FarmVille works because it is not based on fun, but on social obligation, according to one analyst (it’s a great piece; you should read the whole thing):
The secret to Farmvilleâ€™s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each othersâ€™ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies.
As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness.
Just about everyone in the gaming industry agrees: Casual gaming and social gaming have induced people who don’t consider themselves gamers to start playing games in record numbers and for record periods of time, opening up new audiences and new possibilities for game design.
And women are supposedly one of the big “new” audiences out there. I often wonder whether they’re really new, considering how much my mom liked playing Dr. Mario and Tetris back in the 1990s, but that’s beside the point.
The point is this: of the 38 people on my FarmVille list who are active players, 18 are men and 20 are women. It’s a pretty even split, and the range in levels is pretty wide, too.
But when I look at the list of people who have sent “gifts” on FarmVille–which cost the sender nothing but the few seconds it takes to send them–almost every single person on that list is female.
With only a few exceptions, no one with a Y chromosome sends me anything.
Why is that, do you think? Here are a few conclusions that may possibly be drawn:
- Men have no sense of social obligations. Also, they have cooties and smell funny.
- Men have no idea what women want and faced with a page full of virtual goats, trees and fences, get gift paralysis and send nothing.
- Men are afraid to give me anything, because they think I will interpret receiving a gift cow as a subtle message that I am a cow. And who knows what a “small hill” would mean…
- Men have a different sense of social obligations, which doesn’t include sending people a bunch of crap on Facebook that they don’t necessarily want.
- The men on my list are not typical, represent a tiny sample size and thus, no conclusions can really be drawn from this definitely non-scientific study.
Okay, I’m obviously teasing about the first few options on the list. But do you think the numbers mean anything? I’d love to hear from FarmVille players, too: Do you send stuff? Why or why not?