The secret to Farmville’s popularity

“The secret to Farmville’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 others’ 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.[11] We playFarmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.” — From an essay by y A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz

I’ve never played Farmville. Or any other Facebook game. I don’t have a Facebook account anymore and find myself unable to explain why I do not. So it’s hardly fair to use this thoughtful essay as an explanation. But the very essence of Facebook seems to be social obligation. I hate obligations and avoid them wherever possible.

Facebook/Farmville fans can tell me where Mr. Liszkiewicz misses the mark with his essay.

One thought on “The secret to Farmville’s popularity

  1. I don’t think Farmville’s popularity is a secret.

    I’ve never played Farmville and won’t, but I do play hold’em poker and it appears most of (if not all) of the games created by Zynga have this similar ‘loop of reciprocity’ feature…but that’s not why I continue to play. I play because it’s free. I know, so are all the other online poker sites. But their goal is to get you to add your credit card and start playing with real money against the pros you see on tv. I’ll stick with zynga/facebook poker and the people I’ve never met…and don’t want to meet. Besides, I can’t afford anything BUT free right now.

    I will admit my facebook usage has dropped dramatically since my son was born 8 months ago. But I love that poker game and don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. Maybe having an iPhone app for it doesn’t help either.

    Bottom line – when someone ‘gifts’ me free chips, I don’t go out of my way to gift them back. I’ve never purchased chips and won’t either. I get them the old fashioned way…(insert John Houseman) I earrrrrrrrrrn them.

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