It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a multitude of gaming consoles, must be in want of a life.
And yet gaming is evolving. It’s no longer the preserve of teenage boys or men over the age of thirty who wish they were still teenage boys.
Gaming is everywhere. Whether it be entire families waving their arms wildly to the Wii or granddads trying to beat back dementia with brain exercises on the Nintendo DX.
For the rest of us there is social gaming. And it’s rapidly becoming our favourite waste of time.
Evidence is provided by the Facebook phenomenon that is Farmville. As of April this year Farmville had 78m users, accounting for 16% of Facebook’s 500m active user base. It’s estimated that Zynga (the creator of Farmville and Mafia Wars) will generate £500m of revenue this year from gamers buying virtual goods via Facebook.
So, what to make of ‘My Vineyard’, the new wine themed social game from Playdom? ‘My Vineyard’ is a Farmville style game that encourages you to set up your own vineyard, plant vines, harvest grapes and make wine. And of course buy virtual goods with real cash.
There are some nice touches to the game. For instance it allows you to name all your wines individually (I’m currently running a Shady Lane Chardonnay and a Moo Moo Merlot) and you can also ask your Facebook friends to rate the wines once you’ve thrown them out to the open market.
In the early stages the motivation to play rests on moving up the ‘Parkeresque’ 100 point ranking system. So far I haven’t had a wine score over 14 and have had my chardonnay described as tasting of ‘bacon fat’. Hmmmpf.
Finding people who may want to join you in this virtual viniculture can pose a challenge if, like me, you use Facebook mostly for friends and family.
Currently I need help building my winery but do not have enough ‘neighbours’ to complete the task (the only way to finish construction is to buy wine coins with REAL money and I simply refuse to go down that slippery road).
The real issue with all these types of games is that, unlike console games that lie in suspended animation when you pull the plug, social games never sleep. Even when you close your browser, stuff is still growing. Or in this case fermenting. You are permanently aware that you need to regularly check in and perform actions. This can be quite a problem if you have say, a life.
‘My Vineyard’ is a repetitive cycle of planting, growing, harvesting and fermenting for absolutely no tangible reward other than an opportunity to give your virtual products silly names. In the week that I gave up We Rule and Godfinger I just can’t be suckered into another instance of time theft.
I am not a social gamer. I am a free man.