Wednesday, November 2, 2011

OPINION: Social Gaming And Eating My Words

This weeks post is not from me as at the moment I'm in the middle of exams (which are going fine by the way thanks for asking) and neck deep in text books. This weeks post comes from a very good friend of mine Elizabeth Danger. She is a freelance journalist who writes for Level 3 and Save Game Online. Enjoy while I go nose deep into my Psychology text book, yay.


This week, readers, I became everything I have ever hated. I've started playing The Sims Social. I still remember the feeling of almost disgust that ran through me when it was announced at E3. 'How sad,' I thought. 'People are actually going to spend time playing this game instead of actually doing what they're acting out in real life.' I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to watch their two Sims having fun instead of... you know, hanging out with that person and actually having fun with them.

And then this week, with the intent of having sexual relations with all my friends Sims (as a sign of friendly affection, I assure you,) I started playing the game.

And I actually found myself enjoying it.

We recently learned that, according to AppData, The Sims Social has surpassed FarmVille in Daily Active Users (DAUs.) I never really could get into the FarmVille thing, or any social gaming, really, so I'm having a very hard time trying to understand why Sims Social is so different for me. It goes without saying that the Sims formula is addictive enough as it is, I've been wasting my life on the franchise for almost 10 years now, and I don't doubt that the accessibility of the game is a massive pull. Because it's free, it's easy to jump right into. I remember paying about $70 for the first Sims game, which to be honest had less features than Sims Social and has left me feeling a little ripped off that it's available for free.

Once you're hooked in by the concept of a free Sims game, it's a bit of a slippery slope. In my case, I wanted to have my Sim (affectionately named Assbutt,) swapping bodily fluids with everyone I knew playing the game as a bit of a joke. I wanted that 'Whoo Hoo' notification that made me laugh so hard during the E3 keynote littered all over my friends walls. After creating my scarlet woman of a Sim, I discovered this wouldn't be so easy.

First I would, obviously, need a double bed for my Sim to bonk in. On buying the double bed, I discovered that to assemble it, I would need some items that were only attainable by performing quests, making social interactions and fulfilling Assbutt's various needs. Whatever, right? Surely I could just play for a few hours and before I knew it my Sim would be bonking her way into this joke and we'd all have a laugh about it later.

It was about halfway through my bed quest that I realised all my friends had better houses than me. To be completely accurate, Assbutt was living in a one bedroom flat with a single bed in the bathroom to make room for her computer desk while Breanna Sim was living in a mansion with a spa in the living room just because. I couldn't have this. Breanna isn't a gamer in real life, I am. I should be winning at having a nice virtual life!

It was on. I'd started this imaginary contest with Breanna purely to flex my e-muscles. First thing I'd need would be another room to house my yet-to-be-assembled double bed in, which would require 3 friends to help me in building because apparently tradies don't exist in the Sim world. I can pinpoint the exact moment of my downfall, because it was when I did what I promised myself I wouldn't do and actually actively invited friends to play the game. That was it. The minute I clicked that 'send invite' button I became everything I said I wouldn't.

While I'm yet to invest any money in this game (and trust me, I have been very tempted to,) I've invested more time than I should. I actually put off playing Fallout last night to finish a quest in Sims Social. I've legitimately had a conversation at work about the game. Before I wrote this article I was playing it. Not even the shame and embarrassment that I once felt playing social games haunts me like it did during what I have named 'The GagaVille Incident.'

Thinking about it a bit more, though, I suppose the only reason I'm even writing this confession of sorts is the stigma associated with social gaming in the gaming community. We constantly scoff at FarmVille, but Zynga makes an obscene amount of money off those casual gamers. I used to joke that social games were the vampires of gaming, and not the cool ones, either. I mean the stupid sparkly ones. Well, now one of those sparkly vampires is watching me sleep and making me choose between him and my werewolf friend and goddamn if I'm not enjoying it.

The worst thing is, however, I'm already planning how I'm going to ween myself off this game. I know I'm down the rabbit hole and I know I'm going to need to stop myself or I'm just not going to play any other games, which isn't okay because I still need to play Deus Ex and Dead Island already. I can't help but wonder if I've been too hard on those who indulge in FarmVille and Vampire Wars, maybe it's no more embarrassing than being a serious WoW player. Perhaps the stigma attached to social gaming is one we've created because we as gamers fear change, or we fear our world that has been so niche for so long becoming as mainstream as it is.

Stigma or no, spending any amount of time on this game probably isn't healthy, and my original argument still stands: I could actually be hanging out with my friends instead of sitting at a computer and simulating it. That being said, however, in the end, I can't get my freak on with every single one of them in real life (nor would I really want to,) so maybe I've found something that only Sims Social can offer me.

For the record, Assbutt is yet to bed any of her neighbours. Just like real life.


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