections off. So game designers allow you to compete transparently with other people. Or allow you ways to show off your treasures to all your friends. And if you don't want to do all that work, many games have shortcuts you need to discover or use. Farmville makes a ton of money helping people shortcut the way to achieving more with their game. Sounds like everyone's favorite phrase Do Less, Achieve More.

So people get attached to all this stuff and leveling up for completely worthless virtual objects in a game. But do we really want to play this game all day every day in our lives?

Do we really want to be constantly looking to level up our jobs with promotions or level up with bigger houses. Most of us are constantly looking for the next level of whatever we are doing today. Look at CEOs trapped at leveling up even though they are making 10 million a year and their companies are having layoffs.

We have this need to collect and collect stuff. Stuff that obviously doesn't even need to be worth anything for us to NEED to start hoarding it. And we like to show it all off. Even if you don't find yourself to be much of a braggart, I bet a good chunk of you feels great to have all the stuff you've accomplished celebrated or envied by other people.

Sure this is fun in video games when you can satisfy your hoarding and leveling up addiction for an hour and then it's easy to turn off. It's a lot harder to turn these things off in real life.

Recognizing where your life resembles Farmville is probably a start.

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